Sun Mar 13 07:30pm EDT
Neither an expanded 68-team field nor an especially mediocre crop of bubble teams is likely to alter our most time-honored Selection Sunday ritual.
As soon as the bracket is revealed, the bellyaching begins.
The most frustrating aspect of this year's bracket was the final few at-large teams, some of which earned bids despite particularly spotty résumés. Clemson made the field despite zero top 50 RPI wins. So did Conference USA champ Alabama-Birmingham even though its best wins were over Virginia Commonwealth and Arkansas. And speaking of VCU, the Rams also got a bid despite finishing fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association and losing five of eight to close the season.
Whereas fans of those schools let out sighs of relief — or in some cases perhaps gasps of surprise — when their schools appeared on the TV screen Sunday evening, a handful of other NCAA tournament hopefuls were not as fortunate. Here's a look at this season's most controversial omissions:
1. Colorado (21-13, 8-8, RPI: 66): Considering Clemson and UAB's lack of quality wins, it's astonishing that Colorado did not make this field. The Buffs' three wins over Kansas State and victories over Missouri and Texas should have been enough to merit an NCAA tournament berth despite mediocre computer numbers dragged down by too many games against teams with RPIs 300 and above.
2. Virginia Tech (21-11, 9-7, RPI: 64): Someone better keep Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg away from tall buildings and sharp objects. For the fourth straight season, the Hokies gathered to watch the selection show hoping to make the NCAA tournament only to be banished to the dreaded NIT. A pair of wins over Florida State and a monumental upset of Duke were Virginia Tech's main selling points, but the committee likely couldn't look past the Hokies' inability to post a marquee nonleague win.
3. Alabama (21-11, 12-4, RPI: 79): Despite a 12-4 SEC record and a pair of victories over fellow bubble team Georgia in the past eight days, the selection committee apparently felt Alabama had not done enough to warrant a bid and the Bulldogs did. The reason had to be Alabama's poor RPI, which was weighed down by dreadful early season nonleague losses against St. Peter's, Providence and Iowa.
4. Saint Mary's (23-7, 11-3, RPI: 44): What probably cost the WCC co-champion Gaels a bid is a late-season slide that included a pair of losses to Gonzaga, a home loss to Utah State and an inexplicable loss to woeful San Diego. Beating St. John's to open the season and going 1 for 3 against the Zags was not enough to counteract that poor finish even though NCAA tournament-bound VCU had a similar résumé and late-season slide.