After carefully examining resumes for countless hours, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee revealed the 68 worthy NCAA Tournament teams on Selection Sunday. Like every year, there were teams who knew they were NCAA Tournament locks before the conference tournaments got underway. There were also teams who were hoping that the committee would give them the benefit of the doubt as they were finalizing the bracket.
In the college basketball world, we like to call them “bubble teams” who have no choice but to fight for their NCAA Tournament lives. In the end, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Indiana and Wyoming snuck into the Big Dance, which means that several fringe NCAA Tournament teams found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. Let’s take a look at the five biggest NCAA Tournament snubs who didn’t make your March Madness bracket this season.
5 Notable NCAA Teams That Were Tournament Bracket Snubs
Texas A&M wasn’t even considered a bubble team going into the SEC Tournament, but they grabbed the committee’s attention by defeating Florida, Auburn and Arkansas in their first three contests. In other words, the Aggies played their way onto the bubble and probably felt good about their NCAA Tournament chances going into the SEC title game against Tennessee.
Unfortunately, they fell behind Tennessee early and never found a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor, which led to a 65-50 defeat at the hands of Rick Barnes’ Volunteers. Despite their miserable performance in their biggest game of the season, the Aggies were still in the conversation for an at-large bid in the Big Dance. College basketball metrics can be incredibly difficult to comprehend, but it’s vitally important for you to familiarize yourself with the NET and quadrant system used by the selection committee. Essentially, a bubble team is in great shape when they have a high NET ranking combined with plenty of Quadrant 1 wins and minimal Quadrant 3/4 losses.
Texas A&M’s NET ranking (43) and 13-2 Quadrant 3/4 record kept them in the hunt, but their subpar 4-10 Quadrant 1 record didn’t do them any favors. Additionally, the committee tends to reward teams who challenge themselves during the non-conference portion of their schedule and compete against/defeat NCAA Tournament caliber teams. The Aggies entered SEC play with an 11-2 record, but their non-conference schedule clearly wasn’t strong enough in the committee’s eyes.
After starting 4-0 in the SEC, Texas A&M dropped eight consecutive conference games and missed out on several opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1 victories in the process. At the end of the day, I’m sure that head coach Buzz Williams would tell you that the Aggies’ mediocre non-conference schedule and inconsistent play in the SEC didn’t increase their chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Look, I understand that Oklahoma had an unimpressive 18-15 overall record going into Selection Sunday, but their intriguing metrics warranted a resume review at the very least. The Sooners waltzed into conference play with a 10-2 record and took down two teams who were ranked in the AP top 25 during the early part of the season (Florida: No. 14, Arkansas: No. 12).
Surprisingly, Oklahoma failed to replicate that success in the Big 12, as they lost 11 of their first 15 conference games before ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak. Despite having a high NET ranking (39) and stellar overall strength of schedule ranking (5), Oklahoma couldn’t overcome their putrid 4-12 Quadrant 1 record. Sure, it’s great that the Sooners took care of business during their Quadrant 3/4 contests (8-1 Quadrant 3/4 record), but they failed to show that they could consistently beat teams who planned on going dancing in March.
The Sooners had a chance to knock off Texas Tech in the semifinals and advance to the Big 12 Championship game, but once again they couldn’t get the job done and fell to the Red Raiders 56-55 in a low-scoring affair. I guess it just goes to show that although Oklahoma played a challenging schedule, they didn’t rack up enough marquee wins along the way to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Oklahoma Sooners’ fall from their 2016 Final Four appearance continues….
After defeating Butler at home and improving to 16-5 on the season, the recipe for success moving forward was simple for the Musketeers, just don’t collapse down the stretch. Somehow, Travis Steele and company did just that, as they dropped seven of their final nine regular-season games. As a result, they wound up becoming a bubble team that desperately needed to win a few games in the Big East Tournament.
The Musketeers’ first-round contest against Butler summed up their disappointing season perfectly and highlighted their inability to close out games the right way. Seconds after Xavier guard Paul Scruggs converted an incredible right-handed layup while getting fouled to give the Musketeers a 68-66 late in the game, the fifth-year senior made an inexcusable mistake after missing his lone free throw. Instead of getting back on defense and keeping his man in front of him, Scruggs elected to foul Simas Lukosius from behind and send the 89.1 percent free throw shooter to the line. To make matters even worse, Scruggs committed his fifth foul and had to exit the contest with 5.1 seconds to go.
Lukosius wound up sending the game to overtime and the Bulldogs eventually secured an 89-82 victory.
Despite having a solid NET ranking (40), that unacceptable loss was pretty much the nail in the coffin for Xavier. Without their collapse, the Musketeers could have secured eight or nine Quadrant 1 wins as opposed to five and improved their overall resume. Sadly, Xavier did everything they could to get left out of the Men’s NCAA Tournament, and the selection committee took notice of that when it came time to decide the Musketeers’ fate.
In terms of consistency in conference play, SMU is one of the easiest teams to make an NCAA Tournament case for. In addition to having a top 50 NET ranking (45), The Mustangs started AAC play with a 7-1 record and won six of their final nine regular season games. Tim Jankovich’s bunch even knocked off a nationally ranked Houston Cougars team and defeated Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers twice in three tries. Both of those squads will be participating in the Big Dance, while the Mustangs have to settle for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
If you really wanted to pick apart their resume, I suppose you could point out that the Mustangs beat up on average and below-average teams all season long (17-2 Quadrant 3/4 record), which didn’t allow them to pick up many Quadrant 1 victories (2-2 Quadrant 1 record). In all honesty, that’s probably the main reason why the committee felt the need to keep SMU out of the NCAA Tournament field.
It’s truly a shame that the world won’t get to witness SMU’s star guard, Kendric Davis, in this year’s NCAA Tournament, because the AAC Player of the Year is one of the shiftiest guards in the country. He’s averaging over 19 points per game this season and is a dynamic guard who uses his change of pace moves to put instant pressure on defenses.
This is probably information that Dayton fans didn’t want to know on Selection Sunday, but the Flyers were the very first team left out of the field. Going into the final day of the conference tournaments, the Flyers were the last team in the NCAA Tournament and needed everything to go their way in order to stay in that spot.
Well, after Richmond took down Davidson 64-62 in an Atlantic 10 Championship thriller, the Spiders essentially stole an at-large bid from a bubble team. A few hours later, we discovered that Dayton was the team that was affected by the Spiders’ improbable Atlantic 10 Tournament run. Interestingly, there are still individuals who believe that the Flyers should have been in the field regardless of Sunday?s unfavorable outcome.
After all, the Flyers did finish second in the Atlantic 10 and beat the regular-season champions (Davidson) before the start of the conference tournament. However, Dayton’s biggest issue wasn’t their NET ranking (58) or even their lack of Quadrant 1 wins (3), but rather their awful Quadrant 4 losses to Umass-Lowell, Austin Peay and Lipscomb at the beginning of the season. I will give them credit for immediately bouncing back with wins against Miami and Kansas, but the committee made it clear that their early Quadrant 4 losses came back to haunt them in the end. Anthony Grant did lose his starting point guard in the Atlantic 10 Tournament (Malachi Smith), but the lesson is still the same for the Flyers: win the games you’re supposed to win early.