The NCAA men's tournament selection committee faced a tougher challenge than usual this March when trying to differentiate among the final at-large contenders.
There were bubble teams of every flavor up for consideration this year.
Some surged into at-large contention during March; others arrived at Selection Sunday leaking oil and missing cylinders.
Some were barely over .500 but with a bushel of impressive wins; others had sparkling records but little to show for it.
Some were marquee programs that have advanced to many Final Fours; others have gone decades since their most recent NCAA tournament win.
In the end, the selection committee gave lifelines to a trio of Big Ten bubble teams. Michigan landed a No. 11 seed in the main draw, while Indiana and Rutgers settled for spots in the First Four, where they will be joined by Wyoming and Notre Dame.
SEC tournament finalist Texas A&M was the most surprising exclusion, but the Aggies weren’t the only ones who endured the anguish of not seeing their school’s name pop up. Here's a look at Sunday's biggest snubs starting with Texas A&M:
1. Texas A&M (23-12, 9-9, NET: 42, KenPom: 42)
Q1 record: 4-10
Q2 record: 5-0
Q3, Q4 losses: 2 (South Carolina, Mizzou)
Marquee wins: Auburn, at Alabama, Arkansas (2), Notre Dame
Left for dead after a midseason eight-game losing streak, Texas A&M rallied to win eight of its final 10 games. The Aggies dispatched Florida, Auburn and Arkansas during a memorable SEC tournament run before running out of gas against Tennessee in Sunday’s title game. The committee, apparently true to its word, considered Texas A&M’s full body of work, not just how strongly the Aggies ended the season. A brilliant finishing kick did not overshadow a cupcake-laden non-league slate and a 5-9 start in SEC play.
2. Dayton (23-9, 14-4, NET: 54, KenPom: 57)
Q1 record: 3-2
Q2 record: 5-3
Q3, Q4 losses: 4 (at LaSalle, Lipscomb, UMass Lowell, Austin Peay)
Marquee wins: Kansas, Virginia Tech, Miami, Davidson at VCU
Had Richmond not upset Davidson in Sunday's Atlantic 10 title game, the committee says that Dayton would have been the last team in the field. The Flyers were ahead of Texas A&M among the committee's first four out. Dayton beat Kansas, Virginia Tech and Miami in non-league play and finished a game behind first-place Davidson in the Atlantic 10. That would have easily been enough to send the Flyers to the NCAA tournament had they not also suffered more hideous losses than any other bubble hopeful. Dayton had three Quadrant 4 losses during non-league play, all to teams ranked 200th or worse in the NET. Losses to Lipscomb, UMass Lowell and Austin Peay ultimately proved too damaging for the Flyers to overcome.
3. Oklahoma (18-15, 7-11, NET: 40, KenPom: 30)
Q1 record: 4-12
Q2 record: 6-2
Q3, Q4 losses: 1 (Butler)
Marquee wins: Baylor, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Iowa State
Oklahoma head coach Porter Moser argued that his team had done enough to earn a bid after the Sooners upset co-league champ Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals. “Look at our strength of schedule, look at our NET, look at every rating,” he said. “How many teams have three or four wins on the top four [seed] lines?” Alas, the committee did not see it the same way. While Oklahoma had four Quadrant 1 victories, it needed 16 Quadrant 1 games to get those. In a year with a lot of strong bubble teams, too many losses and too many missed chances doomed the Sooners.
4. Xavier (18-13, 8-11, NET: 41, KenPom: 60)
Q1 record: 5-8
Q2 record: 4-3
Q3, Q4 losses: 2 (DePaul, Butler)
Marquee wins: UConn, Ohio State, Creighton (2), Virginia Tech, Marquette
Xavier appeared to be NCAA tournament-bound after toppling UConn, Ohio State and Virginia Tech in non-league play and jumping out to a 6-4 start in the Big East. Then the Musketeers sputtered and never got their engine humming again. Eight losses in its final 10 games, including an early Big East tournament exit against Butler, left Xavier vulnerable entering Selection Sunday. Xavier hasn’t looked NCAA tournament caliber since January. The committee decided on Sunday that Xavier’s résumé no longer was either.
5. SMU (23-8, 13-4, NET: 44, KenPom: 54)
Q1 record: 2-2
Q2 record: 4-4
Q3, Q4 losses: 2 (Mizzou, LMU)
Marquee wins: Houston, Memphis (2), Dayton, Vanderbilt
SMU is one of the primary victims of teams like Richmond, Memphis, Virginia Tech and Indiana performing so well down the stretch and in their respective conference tournaments. The Mustangs didn’t do anything wrong losing at Houston on Feb. 27 and to Memphis in the AAC semifinals. They just got leapfrogged by other teams who did more during that time period. SMU finished 3-2 overall against Houston and Memphis, but six of the Mustangs’ eight losses came outside Quadrant 1.
6. Wake Forest (23-9, 13-7, NET: 48, KenPom: 37)
Q1 record: 1-4
Q2 record: 4-3
Q3, Q4 losses: 2 (at Louisville, Boston College)
Marquee wins: at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Notre Dame, at Virginia
A 23-win ACC team that goes 13-7 in conference play is typically an NCAA tournament lock, but this was a historically poor year for that league. As a result, Wake Forest left itself vulnerable when it crashed out of the ACC tournament this past Wednesday in its opening game against Boston College. Wake Forest finished with fewer Quadrant 1 wins (1) than Quadrant 3 losses (2). The Demon Deacons’ 343rd-rated non-conference schedule also gave the committee an easy excuse to exclude them.