It's as much an annual Selection Sunday tradition as grabbing a pen and paper, turning to CBS and marveling that longtime host Greg Gumbel never seems to age.
First the bracket is unveiled. Then the bellyaching begins.
The at-large team whose presence in the field of 68 may draw the most complaints this year is Iona, which eked out a No. 14 seed and spot in the First Four despite not being included in most mock brackets. The MAAC champion Gaels apparently earned that bid because their 25-7 overall record and 15 wins away from home outweighed the fact that they did not defeat a single RPI top 50 team all season and the best team they beat was Saint Joseph's.
If players from Iona, NC State and South Florida exhaled in relief when their schools' name appeared on the TV screen Sunday evening, a handful of other NCAA tournament hopefuls were not as fortunate. Colonial Athletic Association winner Drexel, Pac-12 champion Washington and Big East also-ran Seton Hall headline the list of snubs:
1. Drexel (27-6, 16-2, RPI: 71): Nineteen wins in its final 20 games and the outright CAA regular season title apparently couldn't overcome Drexel's non-league shortcomings. The Dragons didn't beat anyone noteworthy out of conference and their strength of schedule was among the weakest of any at-large hopeful. What will frustrate Drexel fans most is that Iona made it ahead of the Dragons. The Gaels' non-conference schedule was stronger, but they too didn't notch any marquee victories and the league they won is weaker than the CAA.
2. Washington (21-10, 14-4, RPI: 69): The most interesting aspect of Washington's exclusion from the field is that a team that finished behind the Huskies in the Pac-12 actually made it. Whereas second-place Cal landed one of the final at-large bids, Washington became the BCS era's first power conference regular season champion ever to miss the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won the Pac-12 with a 14-4 record, but it wasn't enough because of the weakness of the league and their own non-league woes. Washington failed to beat a single RPI Top 100 team out of conference and also lost at Nevada and at home to South Dakota State.
3. Oral Roberts (27-5, 17-1; RPI: 46): Committee chair Jeff Hathaway said Oral Roberts was the first team left out, which means the Summit League champs can blame Saint Bonaventure winning Sunday's A-10 tournament title game for their absence. That made the A-10 a four-bid league and robbed Oral Roberts of its spot in the field. The Golden Eagles probably feel they too had a stronger case than Iona considering their gaudy record and quality win over Xavier, but that victory came while the Musketeers were shorthanded. It was also the only noteworthy non-league win Oral Roberts can boast.
4. Seton Hall (20-12, 8-10, RPI: 54): If the Pirates are wondering how they missed the field, all they have to do is look how the finished the season. By losing their final two regular season games against DePaul and Rutgers and falling in a second-round Big East tournament game to Louisville, they gave the committee reason to leave them out. Seton Hall had marquee wins over Georgetown, UConn, West Virginia and VCU, but its overall profile was uninspiring. In addition to staggering to the finish line this season, the Pirates went just 8-10 in the Big East and had just one decent road win (at Dayton).
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