Texas A&M got robbed by an NCAA selection committee who somehow didn't care about the SEC Tournament
I’m old enough to remember when Joe Lunardi was public enemy No. 1 in Aggieland.
It was a short time ago. Friday, in fact. You see, it was the ESPN “bracketologist” who refused to add the Aggies into the field after they took down top-seed Auburn. A&M came into the week on the bubble, so it simply responded by beating NCAA Tournament hopeful-Florida in its first game on Thursday, and then the Auburn win was on Friday. Th quarterfinal victory marked the Aggies’ first win against an AP Top 5 team in 40 years.
But wait, there’s more!
Not only did “on the bubble” A&M take down the regular season champs (in somewhat convincing fashion), Buzz Williams’ squad responded by smoking the red hot Hogs in the SEC Tournament semifinal. It was Lunardi who began Saturday by saying on SEC Network’s “Marty and McGee” that it would take a win against Arkansas AND an SEC Championship for A&M to reach the field. In other words, an at-large bid wasn’t on the table.
You knew this, of course. What you and I didn’t know was that Lunardi actually turned out to be right.
A&M ran out of gas on Sunday against Tennessee. Mind you, it was the 4th game in 4 days against a Tennessee team that might be the hottest group in the country.
If you didn’t know any better, you would’ve thought the NCAA selection committee only watched Sunday, and it missed Quenton Jackson and Co. playing ruthless, undeniably good basketball the entire week in Tampa.
But just like the 2020 Playoff reveal, once again, the Aggies were left out of the field. No NCAA Tournament bid. No reward for a 23-win team who was clearly peaking at the perfect time with a résumé good enough to make the field.
Texas A&M got absolutely screwed. Unbelievable.
Texas A&M: 22-11
Notre Dame: 21-10
A&M: 4-9 in Quad 1
A&M: 42 in NET
A&M: SEC tourney finalist
ND: lost in quarterfinals
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) March 13, 2022
Oh, and as Adam pointed out, A&M had the head-to-head advantage there, too!
It’s funny because 2 of those Quad 1 wins for A&M came this week. It makes you wonder if this week carried any sort of … but wait. Let’s throw in the historical context, too:
In comparable past resumes to A&M, compiled by Bart Torvik, ever team made the NCAA tournament field. pic.twitter.com/vdC3w7tkck
— . (@Travis_L_Brown) March 12, 2022
Clearly this week didn’t matter. Sure, it’s not everything. But shouldn’t it have at least been … something?
I mean, Tennessee even got a raw deal by only getting a 3-seed after going 4-1 against Auburn (2-seed), Kentucky (2-seed) and Arizona (1-seed). Totally stifling Kentucky and red hot A&M meant what exactly? The Vols would’ve probably been on that No. 3 line had they punted on showing up in Tampa. It almost felt like the selection committee had entrenched beliefs and simply tweaked for the bid-stealing conference champs but didn’t pay attention to anything else that happened.
We can all agree that A&M was on the outside looking in entering the SEC Tournament. We can also agree that they were a terrifying team to play against. Go ask KD Johnson and his 0-for-14 shooting about what it was like to face A&M. Better yet, ask third-team All-American JD Notae about his time against A&M, which was his first game all year with single-digit points.
Imagine being a bubble team, beating consecutive top-15 teams on a neutral court and then being told that wasn’t enough. If this were a blue blood like Kansas, Kentucky or UNC, there would be riots in the streets right now.
But it’s not. It’s A&M. You know, the program who was searching for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018. It was the program who had never been to the Elite 8 and has 3 Sweet 16 appearances in the last 4 decades.
Don’t tell me that doesn’t matter.
Here’s the problem. Soon, we’ll be consumed by March Madness. A&M will play in a handful of NIT games on ESPN2 and outside of the Aggie faithful, only the degenerates will have a rooting interest. We’ll move on to other storylines because that’s what we do.
We shouldn’t, though. We also shouldn’t watch what happens with borderline (“debatable” is the word I’d use) teams and play those results. Like, if Rutgers or Notre Dame advances to the Round of 32, it won’t validate the injustice of leaving that A&M team out of the field.
(Also, if NET is supposed to matter so much, why didn’t it matter that Rutgers had a NET of 77? Also, also … is NET just like ESPN’s made-up FPI?!?)
I said “that” A&M team because it was vastly different than the group who lost 8 in a row. Usually, teams who endure that type of a drought and who enter Valentine’s Day with a 4-8 conference record aren’t even worth a footnote on Selection Sunday. But then again, those teams usually don’t start 15-2. They sure as heck don’t respond to 8-game losing streaks by ripping off wins in 8 of 9 games to reach the SEC Championship.
That happened because guys like Tyrece Radford and Wade Taylor IV made life hell on opposing guards. It happened because Hassan Diara hit the shot of his life to knock off Florida. We watched it happen because A&M started getting to the rack and finishing in a way that it didn’t during that skid.
Above all else, A&M turned skeptics into believers because Williams didn’t let his team throw in the towel. Well, at least he turned around the skeptics who actually watched the SEC Tournament.
The Aggies deserved a chance to dance. We still didn’t get a definitive reason as to what was actually valued. It wasn’t total wins, it wasn’t conference wins, it wasn’t Quad 1 wins, it wasn’t head-to-head, it sure as heck wasn’t NET and without question, it wasn’t conference tournaments.
Go figure that by the time Selection Sunday rolled around, Lunardi actually did a 180 and he had A&M as one of his “last 4 in.” That was before AND after the SEC Championship loss. It took him longer than it should’ve, but he came around. I guess in the end, though, he was wrong.
He just wasn’t nearly as wrong as the selection committee was.