The NCAA tournament selection committee attempted to dig deeper into the numbers in selecting the 68-team field. It abandoned using the top 50 of the Rating Percentage Index as its arbitrary cutoff line for quality victories and replaced it with a quadrant system.
But the message given by its selections on Sunday was just as clear as in years past: High-end victories matter more than anything else.
It’s why Florida State easily made it into the field, and why other teams with poor nonconference schedules got slotted in 8-vs.-9 games. And it’s why Saint Mary’s, with its 28-5 record and one of the 10 or 15 best players in the country, is heading to the National Invitation Tournament.
Toss in Syracuse’s boost from both a few notable road victories and a strong nonconference schedule, and the committee further solidified the direction it has headed in for the three previous seasons. Hint: It’s one that helps high-major programs with lots of chances to make an impression.
SURPRISE: Florida State sails in. The Seminoles (20-11) looked increasingly dicey on paper as the week wore on. They lost to Louisville in their only ACC tournament game, and their nonconference schedule (No. 323 entering Sunday) was a dead weight.
But there were always those six Quadrant One victories, defined as triumphs at home against the RPI top 30, on neutral floors against the top 50 and on the road against the top 75. Notable victories more than counteracted the warts on Florida State’s resume, and it ended up safely in the field as a No. 9 seed.
SNUB: No sign of Saint Mary’s. The Gaels (28-5) matched the record for most victories on Selection Sunday by an eligible team that was left out of the tournament (along with Coastal Carolina in 2010 and 2011). The big problem, apparently, with Randy Bennett’s team was the absence of quality victories.
Saint Mary’s won at Gonzaga, beat New Mexico State and … had a regular-season sweep of Brigham Young. That’s not much to work with. It also had missteps at San Francisco and against Pac-12 bottom-feeder Washington State. Sheer quantity did not get the job done for the Gaels, who did boast a 12-4 record away from home.
SURPRISE: Syracuse noses into the field. Maybe not that much of a surprise. The Washington Post projection waffled on the Orange all week, finally placing Syracuse as the first team out when Davidson stole a bid by winning the Atlantic 10 on Sunday. The Orange (20-13) turned out to be the committee’s last team in the field.
Sometimes, not having much working against a team is a blessing. Syracuse was 4-8 against Quadrant One (not great, not terrible for that place in the bracket), had a couple dubious losses to answer for and beat both Miami and fellow borderline team Louisville on the road. There was also the No. 14 nonconference schedule going in Syracuse’s favor. It’s a team that could have gone either way.
NOT A SURPRISE: Duke shipped out of North Carolina (the state). The Blue Devils lost two of three to North Carolina (the team), which moved ahead of them this week, but that’s far from the only reason Duke will be playing in Pittsburgh this week rather than a few hours down Interstate 85 in Charlotte.