Snubs and Surprises: SEC gets short end of the stick
The committee had a difficult task trying to separate the bubble teams this season. At the end of the day, though, it opted to reward the little guys over the high-major programs.
The little guys got the nod this season. The NCAA tournament selection committee rewarded the mid-major programs and penalized the big boys who weren't able to consistently get wins over quality teams.
Let me say I think the committee did a terrific job this time around, and it wasn't easy to try and choose between some of the teams on the so-called bubble. But we'll still give you the Surprises and Snubs:
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Middle Tennessee -- Kermit Davis' team lost in the Sun Belt semifinals to FIU, and it didn't have many "resume" wins, but the committee put in a team that won 28 games, rolled to its regular-season conference title with a 19-1 mark and also had a strong nonconference schedule. Had 11 road wins, which ranks third nationally. No team with at least 28 Division I wins had ever been omitted from the tourney -- and it remains that way after the Blue Raiders were included.
Boise State -- This might have been a shock for some, but Leon Rice's team deserved it after wins at Creighton and against UNLV, San Diego State and Colorado State. The Broncos were the fifth Mountain West team to go dancing.
Saint Mary's -- The Gaels were an interesting case. Randy Bennett's team didn't do much in terms of quality wins. Saint Mary's got one against Creighton in the BracketBusters event, but the Gaels didn't schedule tough in the nonconference slate. However, they beat everyone except Gonzaga in the WCC -- and all three losses after Dec. 23 came at the hands of the Zags.
La Salle -- The A-10 was strong this season, and La Salle finished in a third-place tie with Butler and Temple. The Explorers got key wins at VCU, at home against Butler and also against Villanova early in the season. John Giannini's team had a brutal loss in the second game of the year against Central Connecticut State, but it came without Tyrone Garland -- the team's third-leading scorer. La Salle has six top-100 wins, eight true road victories and just one loss outside of the top 75 in the RPI.
Kentucky -- John Calipari's program went from the national title to the NIT. The loss of Nerlens Noel certainly hurt the Wildcats' case, but this team was a bubble team even with Noel in the lineup. There were a couple of quality wins -- against Florida and Missouri at home -- but there just weren't enough and an excess of bad losses capped by one against Vanderbilt in its first game of the SEC tournament. Kentucky was 1-3 against top-25 teams in the RPI and 9-0 against bottom-tier teams below the 200 line in the RPI.
Tennessee -- The Vols were a tough team to figure. Losing four straight in early January, including three in league play, was too much for Cuonzo Martin's team to overcome. Tennessee won nine of its final 11 games, but two setbacks against Georgia might have been the difference at the end of the day. Martin's team won 20 games but tied for fifth place in a down SEC and had an RPI of 59.
Alabama -- Many thought that the winner of the Alabama-Tennessee SEC tournament game would be a lock to get into the field, but the Crimson Tide didn't get in as well. Alabama dug itself too much of a hole early with terrible losses against Auburn, Mercer and Tulane.
Virginia -- The Cavaliers won 21 games and tied for fourth in the ACC, but Tony Bennett's team lost to the entire CAA. Well, not quite -- but Virginia did come up short against Old Dominion, George Mason and Delaware. The Cavaliers also lost games in ACC play to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College. That was too much to overcome, even though Virginia took down some good teams (Duke, UNC, Wisconsin and NC State).
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