When surprise at-large entrant UCLA popped up as a No. 11 seed in the South Region, the anxiety surely increased for other NCAA tournament hopefuls across the nation.
The unexpected inclusion of the Bruins ensured that at least one at-large candidate expected to make the NCAA tournament was going to have its bubble burst.
UCLA made the field despite a 2-8 record in road games and only four wins against opponents ranked in the RPI top 100. Quality home wins against Utah and Oregon obviously helped, as did a strong non-conference schedule and an impressive showing in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal loss against Arizona.
"As we tracked UCLA over the last month or so, we felt like they were gaining steam," selection committee chairman Scott Barnes said. "They did have a good strength of schedule. They were playing better against tough competition, especially their last game against Arizona."
There are a handful of teams that can make a strong argument they had a better profile than UCLA and a comparable profile to some of the other hotly debated at-large selections such as Ole Miss, Boise State, BYU and Texas. Here's a look at Selection Sunday's biggest snubs:
Temple (23-10, 13-5 AAC): The team with the biggest gripe is probably Temple, which has been a fixture in most mock brackets for weeks. The Owls throttled Kansas 77-52 on Dec. 22 and performed well in the American Athletic Conference, going 13-5 including a victory over Cincinnati and a sweep of middling UConn and Memphis. The lack of depth in the AAC probably hurt Temple, as did a non-conference loss to a pretty bad Saint Joseph's team. Nonetheless, it's a surprise the Owls aren't in the field.
Colorado State (27-6, 13-5 MWC): The committee apparently didn't buy that Colorado State was as good as its No. 28 RPI suggests. The Rams may have a point too since they only defeated five RPI top 100 teams all season. Their best non-league wins came against Georgia State, UTEP and Colorado. They also split with Mountain West co-champs Boise State and San Diego State in league play. Colorado State had hoped that its lack of bad losses would be a selling point, but it didn't happen. It also probably didn't help the Rams that Wyoming won the Mountain West tournament, meaning the league would have had to get four bids for Colorado State to make it.
Miami (21-12, 10-8 ACC): A 90-74 shellacking of Duke in Durham apparently couldn't overshadow the many warts on Miami's profile. The Hurricanes did have a road win at Syracuse, a home win over N.C. State and a victory against fringe bubble team Illinois, but those victories were weighed down by a couple of dreadful losses. NCAA tournament teams don't typically lose by 28 against Eastern Kentucky and by 13 against Green Bay. League losses against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech weren't any better.
Murray State (27-5, 16-0 OVC): A team that didn't lose between late-November and early-March still had minimal hope of making the NCAA tournament. Murray State let that chance slip away when it lost to Belmont in a thrilling Ohio Valley Conference title game, costing itself the league's automatic bid. Even though there was a groundswell of support for Murray State to get in over a middling double-digit loss team from a power conference, the committee would have had to abandon its usual criteria to reward the Racers. Murray State only had one victory against an opponent in the RPI top 100 and that came against NIT-bound Illinois State. The Racers lost by 27 against Xavier and also suffered damaging November losses against Houston and Portland.
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