As holistic as the NCAA Tournament selection process is supposed to be, the committee members are as susceptible as anyone to conventional wisdom. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse learned this the hard way: If you’re a bubble team, it helps not to have a soundbite-length knock like “2-11 away from home” on your resumé, and repeated ad nauseam for four days after a one-and-done ACC tournament appearance.
“Two and eleven on the road and that became a theme,” said NCAA Tournament Selection Chair Mark Hollis. “Both how did you (do) against teams that are in the tournament and how did you do on the road and Syracuse had struggles in both of those. Their non-conference schedule wasn’t that difficult of a schedule and they still struggled.”
Some really bad losses among them, too, including to St. John’s, Georgetown, UConn, and Boston College, none of whom will be playing any more basketball this year.
Another huge, easily digestible number that doomed Syracuse: an RPI of 84 in the country, which would have been the worst for an at-large team in 20 years.
Now, obviously, you won’t get Jim Boeheim to sign on to this way of thinking. Just after the bracket was revealed, the Syracuse coach made some faces:
Boeheim complained that the “only thing they talked about was our bad losses,” and not Cuse’s 10-8 record in a tough conference schedule, or its big wins over Duke, UVa, and Florida State. And sure, resumés compared, Syracuse is probably a better team than USC and maybe even Providence, two of the last teams in. But Cuse might not even be the biggest snub: Illinois State, which had six losses all year and hasn’t lost to a non-Wichita State team since before Christmas, would be in if the committee didn’t seem to have it in for mid-majors.
But them’s the breaks. And now Boeheim must prepare his team for an NIT No. 1 seed and a hilarious first-round matchup against UNC-Greensboro, just days after bashing the city as a conference tournament host. “There’s no value to playing in Greensboro,” Boeheim said on Wednesday. “None.”
The chair of the NIT selection committee claimed the pairing was an accident, to which we’ll just wink and nod and thank them for this “accidental” irony.