Hall of fame coach Larry Brown's first NCAA tournament game since winning the 1988 national title with Kansas will have to wait at least another year.
SMU was expected to receive one of the final at-large bids on Sunday, but Brown's team instead became the most surprising omission from the field of 68. NC State, BYU, Tennessee and Xavier were among the bubble teams the selection committee decided were more worthy even though the Mustangs were ranked 25th in the edition of the AP poll released last Monday.
Committee chairman Ron Wellman told CBS that SMU's modest strength of schedule outweighed its 23-9 record and four victories against NCAA tournament-bound teams from its league.
"SMU had an outstanding résumé but their non-conference strength of schedule was in the 300s, which is not very good obviously," Wellman said. "Their overall strength of schedule was 129. The next lowest strength of schedule in the field is 91, so there was quite a bit of difference between their strength of schedule and the other teams in the field.
"It still remained a very difficult decision because when you give them the eye test, they're very good and they're very impressive to the committee. But when you start comparing the team sheets of those teams they were fighting to get into the tournament with, we sided with the other teams and the strength of schedule was a very big factor."
SMU was certainly not the only disappointed bubble team Sunday evening. Here's a look at Sunday's biggest snubs starting with the Mustangs.
SMU (23-9, 12-6): Considered a near-certain NCAA tournament team throughout February and early March, SMU opened itself up to further scrutiny by losing its final three games of the season including a league tournament quarterfinal to middling Houston on Thursday. What the committee found was a profile boosted by two wins over UConn and one apiece against Memphis and Cincinnati but weighed down by a poor strength of schedule and a trio of losses to teams 140 and worse in the RPI. The committee has repeatedly reminded teams to challenge themselves out of conference if they want at-large bids. With SMU's strength of schedule of 137 and non-league strength of schedule of 303, consider this another message sent.
Green Bay (24-6, 14-2): The Phoenix were the most deserving small-conference regular season champion not to get a bid. Their season unraveled when stars Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown both sustained injuries in Horizon League semifinals against Milwaukee, contributing to a surprising loss that dashed Green Bay's hopes of an automatic bid and ultimately excluded it from the NCAA tournament. Green Bay coach Brian Wardle had hoped the committee would consider the injury factor as well as that his team dominated the Horizon League and beat ACC champion Virginia in November. Alas, it wasn't enough to outweigh a résumé lacking other quality wins.
Florida State (19-13, 9-9): Had Florida State finished off upset bids against either Michigan or Florida during non-league play, the Seminoles might be in the NCAA tournament. Instead they suffered a pair of narrow losses that ultimately proved costly. Florida State had only three wins against RPI top 50 teams -- VCU, Pittsburgh and UMass -- and it was 6-12 against the RPI top 100. There were no bad losses aside from a stumble against Miami in league play, but still it's hard to feel too bad for the Seminoles considering how many opportunities for quality wins they let slip away.
Arkansas (21-11, 10-8): No bubble team left a worse final impression on the committee than the Razorbacks, who fell at woeful Alabama by 25 in their regular season finale and then somehow managed to follow that by losing to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament. That cost Arkansas a crack at Tennessee in the quarterfinals and undid much of the good the Razorbacks did in winning six straight prior to that to reenter the bubble conversation. A pair of victories over Kentucky and two others over SMU and Minnesota boosted Arkansas' chances, but the committee ultimately decided that didn't offset a bloated No. 68 RPI, a poor strength of schedule and three league losses to teams outside the top 100.
Cal (19-13, 10-8): It would have been hard to imagine Cal in the NIT when it started 5-0 in Pac-12 play or upset Arizona on Feb. 1, but the Bears failed to maintain that momentum. They dropped nine of their final 14 games, leaving them with a résumé uninspiring besides the Arizona win. Solid victories over Oregon, Stanford and Colorado also helped, but the Bears had a mediocre No. 59 RPI, bad losses to UC Santa Barbara and USC and a 4-10 record against the RPI top 50. That's a résumé that made it easy for the committee to justify excluding them.
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