Each and every year there are a handful of "bubble teams" who for one reason or another the selection committee chooses to leave out of the NCAA tournament. In fact, it's become so ingrained into the culture of the tournament that ESPN's Joe Lunardi now feels compelled to include his "First Four Out" among his bracket selections.
With last season's inclusion of three additional teams—giving the field 68 total teams—there are fewer teams who deserve to make the tournament yet don’t. And yet last year showed us that the complaining from Dicky V, Jay Bilas and every other ESPN talking head doesn’t stop.
With 68 teams, it lowers the bar slightly for who should get in, which actually means more teams will get screwed, since more teams should qualify with a lowered bar.
Thus the “busted bubble teams” have grown with the field now standing at 68 teams. Just imagine what it will be like when the field expands to 96.
Here are the teams who truly deserved to be in the 2012 NCAA tournament and are not.
For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here.
Bruiser Flint's squad stood tall all season long, as they finished the season 27-6 but lost in the CAA final to one of last year's tournament darlings, Virginia Commonwealth.
Ken Pomeroy has Drexel as the 40th finest team in America due to statistical data that includes strength of schedule, offensive and defensive efficiency and luck.
That rating places them ahead of obvious tournament choices San Diego State, Notre Dame, St. Mary's (AQ), BYU and Xavier to name a few.
Perhaps most impressively, Drexel crushed Cleveland State 69-49 in their ESPN "Bracket Busters" contest in Cleveland.
It is a shame Drexel is not in this tournament.
One thing the Washington Huskies cannot say about being left out is that they gave the committee no choice but to include them.
If they had simply won one game in the Pac-12 tournament, or just not lost to a bad Oregon State team, they likely would have been included in the field.
Still, the Huskies were 21-10 and the regular-season champs in the Pac-12. That 21-10 included two tough losses by a total of eight points to Marquette and Duke. In fact, every loss they had up to the Oregon State loss was to a team with a winning record, and many of those tournament teams.
Their biggest issue was no quality wins out of conference, aside from UCSB (does that count?). Even Pomeroy's data analysis hated the Huskies, placing them just 67th, which puts them well below most of the tournament teams.
But few teams possess the talent and athleticism of the Huskies, and they would have made for some excellent basketball competition in the tourney. Tony Wroten, Terrance Ross and C.J. Wilcox are all elite talents and make for one of the finest trios in America.
The Huskies could have made some noise in this tournament. It looks like they just waited too long to prove that fact.
Having lost in the ACC quarterfinals to the tournament's eventual champion, rival Florida State, the Miami Hurricanes have nothing to be ashamed of in terms of their postseason resume.
At 19-12 (9-7 ACC), Miami came just shy of the usual lock, 20 wins. But with regular-season wins at Duke and against rival Florida State, the 'Canes had two great wins. But outside the conference, Miami's best wins are against Rutgers and UMass.
But going back to one of my favorite ranking systems, Pomeroy's advanced metrics, Miami is the highest "bubble team" at No. 38. But Miami simply does not have a guy who strikes fear in opponents' minds.
For me, that's the single biggest reason the 'Canes are dancing in the NIT and not the NCAA.
At 21-11 (8-8 SEC), Mississippi State didn't exactly wow the selection committee. Yet, many bracketologists considered them a lock as late as Saturday night.
Then St. Bonaventure won the A-10, NC State came within two points of defeating North Carolina and advancing to the ACC final, and the committee disgustingly decided 10 Big East teams was better than any other formula they could comprise.
Of course, Pomeroy doesn't agree with Mississippi State, placing their value at 86th, by far the worst of all the power-conference potential tournament teams.
But Mississippi State has one of the finest defensive players in the country in Dee Bost, who also doubles as a fine facilitator and scorer. Having one key player is huge and a reason it wouldn't have bothered me had the Bulldogs gotten in.
They won't be, however, and it's not difficult to understand why.
Terrance Henry is a very athletic swingman with an NBA-type game. He is not alone for the Rebels though. Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway are physical interior players who crash to boards all night long. Those three make the Rebels a tough matchup for anyone.
Unfortunately, they will not get the chance to show how good they are in the NCAA tournament. Pomeroy's statistical analysis places the Rebels a horrific 81st. No team ranked as the 81st team truly deserves to get in the tournament.
At 20-13 (8-8 SEC), the Rebels just didn't do enough to get in. Andy Kennedy and Co. ought to do well in the NIT though. They've already shown they can make a run in a tournament, reaching the SEC semis after an impressive win over Tennessee.
At 18-14 and a Pomeroy ranking of 60, it isn't as if the Tennessee Volunteers were any kind of lock for the Big Dance. But at the end of the season, they were as hot as any team in the country.
Unfortunately, much like Washington, the Vols didn't get the requisite victory in the conference tourney needed to extend their season.
Two wins in the SEC tournament likely would have put them in the NCAA tournament, and of course winning the conference title game would have of course cemented their destiny.
But in the end, a poor RPI—75 going into the conference tournament—and poor record prevented the team who played Kentucky better than any SEC team (until Vanderbilt beat Kentucky in the SEC final Sunday) from getting in.
With Jerrone Maymon, Jarnell Stokes, Cameron Tatum and Trae Golden, the Vols have too much talent not to be in the field, but a rough start to the season cost the Vols in the end. Their only quality win outside the SEC was against UConn in January. In the end, it was too little too late.
With the 58th ranking in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, it's not a huge surprise that the Northwestern Wildcats were left out of March Madness. The greatest thing Northwestern had going for them was a wonderful scorer in John Shurna.
It's too bad because they had their best season in program history. At 18-13, the Wildcats looked pretty good, but just had too many tough losses. Those tough losses ultimately hurt them in 2012.
Nevada was the regular-season champion in the WAC, and had they defeated Louisiana Tech in the WAC semis, they would have had a good matchup against New Mexico State. At 26-6, the Wolf Pack didn't miss out because of their record.
Ultimately, it was because they came up short when they had their biggest opportunities. Had they defeated UNLV or BYU or Iona, perhaps the Wolf Pack could have gotten into the field.
They are not the biggest snub, but a snub nonetheless.
At 20-12 (8-10 Big East), Seton Hall just didn't do enough to gain a 10th spot for the Big East conference. They don't have one player that makes you turn your head and think "ooh, that's a great team."
And they didn't have a win that really stands out. They did defeat then-No. 8 UConn at home, but that's by far their greatest win. Based on the strength of the Big East, you could make a good argument for Seton Hall. Frankly I didn't see it, but wouldn't have been surprised had they made it.
Seton Hall ought to be a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NIT and should do well with their exciting team in that tournament.