Who Got Snubbed from the NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday has come and gone. Finally, we have a bracket with 68 teams who have a chance to win a national championship. As we spend the next few days dissecting brackets, there are a few names left off that maybe should not have been. It felt like this year the bubble was bigger than ever. This left a lot of room for teams and fans to complain about not getting a bid to the big dance. Teams like Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Saint Mary’s are among the many teams who were on the wrong side of the bubble.

Saint Mary’s is very talented, and they have one of the best players not many people have seen play. However, their inability to schedule any sort of non-conference schedule is hard to support. The closest they came to putting a resume worthy game on their schedule was with Rhode Island, and both sides could not come to an agreement. That, and failing to get to your conference title game are two big red flags in the eyes of the committee. It makes sense. Again, Saint Mary’s is probably better than may teams in the tournament, but when you’re in the conference you’re in, you have to help your case and schedule accordingly.

For Notre Dame, the case was made that the committee should take into consideration the Irish’s record with and without their All-American, Bonzie Colson. The Irish were 14-5 with Colson this year. They beat Wichita State to win the Maui Invitational, and early on looked like a top team in the country. That said, outside the Wichita win, the Irish beat Virginia Tech and that’s about it in terms of signature wins. Without Colson, they struggled, not surprisingly. Their biggest win without Colson was against Florida State. They had their chances to notch wins over North Carolina or Miami but could not close out the game. Again, I support the idea that the tournament would be better with Notre Dame in, but I also understand the reasoning for leaving them out.

And with that, let’s look at the three teams who have the most to argue:

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Oklahoma State Cowboys quietly put together a great resume late in the season. The Cowboys won all the games they were supposed to. Additionally they tallied wins versus Kansas twice, Texas Tech, at West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma twice. Oklahoma State also only lost to one team this year that did not make the NCAA Tournament. That team was Baylor, another team who was very much on the bubble going into Selection Sunday. No bad losses, coupled with the impressive wins they were able to gather, gives me reason to give Oklahoma State a bid. First year head coach Mike Boynton did an amazing job in his first year, and the tournament will miss seeing Jeffrey Carroll play in at least one game this year.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee is this year’s mascot for all mid-to-low major schools who dominate an entire season and then get upset in their conference tournament. They are not the first, nor will they be the last to have this happen to them. Many remember Middle Tennessee as the team to upset Michigan State two years ago as a 15 seed. Last year the played upset again, beating Minnesota as a 12 seed. They were an early favorite to do the same this year…if they got in. The Blue Raiders dominated Conference USA, only losing to Marshall twice, who ended up getting the automatic bid to the tournament. They were ranked just ahead of USC in the RPI at 33. Does Middle Tennessee have as good of a case as other teams? No. But you have to feel for those teams who dominate an entire season and slip up once in the conference tournament.

USC Trojans

The expectations for the USC Trojans were high this year. Many preseason predictions had them finishing atop, or close to, the top of the Pac 12. Well, the Trojans did finish second, but the Pac 12 proved to be very down this year so the finish appears a bit diluted. Most predictions had the Trojans ahead of the bubble, and in the field of 68 safely. They were a Top 40 team accordingly to KenPom and ranked 34 on the RPI. The Trojans did not help their case with a weak non-conference resume, which includes losses to Texas A&M, SMU, Oklahoma and Princeton. The Princeton loss was probably the death sentence. It’s why Arizona State heard their name called and USC did not. Regardless, many had them safely in, and I’m sure Andy Enfield was surprised not to hear his team’s name on Sunday.

It’s tournament time. It’s the best time of the year. We have a bracket of 68 and nonstop basketball coming our way. While the NCAA Tournament will surely be crazy, based on who got left out, the NIT could be pretty entertaining basketball as well.

Thanksgiving Week Shows Us Why College Basketball is King

It’s rivalry week this weekend in college football, but the rest of this week belonged to college basketball. Thanksgiving week is filled with dozens of early season tournaments that give basketball junkies games to watch throughout the day. You have the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the NIT Tip-Off, the new PK80, and many more invitational tournaments going on this week. And with so many tournaments, comes many story headlines. This week showed why college basketball is the best, and not just in March.

Aloha, Maui

Let’s start in Maui. Yes, the championship game between Notre Dame and Wichita State was fantastic. Bonzie Colson looked just like the ACC Player of the Year and Notre Dame erased a 16 point deficit to top the Shockers in Maui. But how about Chaminade blowing out Cal by 24 points? The Division II program, who is 8-92 all time in their host tournament, is used to being on the receiving end of a blowout. Wednesday night though, it was them doing the dominating. Just watch the highlights. No November game will mean as much than Chaminade’s win over Cal this year. It was just awesome to see the sheer joy on their faces.

Upsets in Atlantis

How about the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament? Arizona vs Purdue. Number 2 vs number 18. Sounds like a championship game right? How about last place. Both teams were upset in the first round of the B4A. Purdue by Tennessee, Arizona by NC State. It’s an early taste of Match; An underdog playing with house money facing a Goliath of a team. Now, Purdue by no means is a Goliath and Arizona is missing a key piece in Rawle Alkins, but neither team should be 0-2 in this tournament. Instead you saw coaches like Rick Barnes, Kevin Keatts, Tim Jankovich and Rick Stansbury coach their teams to wins over NCAA tournament teams. 

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hurleys

Still not enough? How about some dramatics. How about Danny and Bobby Hurley holding on to one possession wins on Thanksgiving, in different fashions. Danny and Rhode Island had an absolute battle with #22 Seton Hall. Both teams showed why they were tournament teams next year and expect to finish near the top, if not at the top, of their respective conferences this season. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Bobby Hurley is bringing Arizona State back. The Sun Devils took control in the second half against Kansas State and managed to hold on for a two point victory. Hurley has some players on his roster, that is becoming apparent. Both will play for championships tonight.

And let’s not forget the PK80. Dubbed the biggest early season tournament ever, the first round let the premier teams flex their muscles, setting us up for fantastic semifinal and final games. With six of the Top 20 teams in the country left, we will not be disappointed with how these brackets end.

Close games, upsets, MVP performances, great coaching, Mike Brey in a t-shirt. We’ve seen it all this week.And we’re only at Friday. With another full slate today and tomorrow, you can bet the headlines won’t end yet. This is why college basketball is the best.We’re just getting started and we’re already being spoiled. As Jon Rothstein would say, This is ONLY November.