March 14, 2011
This year is no different, though the Big 12 could have more of a complaint than any other conference. Even though the conference earned five bids, there was one glaring omission that has sparked an outcry of controversy.
Colorado thought it was a shoo-in after its win against Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament -- the Buffaloes' third win against the Wildcats, which, incidentally, were selected as a No. 5 seed. But NCAA selection committee chairman Gene Smith told ESPN that they didn't have a tough enough schedule to get in.
"They had a great year and obviously, they're a good basketball team," Smith said. "They had three great wins against Kansas State who are in the field, but when you look again from the beginning of their schedule to the end, look at their nonconference from the beginning that included their conference schedule, and compare them against everyone else, they just didn't get enough votes to get in."
But UAB and Clemson, who are in one of the four play-in games, did?
Yes, Colorado had some bad early losses to San Francisco and Harvard and slipped up against Iowa State late in the year, but the Buffs were still the No. 5 seed in the Big 12 tournament, the same conference from which the committee picked five teams. Colorado has six wins against teams from the RPI Top 50. How many do Clemson and UAB have? None. Zero. Zilch. And while Clemson earned favor by playing well in its conference tournament, UAB bowed out early and lost to every quality team on its schedule.
"The only thing I can see is that more weight was put on November and December games when we weren't maybe playing as well as we're playing right now then conference games were," Colorado coach Tad Boyle told a local Denver television station. "We finished with the fifth seed in the Big 12 Conference going into that tournament, we got to the final four of the Big 12 Tournament, but we had some tough losses early in the conference. So obviously, those weighed more than our great wins."
The other thing that should irk Big 12 fans is the seeding of Big 12 teams. No one will argue with Kansas getting a No. 1, its record and play throughout the year more than warranted it. But did Kansas State deserve a No. 5? Remember, this was a team that wasn't even sure it was a lock for the tournament until late last month. And while it played admirably to get into the tournament, it did lose to Colorado three times including in its last game. If anything, the Wildcats probably should have swapped with No. 7 Texas A&M, which finished higher than K-State in both the Big 12 standings and the coaches poll. A&M had two fewer losses and more importantly, fewer bad losses. Four of the Aggies' eight defeats came to ranked opponents.
Lastly, Missouri's No. 11 seeding is a little dubious as well. Don't get me wrong, the Tigers have lost four of their last five and have looked pretty awful doing it, but do they deserve a worse seed than No. 9 Illinois, a team they beat, or No. 10 Penn State, a team that was on the bubble coming into conference tournament weekend?
With three extra teams and just 37 at-large slots available, the committee had a tough job especially with so many good teams this year. Obviously, the Big 12 is not the only conference to have gripes, but of all the conferences, it probably raises the most eyebrows and not just for the teams that got in, but for the one that didn't.
"I just think it's this particular year," Smith said of the difficulty in picking the field. "I think coaches across the country have done a great job and then you have teams that are senior dominated with a lot of role players that have developed over the years and they're very good teams. So, we had a lot more teams, in my view, that really had a decent case to be an at-large team. We just didn't have enough slots."