The one thing that the NCAA tournament selection committee made clear to us on Sunday: With the exception of Wichita State, they did not value the profiles of the mid-major programs.
Monmouth, Saint Mary’s and Valparaiso did not get in. San Diego State — from the typically high-major Mountain West Conference — and St. Bonaventure — from the Atlantic 10 — did not get in, either.
Instead, Michigan will play Tulsa and Vanderbilt will play Wichita State in the play-in games on the No. 11 seed line. Perhaps more confounding than that, Syracuse, who no one thought would be in the tournament, ended up as a No. 10 seed.
I understand why the Selection Committee did not put Monmouth in the tournament. We’re talking about a team that lost three games to sub-200 opponents and whose elite road wins — at UCLA and at Georgetown — ended up being decidedly more mediocre on paper than we thought they would be when they happened.
I get that.
But this is also a mid-major team that can only get so many games against elite competition. It’s not their fault that UCLA and Georgetown were terrible this season. They challenged themselves, they won those games — oh, and they beat a good USC and a good Notre Dame team on a neutral court — and they’re out because when they lost road games in league play, they lose to MAAC opponents instead of ACC opponents?
I just can’t wrap my head around that.
Saint Mary’s didn’t beat anyone other than Gonzaga and didn’t leave California until Feb. 4th. Whatever. Valparaiso is good enough to be a Sweet 16, but they didn’t win the games they needed to win. I wish they were in, but I get it. That’s not the hill I’m going to die on. San Diego State? They beat Cal … and basically no one else, while losing to San Diego (gross). Again, whatever.
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But Monmouth challenged themselves, came through on those challenges and got left out for a Syracuse team that has the lowest RPI in the history of at-large bids? That lost 13 games, including at St. John’s? That lost five of their last six games? The Orange got in because Jim Boeheim somehow convinced the committee that Mike Hopkins can’t coach and that’s why Syracuse went 4-5 in his absence?
And what about Tulsa?
They beat UConn. They beast Cincinnati. They beat Tulsa. They won at SMU. And then they lost to three teams ranked outside the top 125. Why is that so much better than what Monmouth did?
I’ll never know.