Southern Cal made it to the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona. They were the #2 seed in the conference, ahead of #4 seed UCLA, who is in against St. Bonaventure in the First Four for the East #11 seed. Even more bizarre is that Arizona State is in over USC, who was not only a 9 seed in the Pac-12 but also finished 66th in RPI rankings while USC was 34th. Or we can look at strength of schedule, where USC was 39th and Arizona St was 74th and UCLA was 48th. USC may have finished 0-3 against Top 25 teams, but they played much better teams in general than both ASU and UCLA. Southern Cal’s 34th RPI ranking is also the highest by a team who did not make the NCAA tournament. USC was easily the biggest snub this year.
OSU was probably the most obvious team that should have made the NCAA tournament. Especially considering Oklahoma, who they beat in first round of the Big Twelve tournament, made the NCAA tournament as a 10 seed? A team that finished their last 15 regular season with a 4-11 record and lost in the first round of their conference tournament, regardless of a 16-2 record at the start of the season, has no business being in the NCAA tournament. The fact that Oklahoma are in as a 10 seed is even more ridiculous given their 48th RPI ranking, 47th Kenpom ranking, and 43rd BPI ranking. Maybe the NCAA is simply holding onto their TV contract by including Trae Young in the tournament. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, had the same conference record as OU and a better overall record too. OSU also upset NCAA Tournament #1 seed Kansas twice in the regular season before falling to them in their third meeting at the Big 12 conference tournament.
So if I told you that an AP Top 25 team didn’t make the NCAA tournament, how would you react? Especially since that team has been in the AP Top 25 since Week 12. That’s 7 straight weeks! Saint Mary’s peaked at #11 during Week 14 and finished the regular season as the #20 team in the country. They had three in-conference losses all season and were tied for 6th for fewest losses in the country (with a record of 28-5). They had a weaker strength of schedule as a member of the WCC, but fellow conference member Gonzaga made the tournament as a 4 seed in the West region with only 1 fewer loss and the conference championship to their name. There’s no reason that Saint Mary’s isn’t in over teams like Syracuse, Arizona State, or St. Bonaventure.
Notre Dame was given a #1 seed in the NIT and the equivalent of the “Hustle Award” as the first team listed in the First 4 out of the NCAA tournament. But Notre Dame had a much more difficult schedule than many of the other teams at-large teams as a member of the ACC. Compared to fellow conference teams Syracuse and Florida State, all three finished roughly equal in conference records (FSU had one more win than Cuse or ND), but Notre Dame finished the season much stronger than either team. As first reported by The Score, Notre Dame was 14-5 with star forward Bonzie Collins and 6-9 without him.
MTSU might not have been a sure in like some of these other teams, but they weren’t even listed as a first four out. They had a consistently strong season, including an eleven game win streak right before their last regular season game, a loss to Marshall (who won the Conference USA tournament). They also entered the C-USA tournament as the 1 seed, but fell in their first game to 9 seed Southern Mississippi. While those two final losses hurt their resume, a bad stretch of 2 games is surely less damaging than the bad stretches of teams like Oklahoma and Arizona State.
The only teams that Louisville lost to in the 2018 season were teams that made the NCAA tournament this year. They had one of the hardest schedules in the NCAA (15th most difficult schedule) and played in the best conference in basketball (ACC). They lost to Virginia by 1 point on a buzzer beater three pointer and they beat Florida State in the ACC tournament. Their season was somewhat boring though, because although they were never upset by bad teams, they also only finished with a record of just 1-7 against AP Top 25 teams. To their credit, they were 38th in RPI. Not the most obvious snub but certainly better than some teams currently in the tournament.