Memphis would have bumped Tulsa with win, chairman says

ByAndy Katz ESPN logo
Monday, March 14, 2016

NEW YORK -- Tulsa was the last team put in the NCAA tournament field of 68. The Golden Hurricane would have been bumped out by fellow American Athletic Conference member Memphis if the Tigers had beaten UConn earlier Sunday in the AAC tournament title game in Orlando, according to NCAA tournament selection committee chair Joe Castiglione.

If Memphis had won the tournament, then VCU would have been in the First Four in Dayton and Memphis would have been the automatic qualifier into the general field. VCU is a No. 10 seed in the West and will open against Oregon State on Friday.

Castiglione said Tulsa got in over its competition because of four top-50 wins. He said the first four teams that were out of the bracket were St. Bonaventure, Monmouth, South Carolina and San Diego State.

Castiglione said St. Bonaventure didn't make it because of its overall strength of schedule.

Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a statement that the Bonnie's body of work with seven wins against top-70 teams, a tie for first in the A-10 and a 29 RPI should have been enough.

"It's a tremendous disservice and disappointment to these student-athletes, the SBU nation and the A-10," McGlade said in a statement. She said she will pursue a further explanation with the selection committee.

Castiglione said Monmouth did what the committee wanted in playing a difficult schedule but had three losses below the 200 line, which included Canisius.

"That hurt,'' he said.

He cited San Diego State's win against Cal as positive, but going 2-3 against the top teams in the Mountain West as not being good enough. Castiglione said the overall lack of quality wins kept Valparaiso out, and he noted Saint Mary's only top-50 win was against Gonzaga.

Syracuse's inclusion in the field wasn't really a debate. He said the Orange had five top-50 wins, including at Duke and neutral-site wins over UConn and Texas A&M in the Bahamas. Castiglione said the extenuating circumstances of not having Jim Boeheim on the sidelines during a nine-game suspension was not a factor.

Oregon was chosen as a No. 1 seed because the Ducks were the regular-season and Pac-12 tournament champ and had one of the best overall strength of schedules. He said three wins against Utah was also an outstanding chip. But Castiglione said Michigan State was a close fifth No. 1 and that's why the Spartans were put in the same bracket (for the third year in a row as coincidence) as Virginia, which got the fourth No. 1 seed in the Midwest.

"It was a vigorous debate,'' Castiglione said. "It was just a close call, and the committee felt Michigan State was the fifth overall seed, regardless.''

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Sunday night on ESPN that he questioned how the Wildcats could be a No. 4 seed and Texas A&M a No. 3 after beating the Aggies in the SEC tournament title game earlier Sunday in Nashville. Castiglione had an answer. He said the losses Kentucky had to teams not in the field (at Auburn, at Tennessee, to Ohio State in Brooklyn and at UCLA) was the reason.

"We compared and evaluated them," Castiglione said, "against other teams and the committee felt they deserved their place."

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