The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee's made some questionable choices every year, but even granted the novelty of the expanded 68 team field, this has to be one of the worst efforts I've seen from them in over a decade... as if most of them didn't know anything about college basketball.
By Sagarin rating (to this day one of the best barometers for team strength), if you filter out all the automatic qualifiers then the at-large selections should go down to the 50th rated team. Among those in the top 50, here is who got snubbed:
Virginia Tech (40)
St. Mary's (43)
New Mexico (48)
Here are the teams rated below that cutoff line that did get in at-large:
The top three on that last list might be explainable: Bubble decisions can come down to various, sometimes arbitrary factors. But letting USC and VCU in at-large was inexcusable. Those two teams might not even qualify for the top half of an NIT field.
This is some of the worst seeding I've seen in years.
- I'm not a Texas fan but they're worthy of a 2 or a 3, not the 4 seed they actually got, not-as-strong schedule or not.
- And if you're going to dock Texas for a lack of top-25 wins and holding serve on a padded schedule, then why give North Carolina a 2 seed despite a 4-seed caliber season and the same type of resume?
- Georgetown getting a 6 despite going 21-10 against arguably the toughest schedule in the nation (18 of their 31 games against top 50 teams, no less) is ridiculous. Give them at least a 5, if not a 4.
- Speaking of ridiculous, Florida at 2 despite a relatively easy schedule, only two top 25 wins and four losses versus teams outside the top 50. They're a 5.
- Call me a Vegas homer, but UNLV got ripped off with an 8 seed despite finishing 3rd in a tough Mountain West conference with two top 10 teams (BYU, San Diego State) and a shoulda-been-in New Mexico team while going 24-8 with one of the nation's tougher non-conference schedules. Give them a 6 if you don't like them but they could've warranted a 5... not an 8. An 8 is what you give a 19-13 power conference team or a decent power team that built a 23-26 win season on an easy schedule. It's about time the Mountain West's better teams started getting more than mid-major respect.
- Along those lines, when is the committee going to stop treating Utah State like a small school and giving them 12 seeds when they're clearly a top 25 team? They didn't even do that to the 80's-90's UNLV teams, who played in the weaksauce Big West... and the NCAA HATED Jerry Tarkanian! Utah State this year was a 6 for sure, even with their weak schedule.
- I'm more of a body-of-work guy than a reward-the-hot-finish guy, so I'm not a fan of Villanova at 9 even though they did kind of collapse to close the season. Thing is... even if you're hot or cold at season's end, the NCAA Tourney is a whole new environment, whole new opponents, whole different situation, and when you put 18-22 year old kids in a new situation like that, it can change the perspective of even the most resilient kid and change their game in an instant. Once the nominal season ends and we hit the do-or-die nationally-staged portion of the season, the hot and cold streaks don't really matter anymore because whatever environment you entrenched your groove or rut in is wiped out. Villanova had a decent season overall and keep in mind their cold run came during conference play in the nation's toughest conference (Big East). They still had eight top-50 wins and went 21-11 against one of the 20 toughest schedules in the country. Hit the reset button on their year and I bet things change. And I bet they're not only going to beat George Mason, but they could give #1 seed Ohio State problems this weekend. Yeah, the collapse still happened, but I would've given them a 6 or 7.
- Kansas State is overseeded at 5. Objectively they're maybe a 6, likely a 7. You could even make a case they're more of an 8, but I've give their tough schedule and 21-10 record the benefit of the doubt. And go figure their 12-seed opponent in the 64 round is none other than Utah State. Possible upset.
- Missouri and Marquette at 11 is kind of ridiculous. Both are top 30 teams... yes, even 20-14 Marquette. Missouri didn't fare well vs what top 25 talent they faced but they had four wins vs numbers 26-50 and pretty much held serve otherwise over a meaty schedule in a 22-10 season. Marquette faced 18 top-50 teams in their 34 game season, and beat five top 25 teams. Nearly all of their 14 losses came against the top 50, and bear in mind in this field the committee would have ideally let in everyone in the top 50. Sure, I can see punishing Marquette's 14 losses, and sure I can see punishing Missouri's lack of big wins. But I find that petty here: Both had tough schedules and there's no reason either one wouldn't warrant an 8 or a 9 in this field.
