USM, La. Tech deserved NCAA Tournament bids

Clearly, Southern Miss deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament.

So did Louisiana Tech.

Clearly, also, Conference USA has about as much pull with the NCAA Selection committee as I have with the people who pick Nobel Prizes. Zero. None. Nada. Null set. Such is life in the NCAA where the rich get filthy rich and the poor finish 35-0 and get Kentucky in the second round.

USM will take a 29-6 record to Minnesota to play Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the NIT, an absurdity. At the very least, USM should be hosting Minnesota, just as the Eagles should have hosted Missouri Sunday instead of having to become the first non-conference team to win on Mizzou’s home court in nine years. USM did just that, helping to prove my point.

The victory over Missouri was USM’s 10th true road victory of the season. That doesn’t count winning on UTEP’s home floor in the Conference USA Tournament. I do not know how many teams in the country have that many road victories, but it is not many. I guarantee you that.

For the second straight season, USM had the highest RPI of any team left out of the NCAA Tournament. That RPI moved to No. 28 in the nation after Sunday’s victory. All 27 ahead of the Golden Eagles are in the NCAA Tournament. The next 14 below them are also in the NCAA Tournament.

If you ask the NCAA selection committee why this is, they will tell you it is because USM did not play a strong enough schedule.

The fallacy of that: USM played as strong a non-conference schedule as it could.

Here’s a fact: You cannot play teams that will not play you.

USM coaches tried to schedule anyone and everyone. Nobody from a power league will come to Hattiesburg, so USM offered to play the power league teams on the road. You can count the number of teams that accepted the challenge on one finger.

So USM played at North Dakota State, at Morehead State at DePaul and at Rhode Island. Those aren’t power conference schools but they are tradition-rich basketball schools who can usually play. The Golden Eagles won all those places, difficult places.

Fellow CUSA member Louisiana Tech, which eliminated USM in the semifinals of the league tournament, has also won 29 games and was relegated to the NIT. Coached by former Ole Miss standout Michael White, the Bulldogs also had to win their second round game on the road against an SEC team, Georgia. Just as USM, Tech is deep, talented and well-coached. And, as with USM, few power conference schools want any part of Tech. Oklahoma, a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, played Tech at home and lost. (Oklahoma played North Dakota State in the NCAA first round and lost.)

Also:

UTEP, which finished fifth in CUSA, handily defeated Tennessee on a neutral court this season. Tennessee is in the Sweet 16.

Charlotte, which finished ninth in CUSA, defeated Michigan and Kansas State in regular season games. Michigan is in the Sweet 16. Kansas State was beaten by Kentucky in the first round.

Conference USA got one bid; the Atlantic 10 got six. Conference USA teams had more top-50 non-league victories than the A-10, 8 to 7. Yes, and CUSA and the A-10 finished 8-8 in head-to-head competition.

Much of the blame lies with the selection process. But part of the blame lies with CUSA, which has to do a better job marketing itself and its record.

Says Tim Floyd, the coach at UTEP, who has coached in the power conferences, “Nobody knows how good this league is. I don’t know how many teams should have gotten in out of our league, but certainly more than one.”

That grows more obvious every day.

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8 thoughts on “USM, La. Tech deserved NCAA Tournament bids”

  1. Don’t forget UAB beat North Carolina that went to the second round of the dance and also beat Nebraska that got a bid.

  2. Rick,

    While I don’t disagree with your thesis, a couple points to make:

    -The A-10 has 13 teams. C-USA has 16. C-USA SHOULD have more top 10 wins.

    -I believe that all of the A-10’s victories over Top 50 teams came from their tourney teams.

    -Of C-USA’s seven Top 50 wins, exactly two came from the four co-champs. C-USA’s problem was that the teams with impressive OOC wins were horrible in-conference. The co-champs were all either bad OOC (Tulsa) or didn’t score any big wins (USM and MTSU). LA Tech was really the lone exception in there but the bottom of their OOC schedule drug them WAY down.

    -I have no interest in attacking the A-10. i don’t think anyone is helping C-USA’s cause by going after another mid-major. The A-10 deserved everything they got. They only had one bubble team, and that team (Dayton) is in the Sweet 16. The A-10 absolutely deserved six bids. If you want to criticize a conference for receiving too many bids, criticize the ACC for getting six.

    1. What part of the “you cannot play teams that will not play you” did you miss. NONE of the big boys wanted any part of USM. It is hard to beat teams you have no opportunity to play. This is a favorite tactic of the big SEC crowd to put down CUSA. Maybe to remedy the problem, Ole Miss or Mississippi State would volunteer to play USM. Oops, forgot, they are not top 50 or top 100. Got anything better to add?

    1. Leave it to Rick to beautifully articulate all the things I’ve been stewing about since selection Sunday. I now feel like I can lay this clear injustice by the NCAA aside and go forward. The one issue I would take exception to is the argument that this travesty can be blamed on bad conference marketing. Presumably the members of the selection committee are basketball people. They can read scores, review stats, talk to coaches and easily watch tape. A million slick brochures and commercials don’t change the basketball facts. I believe we were left out because we didn’t fit the template of a big TV draw, are not a member of a pedigreed elite conference, and the big boys not wanting anyone to infringe on their monopoly over the money and power. At its essence this is brazen unfairness and yes (may as well not sugarcoat it) CORRUPTION!!!!!!

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