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Here are this year's 6 biggest NCAA men's tournament snubs

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Late Saturday night, less than 18 hours before the unveiling of this year’s bracket, a veteran member of the NCAA men’s tournament selection committee revealed how tough it has been to choose among this year’s bubble teams.

“This year is harder than all my previous years combined,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard wrote on X. “Just gut-wrenching knowing some very good teams will unfortunately not be dancing.”

This was the rare year in college basketball when there were more deserving NCAA tournament bubble teams than spots in the field of 68. Bubble teams from across the country made valiant last-gasp charges at the same time as a handful of bid-stealers came from nowhere to win their conference tournaments and shrink the number of available at-large spots.

In the end, the committee gave lifelines to bubble teams Virginia and Colorado and showed no love to the Big East. Seton Hall, St. John’s and Providence were each among the teams left out of the field, leaving the vaunted Big East with just three NCAA tournament bids.

That was the biggest bubble headline, but the Big East trio weren’t the only ones who endured the anguish of not hearing their name called. Here are this year’s six biggest NCAA tournament snubs:

1. OKLAHOMA (20-12, 8-10, KenPom: 44, NET: 46, SOR: 32)

  • Q1: 4-12, Q2: 5-0, Q3: 3-0, Q4: 8-0

  • Marquee wins: Iowa State, BYU, Providence

  • Bad losses: at UCF

Even after his team lost for the sixth time in eight games last Wednesday, Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said he was confident the Sooners had done enough. He pointed out that Oklahoma had zero losses outside Quadrant 1, that the Sooners were 18-6 before a wave of late-season injuries and they would be at full strength by the start of the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately for Moser, the committee did not see it the same way. Only two of Oklahoma’s 20 wins came against NCAA tournament teams. While the Sooners had four Quadrant 1 victories, they needed 16 Quadrant 1 games to get those. In a year with a lot of strong bubble teams, too many missed chances likely doomed Oklahoma.

2. SETON HALL (20-12, 13-7 KenPom: 63, NET: 67, SOR: 41)

  • Q1: 5-8, Q2: 4-3, Q3: 2-1, Q4: 9-0

  • Marquee wins: UConn, Marquette, St. John’s (2), at Providence

  • Worst losses: USC, Rutgers

It feels like a long time ago now when an indignant Shaheen Holloway fielded a question about Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament resume after a Big East quarterfinal loss to St. John’s. “We had 13 wins in the best conference in the country,” Holloway said. “What are we talking about right now?” When other bubble teams strung together wins and bid thieves shrunk the bubble, Seton Hall slipped from safety to the cut line. The Pirates had marquee wins over UConn and Marquette and won two out of three against St. John’s, but their hopes were damaged by predictive metrics hovering in the 60s.

3. INDIANA STATE (28-6, 17-3, KenPom: 45, NET: 29, SOR: 42)

  • Q1: 1-4, Q2: 4-1, Q3: 10-0, Q4: 12-1

  • Marquee wins: Drake, Bradley (2)

  • Bad losses: Illinois State, at Southern Illinois

Indiana State boasted a bubble-best 28 wins, an outstanding 15-5 record away from home and a respectable .500 record against the top two quadrants. The Sycamores’ rankings in the NCAA’s team-sheet metrics were solid across the board. It’s a strong resume except for one glaring flaw that proved to be Indiana State’s undoing: The Sycamores scarcely beat any NCAA tournament-caliber teams. They lost two of the three games they played against Missouri Valley Conference runner-up Drake. In their only two games this season against power-conference opponents, they lost by 22 at Alabama and by 12 at Michigan State.

Mar 10, 2024; St. Louis, MO, USA;  Indiana State Sycamores guard Julian Larry (1) and guard Ryan Conwell (3) walk off the court after losing to the Drake Bulldogs in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana State was left out of the NCAA tournament field despite a 28-6 record (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) (USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect / Reuters)

4. PITTSBURGH (22-11, 12-8, KenPom: 41, NET: 40, SOR: 45)

  • Q1: 4-6, Q2: 5-3, Q3: 6-2, Q4: 7-0

  • Marquee wins: at Duke, at Virginia, NC State (2)

  • Bad losses: Mizzou, at Miami, Syracuse (2)

At least once every few years, the committee seems to make an example of a bubble team that didn’t challenge itself in non-league play. That happened again Sunday when the committee slammed the door on a Pittsburgh team that played the NET’s 343rd-ranked non-conference strength of schedule. When asked about his scheduling last Friday, Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said his intent wasn’t to duck strong competition. “We didn't know West Virginia would turn out like they were,” Capel said. “We didn't know that Missouri wouldn't win a [SEC] game.” The committee, it seems, was unmoved. So a Pittsburgh team that won 12 of its last 16 games must settle for an NIT invitation.

5. ST. JOHN’S (20-13, 11-9, KenPom: 26, NET: 32, SOR: 46)

  • Q1: 4-10, Q2: 6-2, Q3: 3-1, Q4: 7-0

  • Marquee wins: Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence

  • Bad losses: Michigan, Boston College

If only Rick Pitino didn’t wait until mid-February to call out several players by name and label his team slow and unathletic. That harsh but motivating news conference apparently came a few games too late for the Johnnies to salvage an NCAA bid. St. John’s did not hear its name called on Sunday despite reeling off five straight wins before a thrilling 95-90 Big East semifinal loss to UConn on Friday night. While St. John’s boasted strong rankings in many NCAA-approved advanced metrics, Creighton was the only top-40 NET team that the Johnnies beat this season.

6. PROVIDENCE (21-13, 10-10, KenPom: 53, NET: 57, SOR: 44)

  • Q1: 6-9, Q2: 3-4, Q3: 1-0, Q4: 11-0

  • Marquee wins: Creighton (2), Marquette, Wisconsin, at Seton Hall, St. John’s

  • Bad losses: Xavier

Providence was on its way to the NCAA tournament until standout forward Bryce Hopkins tore an ACL in early January. Without Hopkins, the Friars quickly fell from 2-0 to 2-4 in Big East play as they tried to adjust to no longer having one of their two best players. Providence went on to defeat Creighton twice to go along with previous quality wins over Wisconsin and Marquette, but more than half the Friars’ victories this season came in Quadrant 4. Since Hopkins’ injury, they’ve been the nation’s 70th best team, according to barttorvik.com — not bad but not quite good enough.