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.

Big 12 Basketball: 2017-18 Conference Preseason Preview

The Big 12 Conference is one of the toughest conference in college basketball year in and year out. The past 13 years have seen the same team come out on top after the regular season; Kansas has had a strong hold on the conference for over a decade. This year however, the Big 12 has it all. Lottery bound freshman, deep rosters, and some of the best coaches in the sport. Let’s look at how the Big 12 shapes up this year.

Projected Finishes (Voted by Big 12 Coaches)

  1. Kansas – No surprise here. Kansas has sat atop the conference with at least a share of the regular season championship for 13 seasons. Expect Devonte’ Graham to be the next Perry Ellis/Frank Mason and Udoka Azuibuke to make a strong (literally) impact after missing most of last year with a wrist injury.
  2. West Virginia – The Mountaineers will spend the first half of the season without Esa Ahmad, but he will be back in the rotation during the thick of Big 12 play. With returning Defensive Player of the Year, Jevon Carter, West Virginia will still be a tough out in the conference.
  3. TCU – Jamie Dixon had his team firing on all cylinders at the end of last season. TCU upset the top seeded Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament and played their way to a NIT Championship. The Horned Frogs return a large majority of last year’s team, including Vladimir Brodziansky, who averaged 14 points a game last season. TCU could be eyeing a tournament bid this year.
  4. Texas – This could be one of the better teams in Austin in recent years. With future pro Mo Bamba manning the paint and Andrew Jones returning for another year, Shaka Smart has weapons. The X-factor for this team will be Matt Coleman running the point; Coleman could be the best PG the Longhorns have had since since DJ Augustin.
  5. Baylor – The Bears struggled at the end of last season, in part due to injury. They lose Jonathan Motley to the NBA, but still return solid producers in Manu Lecomte and Jo Lui-Acuil. The issue for the Bears may be their depth this season. This could keep them in the middle of the pack.
  6. Oklahoma – Lon Kruger brings back a team that was very green last year. He replaces Jordan Woodard with Trae Young, who could be the best freshman in the confernce this year. No disrespect to Bamba, who affects the game on both ends, but Young has the ability to put 40 up on a given night. The Sooners should improve on their 5-13 conference record last year and be fun to watch.
  7. Texas Tech – Texas Tech returns a good nucleus of last year’s team that played better than their 6-12 record indicated. The challenge for the Red Raiders this season will be how they fair on the road. Zach Smith, Keenan Evans and company will need to find ways to win away from home if they want to take a step forward.
  8. Kansas State – Bruce Weber is going to have to earn the contract extension he received this year with the Kansas State team. Weber has a nice trio of juniors in Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes. Overall, the Wildcats do not have the fire power to compete with the top of the conference.
  9. Iowa State – Iowa State put all their chips in last year’s basket, and it paid off when they won the Big 12 Tournament. Now the Cyclones will have a bit of a rebuild this year. Donovan Jackson will have a strong senior year, and Lindell Wigginton will get Ames excited for the future.
  10. Oklahoma State – It will be a new look back-court for the Cowboys with no Jawun Evans or Phil Forte. A lot of attention will focus around Jeffrey Carroll, who averaged 17 and 6 last season.

Preseason Awards (Voted by Big 12 Coaches)

Player of the Year – Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)

I said above expect Graham to have a senior year similar to Frank Mason or Perry Ellis. Graham has been one of KU’s biggest keys the last two seasons. When he goes, Kansas tends to roll. You can look back to his match ups versus Buddy Hield two years ago, their incredible comeback against West Virginia last year, or their Elite Eight loss to Oregon. Graham’s production directly correlates to the Jayhawk’s success in those games.

Freshman of the Year – Mo Bamba (Texas)

Mo Bamba will be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s 7’0 and has arms that just go on forever. I expect him to edge Luil-Acuil for most blocked shots in the Big 12 this season. Bamba also has the ability to step out and hit from mid range. I mentioned Trae Young possibly being the best freshman, but Bamba’s ability to impact the game on both ends gives him the nod.

Newcomer of the Year – Malik Newman (Kansas) 

Newman sat out the 16-17 season after transferring from Mississippi State. Having spent a year practicing against Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, and alongside Graham, Newman should be able to jump into the line up and look comfortable right away. He is a former McDonald’s All-American and ESPN Top 10 recruit. Newman will look to regain his high draft status after a somewhat poor freshman year at Mississippi State.

After a year of practice with KU, Malik Newman should fit in well in the Jayhawk back court

All Big 12 Teams

First Team (Voted On)

Devonte’ Graham – Kansas

Jevon Carter – West Virginia

Jeffrey Carroll – Oklahoma State

Zach Smith – Texas Tech

Vladimir Brodziansky – TCU

Second Team (Prediction)

Trae Young – Oklahoma

Svi Mykhailiuk – Kansas

Manu Lecomte – Baylor

Mo Bamba – Texas

Esa Ahmad – West Virginia

So that’s it. A complete breakdown of the Big 12 before any action takes place. Preseason is always fun to look at. You have expectations and predictions, but you never truly know what will happen until conference play starts and you see teams play one another. It’ll be interesting to look back and see who was left off, who was over-hyped and who played as anticipated. 3 more weeks.