March Madness 2015: Five biggest snubs from Selection Sunday

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Selection Sunday has come and gone and the brackets for the NCAA Tournament are set. Before the Madness of March really kicks off and we go and start filling out our own brackets (which will last an average of three games for many), let's take a moment of silence for the teams which didn't make it.

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March Madness 2015: Five biggest snubs from Selection Sunday
In Off the Top Rope, The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre and CineSport’s Brian Clark look at five potential NCAA Tournament upsets and make Final Four picks. Could Michigan State reach Indianapolis?

Old Dominion

Old Dominion beat LSU and VCU -- both NCAA Tournament teams -- and ended the season with 24 wins. None of that was enough, any more than ending up second in Conference USA was enough to make the NCAAs.

As it turns out, Conference USA only got one bid, so as a wise man once said “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” It makes as much sense as a Will Ferrell movie, since plenty of teams looked much worse than Old Dominion but got their invite anyway.

At the end of the day, losses to Western Kentucky, UAB and UTSA did the Monarchs in, though they remained in the top 50 in RPI.

Again, this is the plight of the mid-major -- you have almost no ways to get into the tournament and an at-large bid is rare since you don’t have the draw of other teams from major conferences. The selection committee won’t say it, but the cold truth is that Norfolk, Virginia doesn’t draw like Los Angeles or like anything from a conference like the Big 10.

So Old Dominion gets left out, despite the number of wins, win percentage, RPI or any of the things that get pointed to only when someone is making an argument for a Power-5 conference.

Old Dominion is only the first team on this list, and not the most egregious slight either, but it’s an oversight anyway.

(AP Photo/Chris Tilley)

Iona

The Gaels were 36-8 on the season, undefeated at home, and one win away from an automatic bid in the MAAC Championship before losing to Manhattan in a great game.

To make the run through the MAAC, Iona had to play some fierce competition, but its competition nobody not interested in the MAAC takes seriously. Rider, Monmouth, Manhattan are very good teams, but mid-majors and therefore don’t the press that other teams do.

Iona only had an RPI of 51 -- not as high as several other teams on the list have, but higher than Purdue, LSU, Ole Miss, Indiana and Pitt, all of whom got at-large bids.

The Gaels had two players scoring over 19 points a game and two more in double-digits, held their competition to 72 points or less, while scoring 79 points per game themselves and outscored their opponents by almost 300 points overall in the season.

While they are clearly not as talented as Wisconsin, Villanova or Kentucky, they fit in well with the lower tier teams like Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota State, or Texas Southern and I feel they very well could beat any of those teams.

That they couldn’t even get a ‘First Four’ bid is a shame, as they were as deserving as a North Florida or Robert Morris.

Perhaps if they had beaten UMASS on the road, or hadn’t lost to Saint Peter’s just before the MAAC Tournament, the selection committee would have given them a longer look.

But more than likely they had their mind made up that the MAAC would get one bid and that’s all.

So it’s off to the NIT for Iona, where they can try to prove their worth by beating the other castoffs from the NCAAs.

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Temple

Maybe a 77-52 beatdown of Kansas shouldn’t count for everything, but it’s a quality win which a lot of the teams who made the Tournament lacked and of the other teams which made the tournament as an 11-seed didn’t have anything close.

Add to that a 13-5 conference record, eight top-100 wins, a nice run in the AAC Tournament (beating Tourney team Cincinnati on the way) and an RPI of 34 and suddenly you should be wondering just how in the name of March Madness the Owls are home.

The truth is, Temple isn’t from a Power-5 league and also had an awful loss to Saint Joseph’s -- not a team you want to lose to if you have NCAA aspirations. It could also be the mediocrity overall of the AAC, which is top-heavy with talent and bottom-heavy with weakness.

Then again, if it didn’t drag the RPI down, why should it keep them out of the conference? And why should they be punished for being brave enough to take on teams like Duke, Villanova and Kansas?

This is a huge issue I have with football by the way -- you are never rewarded for testing yourself, especially early and if you lose, you are often punished.

Temple had a lot to offer the tournament, certainly more than Ole Miss, Indiana and Texas. But we’ll never know if they had enough talent to make noise in the tournament since the selection committee clearly favored the Power-5.

Temple had a very good season and should have been rewarded for it, but instead the Owls are going to be watching the tournament at home like the rest of us, hate-filling out their brackets and likely writing in ‘hit by meteor’ or ‘attacked by swarm of bees’ in some of the open slots.

