Recent Progress Halted

MarquetteHoops.com's Matt Zuchowski will do a two-part story trying to explain Sunday's remarkable performance by the selection including connections to why Air Force, Utah State, and George Mason made the field. Part 1: the selection of teams Part 2: the puzzling seedings.

After what looked to be an improved performance the last three seasons, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee completely discarded all of the improvements committee members had made when putting together the 2006 Field of 65.

Now, Marquette will certainly benefit from this draw, as they have an over seeded two- seed UCLA, and an overrated Gonzaga team as the three-seed in their region. Honestly, this region is probably too favorable, especially when considering a Georgetown team who had a better overall profile and just beat Marquette on a neutral court in the Big East Tournament, faces an under seeded Northern Iowa team in the first round, and if they advance, the Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes in the second.

When looking at many of the complaints of teams who undeservedly made the field, or received inflated seeds, easy explanations can be given.

Tennessee, a team that limped to the finish and looked to be no better than a four seed, received a shocking number two-seed. Could that have something to do with the fact that SEC Commissioner, Mike Slive, served on the selection committee? Also, a Florida team that accomplished little out of conference and had been up and down throughout the year receives a three-seed ahead of much more accomplished teams like Pittsburgh or Illinois.

UCLA receiving a two seed, well I'm sure committee member Dan Guerrero, UCLA's AD, had nothing to do with that. Still, Tennessee, Florida, and UCLA all undoubtedly belong in the field.

However, the same cannot be said for George Mason, Utah State and Air Force. George Mason making the field, despite not having the services of their second leading scorer, Tony Skinn, for the first game after being suspended for punching a Hofstra player in the groin in the semifinals of the Colonial Tournament. Low and behold, George Mason AD Thomas O'Connor served on this year's committee.

Utah State made the field despite having one top 50 win, at Nevada. Meanwhile, the Aggies had five losses to teams outside the RPI top 100. Continuing the developing trend, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson happens to also be on this year's Selection Committee. The WAC happens to be the new home of the Aggies this season.

Even Air Force, which is probably the least deserving to earn an at large bid in recent memory considering they did not have a single win over a top 50 team, has connections with this year's selection committee. Fellow conference member Utah's AD Christopher Hill, served on this year's selection committee.

Meanwhile, a Cincinnati team that had wins at LSU, Marquette and Syracuse gets bypassed for these clearly undeserving teams. Somehow, I can't believe George Mason or Air Force could repeat this performance.

Missouri State, the #21 team in the RPI, also gets left out of the tourney. While the RPI should not be the only tool used to evaluate the worthiness of a team's inclusion, what credibility can this significant tool have if the committee deems the #21 team unworthy. Also, Missouri State's win at UWM far trumps any win Air Force or Utah State had out of conference.

Throughout the years, the committee always claims that it chooses the 34 best at large teams. George Mason without one of its best players and Air Force, who has beaten no one of note, surely do not fit this description. Apparently Air Force's win over San Diego State means more than Bearcats late season win over West Virginia.

For that matter, while they don't belong in over Missouri State or Cincinnati, Florida State and Michigan would have been better selections than Air Force and George Mason. If the selection committee wants to continue operating like this in future years, they better redefine the method in which they claim to choose at large selections, because they are surely not taking the thirty-four best at large teams.


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