- One 13 loss team that should've gotten the 10-12 seed treatment is Michigan, who did not beat a single top 25 team and though they beat six teams rated 26-50, they took a dive versus four teams outside the top 50. I'd still give them a 10, but certainly not the 8 seed they got.
- Vanderbilt got their annual overseeding gift from the tournament committee. This year's prize: A 5 seed in an 8-seed worthy 23-10 season with a dodgy non-con schedule, only two top 25 wins, and four losses against teams outside the top 50. Seriously, I wonder if gifts from the Vanderbilt AD to the Tournament Selection Committee are part of Vanderbilt University's annual budget.
- Belmont at 13 is stupid. Look at their track record: 30 mostly convincing wins (yes, they play in the lowly Atlantic Sun, but several of those teams had good years), hanging tough in two losses to tourney team Tennessee and in another loss to tourney-bound Vanderbilt, their only real blip being a road loss to Lipscomb in late January. With a lack of convincing majors in the field this year, give them a 9 or a 10 and see if they can give one of those meh majors a scare. Or at least reward the strong year with an 11 or 12. Don't give them a 13 like they're some garbage auto-qualified small school with 8-10 losses as if they got blown out by every top 25 team they faced, or like they lost several games against crappy no-name schools.
- Xavier and their zero top-25 wins is so overseeded at 6 that the committee clearly table-set an upset loss to underseeded 11 seed Marquette. Conversely, Richmond kind of got the shaft at 12, though with a padded sched I kind of see it. Both should have been a 9 or 10 IMO. If you're going to shaft Richmond with a 12 you should have done the same for Xavier given they've had mostly identical seasons. Why unduly reward one while punishing the other? Because we recognize Xavier on a TV set more than we recognize Richmond? That's not how you're supposed to seed teams.
- Old Dominion at 9 isn't terrible but they're easily the weakest 9 in the field and if they weren't facing a similarly weak 8 in Butler, ODU would get crushed. Both are riding reputations from previous seasons: I'd have Butler at 12 this year (they went 22-9 off a pretty weak schedule), and while I might make ODU a 10, I could see seeding them as low as 12: They won 27 games off a somewhat weak schedule and didn't look as convincing as Belmont did with their weak sched.
- I don't like making Clemson play-in: I have eight tournament teams behind them, four of which incidentally got wrongfully snubbed. They're at least an 11. They didn't look too impressive against tougher teams but they still won 21 games against a decent schedule.
- If you're going to punish 13-14 loss teams at all, then why give Penn State a 10 despite 14 losses? Because they had a hot run in the Big Ten Tourney? Again, not a fan of rewarding hot streaks, because then you get 3-4 days off and have to play a new, tough opponent on a new, neutral, nationally televised court in a do or die game... which changes everything. Yes, I like their very tough schedule, but if you reward that for a team while ignoring 13-14 losses, then don't go punishing Marquette.
- UCLA at 7 makes little sense. Yes, three top 25 wins in a 22-10 season, but they had a pretty weak schedule for a Pac 10 team (only eight top-50 opponents in all), didn't look particularly convincing in many of their wins, and lost five winnable games to teams outside the top 50. I'd have them at 12 and would have had them play-in.
Bear in mind... I'm only hitting the clear, distinct mistakes. Poring through the teams and ratings, there was so much else to cover that, if I could see a couple of plausible reasons to overlook a seeding mistake, maybe a particularly strong/weak schedule or a lot more losses/wins than usual or something, I let it go if it was just 1-2 seeds over or under. This post could have been twice as long if I hit everything.
Well done, Selection Committee. Way to use three extra at-large bids as an excuse to turn completely stupid.