Thursday, May 24, 2018

NCAA tournament bracketology: Saint Mary's can kiss its at-large bid goodbye after early WCC exit

Shelby Mast and Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Published 8:56 a.m. ET Feb. 8, 2018 | Updated 10:02 a.m. ET March 6, 2018

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The life of a mid-major is really quite awful.

Saint Mary’s bowed out of the West Coast Conference tournament a game too early on Monday night in losing to a respectable BYU team.

And it probably cost the Gaels an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

That’s because Saint Mary’s, despite posting a 28-5 record and finishing 16-2 in WCC regular-season play, has an unbelievably weak résumé. Of those 28 wins, there’s only one eye-raising win (over Gonzaga) and then 24 of those came against lesser teams. The Gaels only faced three teams from power five conferences in their non-conference slate — and lost two to Georgia and Washington State, while beating California. The West Coast Conference didn’t do any favors as the country’s No. 13 RPI conference. Whether it’s outrageously tough to schedule in the non-conference for this team or not, the NCAA selection committee cannot ignore the glaring emptiness of this profile compared to other bubble teams.

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Let’s compare this year’s credentials to an equally-as-good Saint Mary’s team from two years ago that got left out by the committee. This year’s résumé (28-5, 43 RPI, 164 SOS, 187, non-conference SOS, two wins vs. RPI top-50, 24-2 vs. sub-100 RPI teams) vs. 2016’s résumé (26-5, 38 RPI, 149 SoS, 167 non-conference SoS, two wins vs. RPI top-50, 20-2 vs. sub-RPI teams). Of course, the bubble’s strength fluctuates year-by-year, but if it’s better this year as suspected and the committee is consistent, then coach Randy Bennett should gear his team up for the NIT next week.

It’s unfortunate because Saint Mary’s, a preseason top-20 team, has ample weaponry (behind second-team All-American Jock Landale) to stage a significant run in the NCAAs. But, it’s all about getting to the Dance. And it’s pretty unlikely the Gaels go at this point.

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► No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

► Last four in: Marquette, USC, Butler, Providence

► First Four out: Baylor, Syracuse, Utah, Oklahoma State

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Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Louisville, Washington, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Boise State, Nebraska

On life support: Temple, Penn State.

Multi-bid conferences: ACC (8), SEC (8), Big 12 (7), Big East (7), Big Ten (4), Pac 12 (4), AAC (3), Atlantic 10 (2), WCC (2).

Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): America East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Lipscomb), Big Sky (Montana), Big South (Radford), Big West (UC Davis), CAA (Charleston), Conference USA (Middle Tennessee State), Horizon League (Wright State), Ivy League (Penn), MAAC (Iona), MAC (Buffalo), MEAC (Hampton), Missouri Valley (Loyola-Chicago), Mountain West (Nevada), Northeast (Wagner), Ohio Valley (Murray State), Patriot (Bucknell), Southern (UNC-Greensboro), Southland (Southeast Louisiana), SWAC (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Summit (South Dakota State), Sun Belt (Louisiana), WAC (New Mexico State).

  • Banned from participating: Alabama A&M, Grambling, Southeast Missouri State.

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Note:  All RPI and statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com.

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his fifth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past four March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.

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