Every season, the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday leaves a handful of teams feeling slighted. This year’s production left several schools with the impression that they were denied entry into March Madness in favor of less deserving squads.
Teams that barely missed out on the NCAA Tournament field ranged from major conference teams with disappointing records to smaller schools that didn’t play enough high-level competition to impress the committee. Representatives from both of these groups were included on the selection committee’s official “First Four Out” list, which confirmed the teams that were under the most consideration for making the field of 68.
Davidson Bumps out Notre Dame
While it’s hard to say which school should feel most aggrieved, Notre Dame (20-14) knows for certain that they were the closest to making the tournament this year. The committee had the Fighting Irish in the field up until Sunday, when Davidson (21-11) won the Atlantic 10 Tournament. That meant that Davidson was an automatic qualifier and Rhode Island (25-7) had to take an at-large bid, removing Notre Dame from the tournament.
Also in the first four out group was Saint Mary’s (28-5). While the Gaels had an impressive record that included a win against Gonzaga, their overall profile didn’t include many particularly challenging games, either within their conference or outside of it.
“They didn’t play a very challenging schedule,” NCAA selections committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen said during the televised selection show on TBS. “Of their 28 wins, all but four were against teams in the last two quadrants.”
Does Scandal = Snub?
One snub that left many observers surprised was that of USC (23-11). Also one of the last teams under consideration, the Trojans came into conference tournament week as a team that looked like it needed to make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament in order to secure a bid. But many believed they had done just that when they reached the conference tournament final, where they lost to Arizona.
Yet despite an RPI ranking of 34th and a second-place finish in the Pac-12, USC will have to settle for a bid in the NIT instead. The committee pointed to a lack of marquee wins on the team’s profile (they went 0-7 against teams from power conferences that made the tournament field), but some pundits wondered if there couldn’t be a deeper reason behind the exclusion.
“Louisville out. USC out. Oklahoma State out,” Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde wrote on Twitter after the field was revealed. “What do they have in common? Part of the federal investigation of college hoops.”
Rasmussen strongly denied that the FBI investigation into college basketball had any impact on his committee’s decision making. While both Louisville (20-13) and Oklahoma State (19-14) were considered bubble teams, neither was considered particularly likely to make the field by experts.
Baylor (18-14) was also on the first four out list, though their exclusion may be a bit less surprising than some of the others in that group. Losing four of their last five games may have doomed the Bears despite a strong strength of schedule that kept them in the running even with an unimpressive record.