Every March, Selection Sunday is renamed Rejection Sunday for a select few unlucky teams. They come together to watch the NCAA tournament men’s tournament bracket reveal, only to be heartbroken when Greg Gumbel fails to announce their name.
This year, there were a variety of bubble teams waiting to find out their fate. Several quickly advanced into the NCAA tournament in March. Others stumbled into Selection Sunday with missing parts and oil leaks. Some had a tenuous.500 record but had a demanding schedule. Some had dazzling records but few notable victories to display them.
Three average power-conference teams and a Mountain West club that had lost its last three games entering Selection Sunday received the final at-large spots for this year’s NCAA tournament. This week’s First Four will include Pittsburgh, Mississippi State, Arizona State, and Nevada in Dayton.
The most unexpected team to be left out of the NCAA tournament field was Rutgers, but they weren’t the only ones to leave their team watch party feeling defeated. Here are the top five omissions from Sunday:
Rutgers (19-14, 10-10, NET: 40, KenPom: 35)
The Scarlet Knights were predicted to go to the NCAA tournament in almost every mock bracket, but their unique profile always left them open to attack. Over the course of the Big Ten season, this team proved that it could defeat anyone and lose to anyone. But, it did not challenge itself in non-league play. On the one hand, Rutgers defeated Purdue in January and competed hard against the Boilermakers once more in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Moreover, the Scarlet Knights defeated Indiana and Maryland while sweeping Penn State. Nonetheless, among bubble teams, Rutgers had the poorest Quadrant 3 record (2-4). One of only three Big Ten teams to lose to last-place Minnesota was the Scarlet Knights. Moreover, they lost to Nebraska, Temple, and Seton Hall.
Vanderbilt (20-14, 11-7, NET: 81, KenPom: 80)
Since February 1, according to Bart Torvik’s T-Rankings, Vanderbilt has been the 30th-best team in the country. The Commodores triumphed in 10 of their NCAA tournament v12 games, beating Kentucky twice, Mississippi State once, Auburn once, and Tennessee once. Vanderbilt would be a lock if the selection committee selected the 68 teams performing the best on Selection Sunday. The committee examines the entire body of work, so the Commodores’ early home defeats to Grambling and Southern Miss as well as their appallingly low rankings of No. 81 in the NET and No. 80 in KenPom hurt them. In the end, Vanderbilt was Texas A&M in 2022. The Commodores found their groove too late, much like those Aggies did.
Oklahoma State 3. (18-15, 8-10, NET: 43, KenPom: 38)
Mike Boynton, the head coach of Oklahoma State, NCAA tournament an open letter to the committee on social media on Friday, and it had the appearance of being desperate. Boynton remarked that Oklahoma State “absolutely deserves admission” in the NCAA tournament and referenced the Cowboys’ eight victories in a “historically good” Big 12. However, Boynton conveniently missed the eight games that Oklahoma State won. The Cowboys had a miserable 0-9 record versus the top four clubs in the league. Their six Quadrant 1 victory came after 18 Quadrant 1 games. Even though Oklahoma State came from a league that was by far the best in the country this season, too NCAA tournament squandered opportunities ultimately proved fatal.
Clemson, 4. (23-10, 14-6, NET: 57, KenPom: 64)
There were several positive aspects to Clemson’s NCAA tournament . The Tigers were one of the few bubble teams with a winning record in games in Quadrants 1 and 2. They defeated NC State and another bubble team, Penn State, as well as Duke, Pittsburgh, and other teams. They had a 14-6 record in a weak ACC. Where, then, did everything go wrong for Clemson? The selection committee has always had trouble with the 334th-ranked non-conference schedule and the horrendous collection of Quadrant 3 or 4 losses. You cannot lose to 28-loss Louisville in a single game, let alone lose to South Carolina, Boston College, and Loyola Chicago, and expect to advance to the NCAA tournament .
North Carolina, no. 5 (20-13, 11-9, NET: 46, KenPom: 47)
Inconvenient history was created by UNC on Sunday night. Since the field was enlarged to 64 teams in 1985, the Tar Heels became the first AP NCAA tournament No. 1 team to not advance to the NCAA tournament. Four starters from the national runner-up team from the previous year returned, but North Carolina was never able to match its March performance. The Tar Heels had a 2-9 record in Quadrant 1 games, but one of those wins was over a Big Ten team that finished second-to-last, Ohio NCAA tournament . The Tar Heels appeared to foresee their fate when they lost a defensive duel to Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals. Coach Hubert Davis said truthfully when asked whether he had a “pitch” for why his team deserved to play in the NCAA tournament : “In the end of the day, we had our opportunities.”