Pretty much every sports blogger is going to be posting his or her NCAA Tournament bracket this week. I’ll be doing that too, but not in this post. I’ll be saving my bracket post for the last possible moment on Thursday, since I plan on entering approximately four million different pools and need to maintain some sort of competitive advantage.
Instead, for today, I want to use the best college basketball site on the net to look at two sets of teams: tournament snubs, and the worst teams that made it into the tournament field. This serves the purpose of allowing me to talk about the NCAA Tournament without actually giving away any of my bracket strategy.
Oh, and for the record, I feel for all the sports writers out there who have jobs covering other sports this week. I’d guess that 90% of them would rather be spending their time deconstructing brackets like the rest of us, but they have to cover meaningless spring training and NBA regular season games (or worse, NASCAR events). Well, I feel for them a little bit. Not that much.
One of the most gut-wrenching jobs of the selection committee is deciding who the 34 best at-large teams are. Most of the time, they do a remarkably good job, and who can really complain that their team deserved the #32 slot instead of #35, when they could have just won another game or two and removed all doubt? I have little sympathy for the Syracuses and Florida States of the world, and they weren’t even the #1 snub according to KenPom:
- Clemson (ranked #18 of the at-large teams) – I know the knock on Clemson is their 7-9 conference record and their one-and-done ACC tourney performance, but their case is not a difficult one. The Tigers won conference road games against one-seed UNC, ACC finalist NC State, fellow snub FSU, and against VT. They tore through a decent non-conference schedule, and none of the ACC losses were really bad ones.
- Syracuse (#22) – The Orange went 10-6 in the Big East, so their drawback is theoretically the three non-conference home/neutral games they lost to Wichita State, Oklahoma State, and Drexel. Despite beating two tourney teams in non-conference play, they had a pretty weak schedule, and they really only had two good BE wins (at Marquette, and at home over Georgetown). I suppose the committee was saying that the BE was not enough of a power conference for 10-6 and 22-10 overall to get Syracuse in.
- Mississippi State (#24) – Had the Bulldogs not lost to Arkansas in the SEC semis, we’d be talking about the Razorbacks here. Like Syracuse, they didn’t get it done against the better non-conference teams they played, and MSU just went 8-8 in the SEC (18-13 overall). Losing on the road at George Mason and Missouri, combined with the home loss to South Carolina, are probably the main reasons they weren’t selected.
- West Virginia (#28) – The Mountaineers will be a one-seed in the NIT because of their 22-9 record in a power conference, but that wasn’t enough to get in the NCAAs. They’re only a month removed from a non-conference win over UCLA, and they only lost one home game all year (to Pitt). Then again, their best road win was over Seton Hall, so it’s hard to argue for them on that.
- Florida State (#29) – The committee seems to have drawn a line at .500 for power conference teams’ conference records. The Seminoles were 7-9, so they were out. It wasn’t for lack of a defining win, though: FSU beat Florida at home and Duke at Cameron, and they didn’t have a single bad loss (among twelve). Twelve is not a good loss total to have, but they could make a case.
- Oklahoma (#30) – Yet another power conference team with one (or in their case, four) too many losses. You can’t expect to get in if you don’t win the games you’re supposed to in the Big 12, and road losses to Iowa State and Missouri would qualify as games the Sooners should have won. Adding insult to injury, OU dropped its final six regular season games. That’s not a recipe for tournament selection, but a brutal schedule and a little hard luck might have made the Sooners tournament worthy.
- Air Force (#32) – Aside from a loss to Duke, the Falcons looked awfully good heading into the MWC regular season. They went 10-6 there, so it’s no surprise they were left out, but with a stronger schedule than some power conference teams, maybe they deserved some consideration.
- Missouri State (#33) – The MVC made a case this year to be considered more than just a mid-major. They should have won at St. Louis in non-conference play, but 12-6 in the MVC really isn’t bad. The worst team they played in the Valley was still in the top half of all teams overall, but 22-10 isn’t going to cut it in a mid-major if you don’t win your conference tournament.
The Worst Teams In
- Jackson State (#292 of 336 D-I teams) – Sporting six (!) losses to teams in KenPom’s bottom 50, it’ll be a wonder if Florida doesn’t beat them by fifty.
- Florida A&M (#256) – FAMU only lost to 3 of the bottom 50. Their best win? #213 Delaware State.
- Eastern Kentucky (#188) – Three losses to the bottom 50, and their best win was #170 ETSU.
- North Texas (#185) – Only a single loss to a bottom 50 team (#290 FIU) and four wins against the top half of D-I (#146 Western Kentucky twice, #161 Rice, #110 Tulsa) makes them look stellar compared to the first three on this list.
- Weber State (#184) – They lost to #289 Sacramento State and didn’t beat anyone in the top half of D-I, but winning the not-terrible Big Sky and playing a not-terrible non-conference schedule allows them to fall to #5 on this list.
So there you have it. If you had EKU toppling UNC in the first round because you weren’t sure about Tyler Hansbrough, maybe you ought to reconsider.