Part of the intrigue of the NCAA Selection Show is defined in one simple question: “Who will get snubbed this year?”
Many Big 12 Conference fans feel that Oklahoma State was the snub this year. This is actually not the case. Oklahoma State has a young team that is growing. They will do well in the NIT Tournament. Would I prefer Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament over Oklahoma? Absolutely. Right now, Oklahoma is one of the worst Power Conference teams in the nation. They will be an embarrassment for the Big 12 Conference with a first-round exit. In fact, I don’t even think that game will be close. Oklahoma State would provide a little bit more of a fight than the Sooners.
However, like any judicial decision, there was a precedent. Oklahoma State and Baylor did not meet this precedent, which is why they are in the National Invitational Tournament. The lowest ranking from the Ratings Percentage Index to ever earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance is No.v67 by USC in 2011. Oklahoma State did not come anywhere near this threshold with a final ranking of 88. Baylor, meanwhile, was the second team out behind Notre Dame. The Bears finished at No. 68. The lowest ranking to make the tournament this season was Arizona State at No. 66. If any Big 12 team should be complaining right now, it’s Baylor. The Bears weren’t in the top 67 RPI teams though, so there is really no argument.
But the committee did break its own precedent with one criteria. This is the first season where a Power Conference team with an RPI Top 40 ranking missed the tournament. In fact, two of these teams missed the tournament. This is causing some conspiracy theories out there too. USC finished with an RPI ranking of 34 and a 23-11 record. This was a team with a 6-5 road record and went 5-2 at a neutral site. It’s a solid resume and much better than UCLA’s or Arizona State’s. The NCAA will use the argument that USC was 0-3 against both teams. However, USC is a name that is frequently mentioned in the recent NCAA FBI probe. Arizona won the Pac 12’s automatic bid and Miami (FL) was in the RPI Top 30. The NCAA couldn’t penalize everyone, but it did break precedent with USC and one other team: Louisville. Oh yes, Rick Pitino’s former team. There are a lot of missing pieces to this puzzle. The Cardinals amassed a 20-win season, play in the ACC and had a .500 conference record. The following ACC teams who made the NCAA Tournament were below them: Syracuse (45), Florida State (54), Virginia Tech (61), North Carolina State (64).
To add insult to injury, Notre Dame (70) was considered the first team out. Louisville wasn’t even among those first four teams as the others were: Baylor, Saint Mary’s, and Southern Cal. Yahoo! Sports was all over this conspiracy as Pat Forde mentioned it on video. If you are on the NCAA’s (insert negative four-letter adjective here) list, then you better not give them a reason to keep you out. Notice who else is in: Michigan State. That entire university might as well be considered Hell itself with as much evil that has taken place there, and the basketball program has a very strong link to the awful things that are now public knowledge. Alas, the NCAA couldn’t snub the RPI No. 14 team. The Spartans took care of business on the court.
Another Yahoo! Sports analyst asked if the NCAA was a “cartel” considering that three teams outside the top 7 leagues (The Power 5 plus the Big East and American Athletic Conference) have scored at-large bids in the past two tournaments. Middle Tennessee State (33), Western Kentucky (39) and Saint Mary’s (40) were all snubbed. St. Bonaventure’s (24) was placed into a play-in game. The highest RPI rankings since 2005 to miss the tournament are Colorado State (29 in 2015) and Missouri State (21 in 2005). This means there is a precedent to leave mid-majors out. I love a good upset and tend to root for the underdog, but I can’t knock the committee on this one with a precedent that has been established for over a decade.
Both, Baylor and Oklahoma State failed to notch 20 victories. They also had losing road records. One of Baylor’s 18 victories came against a Non-D1 school. These are solid reasons why both teams were snubbed. Oklahoma really shouldn’t have been in the tournament either. The Sooners also failed to amass 20 victories and finished with a losing road record. My own editor, Pete Mundo, said the Sooners are in because of television ratings and to promote Trae Young. Consider that as another conspiracy theory.
Taking this all in, we’ve learned two things about the selection committee this year: 1) Don’t piss off the NCAA, or else cover your ass on the court. 2) Be in the RPI Top 67. Oklahoma is fine on both accounts. Oklahoma State and Baylor aren’t exactly in good graces on either.