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.

De’Anthony Melton Withdraws From USC

In some unsurprising news today, USC guard De’Anthony Melton withdrew from school to pursue his NBA career. Melton sat out all season after being linked to the FBI case in the Fall. In January, USC announced that he would miss the remainder of the season, more news that was not surprising at the time. It’s weird to say a player is trying to better his career by leaving school mid-season, but there is no reason for Melton to remain on campus.

Prior to the FBI news in September, Melton was a projected first round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. He was a well-rounded player for the Trojans last year, averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his first, and last, year. He was also good for almost 2 steals (1.92) per game. Melton was expected to be a key contributor to a USC team that was thought to compete with the top of the conference and then make his leap to the professional level. Obviously, that did not go according to plan.

“I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses for competition at the next level.”

The FBI probe left Melton in an interesting position. In his statement via Twitter, Melton said he reached a crossroads. Ultimately he chose to leave school to focus on improving his individual game. I agree with this decision. Staying in USC won’t help him as much as training on his own will. USC is playing to get into the NCAA Tournament, not to get players ready for the NBA. Anyone associated with, or around that program should have that goal in mind. It’s hard for Melton to have that mindset while being stuck to the bench all year long.

At the same time, he hasn’t played all year. He’s entering the NBA Draft not having been seen by scouts in live game action in over a year. He can perform well in individual workouts, but he’s at a slight disadvantage compared to most players entering the Draft. There’s just not as much tape on him. He’s also not someone like Michael Porter Jr, who was highly touted for such a long time. Melton was touted the Swiss Army knife for his versatility as a freshman, but there’s no second year tape to back this up anymore.

Melton was thought to be a late first round pick prior to the start of the college basketball season. Many recent mock drafts have left him out of their first round, but there will be so many changes that you should not read too much into that right now. I think while this news is unsurprising, it’s the right move for Melton as he sets his sights on the NBA. It will be interesting to see where he lands in June’s draft, and how much he can improve his stock in individual workouts after missing his sophomore year.