A number of at-large bubble teams saw their NCAA tournament hopes snuffed out when St. Bonaventure knocked off Xavier in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 tournament final.
And according to the NCAA, one of six teams now bound for the NIT could have been dancing had the Muskateers flipped the script on the Bonnies.
NCAA interim vice president Greg Shaheen said the selection committee was ready to vote on the final at-large bid with Drexel, Miami (Fla.), Oral Roberts, Seton Hall, Mississippi State and Nevada making up the pool of candidates for the final spot.
The vote never happened as the Bonnies completed their surprising run to the title and left six schools — and several others — on the outside looking in.
Here’s a look at the teams that just missed the cut...
Drexel (27-6) — CAA, 1st place — RPI: 64, SOS: 248
The Dragons won the regular season title outright and lost by three points to 2011 Final Four darling VCU. Before that loss, they had won 19 straight, rolling through the rest of the conference. But aside from a six-point home win over the Commodores in January, Drexel face only one other tournament team, Virginia, and suffered a 14-point defeat. That said, Iona is dancing with a very similar resume — plus a one-point win at Vermont — and didn’t even reach its tournament final.
Miami (19-12) — ACC, 6th place — RPI: 59, SOS: 34
The Canes put themselves on the bubble with an impressive win at Duke and by beating Florida State late in the regular season, but two losses to first-four selection N.C. State and a late loss at Maryland hurt their case. A win against Florida State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals likely would have secured them a bid, but they couldn’t pull it off. That said, if strength of schedule was as important as the committee says it was, Miami may have a gripe.
Oral Roberts (27-6) — Summit League, 1st place — RPI: 55, SOS: 149
The Golden Eagles were one of the nation’s top teams in points per possession (1.12), field-goal percentage (48.7 percent), free-throw percentage (74.6 percent) and three-point shooting (36 percent). ORU also won at then-No. 9 Xavier by a whopping 22 points and hit the road to play West Virginia and Gonzaga. Unfortunately, the Summit League wasn’t deemed strong enough to deserve two bids, and ORU’s lost to Western Illinois in the tournament semis cost them.
Seton Hall (20-12) — Big East, 9th place — RPI: 61, SOS: 57
A promising 15-2 start had the Pirates thinking Big Dance from the start of Big East play, but then they lost six straight — most by double-figure margins. That said, Seton Hall boasts four top-50 RPI wins including an 18-point dismantling of Georgetown. But in the end, a pair of losses to Rutgers and dismal DePaul did them in.
“Unfortunately, I think (the selection committee) looked at the last two games of the (regular) season ... when in fact, that really wasn’t who we were all year,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. “But at the same time, all the teams that got in were great teams.”
Mississippi State (21-11) — SEC, 6th place — RPI: 73, SOS: 87
Like the Seton Hall, the Bulldogs started strong (17-4) and faded down the stretch — although “faded” might be putting it kindly. Mississippi State lost seven of their final 11 games, including a five-game skid that saw them drop games to Auburn (15-16) and Georgia (15-17). A second loss to Georgia in the conference tournament should have ended their hopes once and for all.
Nevada (26-6) — WAC, 1st place — RPI: 69, SOS: 162
The Wolf Pack dominated the WAC, losing only once during regular season play while testing themselves against UNLV and BYU (both losses). But the league was not a good one this season, and the Pack blew their chances for an at-large bid when they lost to fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech in the WAC semis.
Some of these teams have a legitimate gripe or two. Some do not. But at the very least, we can expect a competitive NIT.
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