Personally I think ‘attacked by swarm of bees’ will make a strong run to the Sweet 16.

(AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

Murray State

Murray State had a few bad losses -- to Houston and Portland -- a disappointing, but not unexpected loss to Xavier and that all sunk its RPI enough to where perhaps they were a longshot.

That said, if the selection committee was looking for a hot team, maybe the Racers were a good choice, since they didn’t lose a game between November 29 (a 93-58 thumping by Valparaiso) and March 7 in the Ohio Valley Conference finals (an 88-87 heartbreaker to Belmont).

That’s 25 straight games, which is the definition of a hot team.

A win in the Ohio Valley final would have given them an automatic bid, so as I said in the introduction, you can take care of not being snubbed by winning, but it seems to me 25 wins is a strong argument that you win games.

How often are 27-6 teams left home? According to ESPN Stats and Information, they are now one of nine (including Colorado State from this year) teams which had 27 or more wins and were left home, since the Tournament expanded in 1985.

For what it’s worth, Murray State players and coaches weren’t the only ones outraged by the oversight.

Dick Vitale was not pleased.

I am not Dickie V’s biggest fan (and I am aware that makes me weird) but he’s right. It’s unfair and there were mediocre teams with win-loss records that weren’t impressive sent to the Tournament because of the conferences they play in.

Maybe Murray State isn’t the biggest or best program in college basketball (no, maybe -- they aren’t). However they played exceptionally well this year and after a somewhat rough start, won 25 games. That is very tough to do against anyone. The longer you extend that streak, the more the pressure is on you to keep it going and the more teams give you their best shot to knock you down.

Murray State was never knocked down until that last game.

They should have been sent to the dance.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Colorado State

Like Murray State, Colorado State had 27 wins and like the Racers, the Rams will not be going to the NCAA Tournament, in part because of a loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament and in part because of reasons, I guess.

Colorado State lost to San Diego State, which in turn lost to Wyoming who took the automatic bid with the tournament title. Meanwhile, San Diego State got an at-large bid with a 26-8 record and will now play St. John’s who got in as a 9-seed with a 21-11 record and a big loss in the Big East Tournament opening round.

The Johnnies played a tougher schedule and have an RPI of 37, but Colorado State’s RPI was 29 so, I guess that whole RPI thing is a pretty useless stat after all. It only counts if you are in a major conference I suppose.

The thing is, while Colorado State failed to make the finals in the conference tournament, it had beaten both MWC teams in the finals (and are also in the NCAA Tournament). This is the sort of thing where suddenly the selection committee starts trotting out terms like ‘eye test’ and ‘gaining steam’ -- two terms Scott Barnes, chairman of the selection committee used when talking about UCLA, per the Washington Post.

“One of the tougher decisions the committee had to make,” Scott Barnes, chairman of the selection committee, told CBS after the brackets were revealed.  “They were gaining steam, they had a good strength of schedule. … I think the eye test was a plus in putting them into the field.”

As Post writer Matt Bonesteel wrote in the piece, the team gaining steam was 6-4 over its last ten games and its biggest non-conference win was against Long Beach State.

But please, tell me again how the Bruins were the better team this year.

(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
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Every year there are teams on the bubble who for one reason or another, get left out of the dance. Sometimes it makes sense, while other times it seems like a huge oversight on the part of the selection committee. Of course paired with those teams are always some that befuddle us as well-how on earth did UCLA make it in for example, with a 2-8 record against the top-50 and a 5-10 record against the top-10, while Colorado State was left at home or heading to the NIT (more on that in a slide or two)?

It's often a combination of automatic bids and RPI, but sometimes teams get in on 'feel' and other intangible things, UCLA being one of those because they got in as they were 'hot.'

Whatever the reason, these teams will probably look back at this Sunday with more than a little bitterness and righteous indignation. Some of them rightfully so.

A while ago I wrote a piece on the rebirth of the Big East and got an emailed complaint that said that while the emailer was happy I thought the Big East was back, why did I say their team was not guaranteed a spot in the dance?

As I pointed out, a high RPI is nice and some quality wins are dandy but if you aren't 1) ranked in the Top 25 or 2) the winner of a conference tournament with an automatic bid, nothing is promised.

Ultimately, if you want to guarantee a spot on the dance floor, win and get ranked. That worked for the team in question and is the only guarantee under the sun on selection Sunday.

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March Madness 2015: Five biggest snubs from Selection Sunday
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