March 14, 2010
No matter how many hours the NCAA tournament selection committee spends holed up in a room trying to seed teams as fairly as possible, our Selection Sunday ritual is always the same.
Although fans of Florida, UTEP and Utah State let out long sighs of relief when the name of their schools flashed up on the TV screen Sunday evening, a handful of other NCAA tournament hopefuls were not so fortunate. Here's a look at this season's four highest profile omissions:
1. Illinois (19-14, 10-8, RPI: 73): Five marquee wins over the likes of Vanderbilt, Clemson, Michigan State and Wisconsin (twice) were apparently not enough to outweigh the Illini's bloated RPI and poor finish to the regular season. Illinois did finish a game ahead of conference rival Minnesota in the Big Ten standings, but it lost to the Gophers in the regular season and bowed out of the conference tournament a round earlier as well.
2. Virginia Tech (23-7, 10-6, RPI: 56): Despite defeating both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and finishing above both of them in the ACC standings, the Hokies did not make the field and the Yellowjackets and Demon Deacons did. The reason is Virginia Tech's pitiful non-league strength of schedule, which was among the worst in the nation. Then on top of that, the Hokies lost in the first round of the ACC tournament to a weak Miami team.
3. Mississippi State (23-10, 9-7, RPI: 55): The Bulldogs certainly looked the part of an NCAA tournament team in an overtime loss to Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, but their profile didn't stand up well to close inspection. Although defeating Florida and Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament helped Mississippi State's case, the Bulldogs still only had two top-50 RPI victories all season and also suffered bad losses to Auburn, Rider and Western Kentucky.
4.Seton Hall (19-12, 9-9, RPI: 61): Although Seton Hall didn't have a bad loss all season, the Pirates still had way too many of them. Victories over Pittsburgh, Louisville and Cornell helped their cause, but a neutral-court loss against fellow bubble team Virginia Tech without Hokies star Malcolm Delaney weighed down their profile like an anchor.