|Of all the teams that got snubbed, was Seton Hall the worst? (US Presswire)|
OK, let's do what we have to. Sort out who barely got in and who barely got left out and our questions as to why. Drexel, the regular-season champion of the Colonial, is out. As is Washington, which becomes the first major-conference regular-season champ to not get into the field. Marshall was the only team with a top-50 RPI to not crack the field. Eleven non-power teams earned at-larges, which is the most in eight years.
Let's get to our biggest issues:
Seton Hall: The Hall becomes just the sixth team in the history of the expanded tournament to miss the field with 20 wins in the Big East. We address Iona below, but how do you think the Pirates feel when they look and see their wins against VCU, UConn, West Virginia and Georgetown -- that's four NCAA teams -- match up with Iona's Loyola (MD), Long Island and Vermont. The power numbers aren't even comparable.
Then you look at the South Florida side-by-side. The Bulls had fewer total wins, were 2-9 against the top 50 against SHU's 3-7 record. Yeah, it's close, but the Pirates own those really good wins over four tournament teams that weren't even on the bubble. No team had more heft in their schedule than the Pirates. It's the RPI that kill SHU. The Pirates had one of 68. N.C. State, which easily cleared the bar, was 1-8 vs. the top 50 but had an RPI of 49.
Beyond it all, it's a simple combination of eye test plus results that seemed to indicate the Pirates would be OK. They didn't fall in their face in the Big East tournament and got a win against Georgetown less than a month ago.
The lesson to learn here is simple: Don't end your regular season by losing to DePaul by 28 points.
-- Matt Norlander
It was nice to see 11 non-BCS teams get in the field, but one of the most deserving ones – Drexel – got left out. Aside from winning the automatic bid, what more could the Dragons have done? They won 19 straight games heading into the CAA championship game, and lost two times since Dec. 3.
Four of their six losses came in a three-week span from Nov. 18 through Dec. 3, a stretch where starting guard Chris Fouch was injured for three of the games and limited in the other two. Another starting guard, Derrick Thomas, was suspended for the final four games of the season – including the championship game against VCU. Thomas was reinstated after the conference tournament, and would have been back for the NCAA tournament.
Essentially, the team lost one game when at full strength, and three with every key player completely healthy and playing.
Drexel went 16-2 in the CAA, winning the outright regular-season championship over VCU. The Dragons were 11-3 in true road games, and 14-6 away from home overall. They went 4-3 against the top 100, and had no losses outside the top 150.
Qualitatively, Drexel plays some of the best defense in the country and plays a physical brand of basketball that excels in March. Their only loss in the last 20 games? A three-point defeat to No. 2 seed VCU in Richmond. And that somehow kept the Dragons out of the NCAA tournament. When looking at some of the other selections, it doesn't make much sense.
-- Jeff Borzello
Yes, the Bulls belonged.
They won 12 Big East games and have only lost to an unranked team once since Dec. 28. Put another way, they did what a bubble team is supposed to do and mostly beat the teams they were supposed to beat. So don't let those 13 losses fool you. That's a high number, sure. But 10 of those 13 losses came to fellow NCAA tournament teams, meaning only three schools that didn't make the Field of 68 were good enough to beat USF this season. I wrote Feb. 29 that the Bulls' win that night over Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center should've secured an at-large bid for the Tampa-based school, and it basically did. So good for the Bulls. And good for Stan Heath. And good for the selection committee for getting this one right.
-- Gary Parrish