The bracket for the 2018 men’s NCAA tournament is here, and you know what that means: It’s time to spend the next 24 hours griping about who got screwed by the selection committee. I mean, come on, if you don’t already do this, I don’t really want to be friends with you. This year, there were more candidates than ever, simply because there were more viable options for the tournament. Baylor, Louisville, USC, Oklahoma State, Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee, Nebraska, Marquette, Notre Dame and probably a few others were still in the discussion for an at-large bid right up until their names didn’t show up while the teams were painstakingly revealed one-by-one in alphabetical order.
Usually, by Selection Sunday, we’re talking about maybe five teams for two spots in the field. At a certain point, we reach a consensus on the teams that shouldn’t get in and just focus on a few. But with the new Quadrants on the team sheets, no one really knew what the committee was going to do. Let’s get started with what I believe was the biggest screw job of the decade.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Allow me to begin by stating that I fully acknowledge the foolishness of saying the biggest screw job in this year’s bracket was the ninth-best team in a 10-team league getting left out of the field. That said, how in the world does Oklahoma State not get an invitation to the tournament?
The Cowboys swept Kansas during the regular season. That’s a home win AND a road win over a No. 1 seed. They won a home game against a No. 3 seed (Texas Tech), a road game against a No. 5 seed (West Virginia), a neutral-court game against a No. 9 seed (Florida State) and a total of three games against No. 10 seeds (Texas and Oklahoma twice). These examples right here should have been enough to get the Cowboys into the tourney. I hate the committee. Moreover, Oklahoma State’s only losses to teams that didn’t make the tournament were two games against Baylor, which was in the selection committee’s first four out. In summary, eight wins over top-40 teams, including two wins over a top-four team and no awful loss should have pushed them over the edge.
Meanwhile, Syracuse and Arizona State combined for just seven wins over teams who earned a No. 10 seed or better and ended up with 12 losses (three for Syracuse & nine for Arizona State) to teams who didn’t even appear in the first four out. Arizona State and Syracuse got in. Oklahoma State didn’t even make it into the first four out. It makes absolutely no sense. NO SENSE and it butters my eggroll that this happened.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
MTSU scheduled about as aggressively as any team in the country, and I mean that. It won road games against Murray State, Vanderbilt, and Florida Gulf Coast. It also won a home game against “Dunk City,” as well as a home game against Ole Miss. MTSU also played in the Diamond Head Classic and almost scored neutral-court wins over both USC and Miami. As well as almost winning a “neutral-court” game against Auburn in Alabama.
Aside from a season-opener against non-D-I Trevecca Nazarene, the Blue Raiders did not play a single non conference game against a team outside the KenPom top 200, and six of those 11 games were against teams in the top 90. They did exactly what the selection committee has always implicitly told mid-major teams to do: put together a tough non conference schedule, play well against it and don’t drop too many bad games in conference play. Despite a bad loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals, there’s no question the Blue Raiders checked off all those boxes, and they weren’t even on the list of the first four teams out of the field as a result.
This system is built to keep good mid-majors out of the field if they don’t win their conference tournament. And it isn’t fair. Pardon my French here, but the committee really fucking blew it with this one. I need answers because telling mid-majors what they want them to do in order to get in and those teams checking the boxes, and then they stab them in the damn back is beyond me. The tourney doesn’t need to fucking revolve around all power 5 teams. If a mid-major earned their way by meeting all the requirements and has one bad game, that doesn’t mean you can fuck them over. Get it right, ass-hats, and do your job the right way.
I’m saving this one until the end because, like Nebraska, I don’t actually think it was a bad decision by the selection committee. I did have USC in the field, but they were one of my last teams. The Trojans went 12-6 in Pac-12 play and picked up two more wins in the Pac-12 tournament, but they ended up going 0-5 against the teams from that league who made the tournament—Arizona (twice), UCLA (twice) and Arizona State.
Most damning of all, they lost a home game to Princeton, which didn’t even qualify for the Ivy League tournament. If USC had great wins, the committee would have gladly overlooked that misstep. Nevertheless, almost all of the bracketologists on the Bracket Matrix had USC in their projected field. More than a dozen had the Trojans as a single-digit seed. The world’s most famous committee forecaster, Joe Lunardi, had them as a No. 10 seed, safely in ahead of the bubble. But it wasn’t meant to be. If Joe has them in, you put them in, goddamnit!
The reason so many of us had them in is was because of their RPI. At No. 34 in those rankings, they became the highest major-conference team to get left out of the field since it expanded to 64 teams. I’m just pissing myself off writing this now! But if the committee does care one bit about RPI, let’s bring this thing full circle and ask why in the world Oklahoma State was left out when the only bad thing about its resume was its RPI-based rankings? Because the committee is a fucking joke and everything in the world is a damn lie now.