On Sunday, Southern Miss became the highest rated RPI team with at least 27 wins not to make the NCAA Tournament in the history of college basketball.
While some may say that the loss to Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament was the Golden Eagles’ undoing, their snub had more to do with the other teams on the bubble. The last four teams in were Xavier, Dayton, BYU and Nebraska.
It appears as though that USM’s résumé was just as good or better than all of these schools. Take a look at the résumés of these four schools and compare them to USM.
Xavier (21-12, 10-8) are losers of eight of their last 14 games and were ousted in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. They lost to non-tournament teams like Seton Hall (twice), Georgetown and USC while having an RPI of 49.
Dayton (23-10, 10-6) lost in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament and lost to non-tournament teams like Rhode Island (14-18) and Richmond (19-14). They finished with an RPI of 43 and were sixth in their conference during the regular season.
BYU (23-11, 13-5) lost the West Coast Conference championship game to Gonzaga and lost to non-tournament teams like Portland, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Utah. They finished with an RPI of 33.
Nebraska (19-12, 11-7) lost in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament and lost to non-tournament teams like UAB, Purdue, Penn State and Illinois. They finished with an RPI of 46.
Southern Miss (27-6, 13-3) lost to non-tournament teams like UAB, Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. Of the bubble teams, USM had the highest RPI of 31. They were the highest ranked team in terms of RPI not to make the tournament for the second straight season.
Looking at all these résumés, one could make an argument that BYU had a better résumé, but it appears that USM had a better overall body of work than the other three bubble teams mentioned. Also, an argument could easily be made that USM had a better body of work than other teams that got in like Tennessee, Iowa and Arizona State.
C-USA appears to have been snubbed altogether with Tulsa being the only team that got in after winning the conference tournament. There were five teams in the conference with over 20 wins, four with 13-3 records and one (Tulsa) with a 12-4 conference record.
While the Atlantic 10 has proven over previous seasons that their teams can compete with the big boys, there is no way that they had six teams that were all better than Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee State. Conference USA teams also had more top 50 non-conference wins than the Atlantic 10 did.
Only time will tell if the selection committee got it right, but at first glance, there is no doubt that USM got snubbed. Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall was far from thrilled with the news that USM did not make the tournament.
“I can’t sell the fact that it’s OK, or it’s going to be better in the long run,” Tyndall said. He also said that his team’s main goal was to make the NCAA Tournament.
Instead of going to the big dance, USM will participate in the NIT Tournament, the little brother of the NCAA Tournament. Last season, USM was a no.1 seed in the NIT, but was upset by BYU in the quarterfinals.
This season, they are a no. 3 seed and will play Toledo (27-6) in the first round on Wednesday at home at 7:30 p.m. The NIT begins Tuesday and carries on until April 3 when the championship will be played in Madison Square Garden.