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As always there’s a short list of teams many will feel didn’t deserve to get in or were over-seeded and, on the other hand, there were snubs, programs left out unjustifiably or under-seeded.
Here are three such teams on each side of the ledger.
TEAMS GETTING TOO MUCH CREDIT
The 56th-ranked RPI team, Indiana was .500 in its conference. Yes, the Big Ten was a gauntlet this year, but that's not a very becoming RPI ranking for a tournament team. Nor is a 4-9 mark versus RPI top-50 teams and a 5-7 stumble of a record down the stretch. Coming into Sunday, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers were squarely on the bubble, so it may not be a huge issue that they’re in. The issue is that they’re a 10-seed, ahead of a number of more deserving 11 seeds. Name-brand recognition may have helped some with Indiana, but methinks conference affiliation got this team over the hump . . . and over-seeded.
The Longhorns are another team that some weren’t sure would make it, yet UT ended up an 11-seed in the Midwest Region, taking on sixth-seeded Butler in Pittsburgh. Rick Barnes’ team went 8-10 in Big 12 play, and, considering how many top-flight teams Texas played, managed a meager three wins against RPI top-50 teams. Also factoring into the head-scratching: UT lost four in a row to end the month of February and in general has dropped five of its last eight games. Texas isn’t as puzzling as the fortunate squad below, but theirs was an unforeseen gift from the Selection Committee.
The Bruins were seen as a potential bubble-buster for teams in advance of UCLA’s Pac-12 semifinal game versus Arizona. But here’s the thing: UCLA lost the game. So how in the wide world of sports are they in? UCLA finished the season 20-13, went an uninspiring 9-7 in non-conference play and had a 1-7 record against the RPI top 25. Some will point to the fact that Steve Alford’s crew won four of its last five. To that crowd, I’ll suggest you’re giving way too much credit to the teams UCLA beat – USC twice, Washington and Washington State. Not sure how this team’s an 11-seed that avoided a play-in game.
TEAMS THAT GOT FLAT-OUT SNUBBED
Poor Racers. In the same way that Power Five conference affiliation aided the trio of teams above, it crippled Steve Prohm and Murray State. Here’s probably all you need to know: The Racers, 25-5, were ranked in the top 25 before a stomach-punch loss to Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. That was apparently enough to do in Murray State while big-namers that struggled to eke out .500 records in their conferences were rewarded. Sometimes the Committee gets it right. They didn’t with Prohm’s bunch. They’d have been a much more competitive participant in March Madness than a handful of at-large teams dancing.
With respect to Murray State, this could be the biggest snub of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The Owls, under venerable coach Fran Dunphy, finished 33rd in the country in RPI and didn’t make the Dance. Let me repeat that, 33rd. That’s a drop mic and walk out of room stat there. Temple totaled 23 wins (against 10 losses) in the American Athletic Conference, which isn’t exactly a slouch. And for good measure, the Owls own wins over top-50 RPI teams Kansas, a two-seed in the NCAAs, and Cincinnati. They won nine of their final 12 games with the only three setbacks coming away from home. This was borderline robbery by the Committee.
When you don’t play in a major conference and you fail to win your conference tournament, this is what can happen. It isn’t always fair, but it plagued the Rams, ranked 29th in the latest RPI. Colorado State went 13-5 in league play with wins over Boise State and San Diego State and finished 10-5 against teams ranked in the RPI top 150. Perhaps the thing that held CSU back was a pair of losses to Wyoming. Still, Larry Eustachy’s troops deserved better. The Rams could’ve been a very competitive play-in game participant.