Did the NCAA Tournament selection committee watch the SEC Tournament? There’s no way it paid proper attention. Otherwise, its messaging to Texas A&M — as well as ACC Tournament Champion Virginia Tech, should the Hokies have not upset No. 2 Tournament seed Duke on Saturday night — is their resumes were only good enough to make “The Big Dance” by winning conference tournaments.
Let’s disregard No. 5 overall Tournament seed Auburn losing in the SEC quarterfinals and No. 4 Tournament seed Arkansas getting blown out by now 23-12 Texas A&M in the semifinals. Saying the Aggies weren’t good enough, while letting Indiana in the field, which had a losing record in Big Ten Conference play, as well as 17-14 Michigan, shows tremendous league bias. Either Indiana’s play was good enough to lift them into the Tournament alongside Texas A&M through advancing in conference tournaments, or neither had the necessary goods to make it. This screams of being cherry-picked.
The Big Ten was the deepest league in America this season. Was it three NCAA Tournament teams deeper than the SEC? Nope. Yet, Texas A&M settled for being a No. 1 seed in the NIT, while Indiana will play Wyoming in the First Four, with a strong St. Mary’s team waiting in the Round of 64. The Aggies didn’t look good on Sunday, allowing the SEC Tournament Championship’s first 14 points to No. 3 Tournament seed Tennessee and rarely being within striking distance of taking down the Vols.
But before Sunday’s defeat, Texas A&M had won seven straight games, peaking at the right time, with its last five wins coming over teams appearing in the NCAA or NIT tournaments. The Aggies did have an eight-game losing streak in SEC play before a hot finish, which appears to be why they’re trying to make a Final Four in New York City, as opposed to New Orleans. And yes, this is a completely avoidable conversation if Texas A&M loses in the second round of the SEC tournament to Florida, as it almost did on Thursday, needing overtime to take down the fellow NIT Gators, who now don’t have a head coach.
Throwing gasoline on the dumpster fire of a decision to leave Texas A&M out was the reveal of being the No. 4 replacement, meaning the Aggies weren’t anywhere near the Tournament field entering the weekend. The fellow No. 1 NIT seeds placed ahead of the Aggies were Dayton, Oklahoma and SMU.
Dayton is a strong mid-level-conference team which was inadvertently bounced from the Tournament by bid-stealer Richmond, a fellow Atlantic 10 team that defeated the Flyers in the league tournament semifinals.
How is 18-15 Oklahoma placed ahead of Texas A&M in the pecking order? Although the Sooners did take down Baylor to start their Big 12 Tournament journey. They didn’t reach the championship game like future conference rival A&M did.
One spot ahead of the Aggies was SMU, another strong mid-level-conference squad that didn’t have the high peaks or low valleys as Texas A&M.
That four-team replacement strategy isn’t going to need to take effect. The coronavirus-related pauses in college basketball haven’t rattled a team since the height of the Omicron variant’s wave.
Deserving teams Nos. 69-75 from the non-tournament field likely all have legitimate claims as to why they should’ve been in. It’s the risky part of March Madness. No team within reach on either side of the bubble did enough to guarantee heart rates didn’t fluctuate on Selection Sunday. Some turned to anger, some became relieved. It’s the same argument we hear every season from team Nos. 5 and 6 for the College Football Playoff and will continue to tune out once the field expands in the future.
Texas A&M shouldn’t have applied to that argument and reside on the wrong side of the cut line. Aggies’ head coach Buzz Williams will use this situation to his advantage in the long run. He’s taken each previous stop with multiple years at the helm to at least one Sweet 16, including Marquette’s 2013 run to the Elite Eight. He’ll get it figured out with tremendous athletic support in College Station. It’s a shame it’ll have to wait until at least 2023.