Tennessee was squarely on the bubble for most of the latter half of the season. On Sunday, they found out their 20-12 overall record and 11-7 mark in the Southeastern Conference wasn’t enough to get them in the Field of 68.
Their coach, Cuonzo Martin, clearly isn’t happy about it. Not necessarily because his team was left out, but because he believes scheduling was a big reason for it.
After mulling it over, he believes that shouldn’t be the case.
“But it shouldn’t be that way, because now you’re talking about are we a mid-major league,” Martin said. “You’re talking about a BCS league and you’re saying we have to approach it as if we’re a mid-major league. If that’s the case, then we need to schedule like mid-major league. Then, maybe we can get eight or nine teams in the tournament.”
Martin also said he believed that three years ago in his final season at Missouri State, that team’s record would’ve gotten them in, had the selection process been the way it is today. The Bears finished 26-9 with an RPI of 44 and didn’t receive an at-large bid to the tournament.
“I think so, because three years ago Missouri State would’ve been in the NCAA tournament if it was what it is today. That’s part of it, that’s why you have to do everything in your power not to allow anybody to make a decision on your future.”
He may have a point about having to schedule like a mid-major team, but the bottom line was that his team didn’t help to raise the level of talent in the SEC this season. Part of that was due to the season-long loss of Jeronne Maymon to injury (yes, he’s that important) and the rest was just inconsistent play. One or two wins in the SEC Tournament might’ve gotten them over the hump. The Volunteers lost to Alabama in the quarterfinals.
If anything, the committee really picked teams that didn’t have bad losses, more than ones that had good wins. Three of Tennessee’s losses were to NCAA Tournament teams in Georgetown, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss. The rest include Arkansas, Virginia and two losses to Alabama. Meaning they lost to a number of bubble teams that didn’t make it as well. They also dropped a game at Georgia.
Tennessee finished with an RPI of 59. No teams lower than them got an at-large bid.
So Martin’s argument has merit, but with so many losses to teams that were in the same situation as they were, looking back, they needed those wins more than anything.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten