When Williams finally broke his silence Tuesday night, his outrage was worth the wait.
Reading from a scathing prepared statement after Texas A&M’s opening-round NIT victory over Alcorn State, Williams argued emphatically that the Aggies had “earned the right to play in the greatest tournament in the world.” Williams also took aim at the NCAA, describing the selection process as “flawed” and “broken” and accusing the selection committee of allowing “personal bias” to affect its decisions.
“After studying all this nonstop for the last two days and looking at it from every vantage point, it defies logic that we are not in the NCAA tournament,” Williams said, wiping away tears as he spoke. “Despite repeated pleas, I have only been given generalities by those above me, not data-specific evidence on why we weren’t invited. Without logical reasoning behind the decision, while knowing I still must explain this to our guys and their families, it has caused me to lose all respect and faith in the system and those that are in it.”
That emotional soliloquy from Williams can only further endear him to his players and to the Texas A&M fan base. Williams cares deeply about his team and is willing to passionately stand up for the Aggies players when he believes they have been wronged.
And yet while Williams is probably right that Texas A&M deserves better than the NIT, its omission from the NCAA tournament is not the miscarriage of justice that he makes it out to be. This was not the committee leaving out UCLA or UConn or some other season-long AP Top 25 team. Texas A&M, at best, was going to receive one of the final available spots in the field.
Left for dead after enduring an eight-game losing streak in the middle of SEC play, Texas A&M (24-12, 9-9) surged back into at-large contention by winning eight of its final 10 games. The Aggies won at Alabama during the final week of the regular season. Then they went on a memorable SEC tournament run, dispatching Florida, Auburn and Arkansas before running out of gas against Tennessee in Sunday’s conference title game.
Most mock brackets had Texas A&M as one of the last teams in the field entering Selection Sunday. The selection committee saw it differently, listing the Aggies not even as its first team out but as its fourth behind Dayton, Oklahoma and SMU.
Selection committee chairman Tom Burnett specifically cited Texas A&M's 4-10 record in Quad 1 games when asked why the Aggies didn't get a bid. Burnett reiterated that the committee is "looking at an entire body of work" and "not just a week in March."
While committee members have long been consistent about considering a team’s full season and not just how it finishes, that alone should not necessarily have disqualified Texas A&M. The Aggies’ season-long resume compared favorably with some of the last at-large teams to make the NCAA tournament field, most notably 11th-seeded Michigan and First Four-bound Indiana and Notre Dame.
The inclusion of the Irish was particularly vexing. While they beat Kentucky in non-league play and finished second in a down ACC, all but four of their 22 victories came against Quadrant 3 and 4 competition. Their 2-8 record in Quadrant 1 games was worse than Texas A&M, and they lost head-to-head to the Aggies in November.
Those are some of the numbers Willams has spent all his waking hours studying since his team returned home from the SEC tournament two nights ago. Williams said he turned off his phone and his TV in order to remain “oblivious to anything that was said” and to mimic “how the committee is supposedly sequestered.”
He examined how committee members are chosen, what their career paths are and how often they meet. He also pored over the computer metrics they use and tried to determine which are most important.
“I wanted to make sure I studied it all with the lens they do so I could better understand how what we did wasn’t enough,” Williams said. “I wanted this understanding so I could have an explanation for our players.”
The one element missing from Williams’ prepared statement Tuesday night was any hint of accountability. Texas A&M went 9-9 in the SEC. Two of its losses at home against mediocre Missouri and South Carolina. Williams also assembled the nation’s 262nd-ranked non-conference schedule. One of the Aggies’ opponents was non-Division I. Seven others ranked 240th or below in the NET rankings.
It would have been nice to hear Williams acknowledge this. It would have been refreshing to hear him say that, while the Aggies had a convincing case, reasonable minds can disagree and there was more that they could have done to leave no doubt.
Maybe with time Williams will do that, but on Tuesday night he was still too enraged, too disgusted. At the end of his news conference, he even distributed to reporters nine pages of his own research on why Texas A&M deserved a bid.
Here is the packet Buzz Williams put together of data on why his team should have made the tournament. Will go through it and will be in story on @theeagle website tonight/tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/4v2DplBQtN
— 𝕋𝕣𝕒𝕧𝕚𝕤 𝕃. 𝔹𝕣𝕠𝕨𝕟 (@Travis_L_Brown) March 16, 2022
The Cliff Notes version is this: Williams believes Texas A&M was wronged, and he’s convinced this is proof the selection process needs an overhaul.
“It is apparent that there is way more included that is unseen and unknown in the selection of the 36 at-large teams than what the public is made aware of,” he said. “Until there is complete transparency and accountability, the system will stay broken and this will continue to happen.”