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Indiana, Maryland struggles in loaded Big Ten ignite debate over inclusion of .500 team in NCAA field


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In March 1991, I used to be courtside at Madison Square Garden when the Villanova Wildcats misplaced by simply two factors in the Big East Tournament semifinals to eventual champion Seton Hall, falling to 16-14 on the common season. It didn’t appear a lot like a unprecedented second then, only a very entertaining basketball recreation.

And but, three many years later, these Wildcats carry a major distinction in the lengthy historical past of March Madness. They turned the primary team ever chosen to the NCAA Tournament with a document simply two video games over the .500 mark. A decade later, after dropping to LSU in a one-point recreation on the SEC Tournament, Georgia additionally completed 16-14 in the common season and likewise was chosen to the NCAAs as an at-large entrant.

Those Wildcats and people Bulldogs are the one ones, although. There have been 1,215 at-large alternatives for the reason that event expanded to 64 groups in 1985, however nobody else has made it as an at-large choice with such an unattractive document.

MORE: Sporting News’ midseason 2020-21 All-American team

Are we prepared, then, in a school basketball season when every little thing else has been impacted by the pandemic, for a .500 team to be put in on the NCAA bracket? Maybe one recreation over? This has been a school basketball season with out precedent, so will the choice committee have an interest in breaking most or all of the precedents that ruled its decisions over the previous 4 many years?

“I don’t want to see a huge change in that thought process,” school basketball analyst Mike O’Donnell, who calls video games for ESPN and CBS Sports, informed Sporting News. “If you’re .500 on the season, or you’re below, to me you should have no business being in the conversation. Because winning ultimately matters.”

Teams have been permitted to play 27 video games in 2020-21 and inspired to play not less than 4 outdoors their conferences. That was not universally straightforward to realize as a result of of COVID-19 points. St. Bonaventure solely received in two such video games. Colorado State performed three. Penn State and Rutgers every performed 4. These are among the many many groups combating for at-large berths with a comparatively unsure consequence.

Some of these which can be members of extremely aggressive conferences, most clearly the Big Ten, have struggled — in half as a result of of these truncated non-league schedules — to compile the kind of received/loss data that ordinarily would have made them enticing at-large candidates.

A yr in the past, when 9 of the Big Ten’s groups ranked among the many high 40 in the ultimate NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, they have been projected to have 10 groups in the NCAA field by the ultimate BracketMatrix.com composite, with the poorest general document amongst them belonging to 19-12 Michigan.

This yr’s Big Ten has 4 groups in the NET high 10 and 10 in the highest 50. Among these top-30 groups, although, are 10-8 Indiana and 7-9 Penn State. Maryland is ranked forty second in the NET and has a 9-10 document towards Division I opponents. It is not only Big Ten groups going through this conundrum. In the Big East, Seton Hall is the NET’s forty fifth team and is simply 11-8. Connecticut is 51st and stands at 8-4, having struggled with a number of interruptions as a result of of COVID protocols.


It may be straightforward to take a look at these data and dismiss their candidacies for NCAA bids. After all, there are groups such because the Loyola Ramblers, who rank twelfth in the NET and have a 15-3 document towards Division I groups. They definitely could possibly be chosen for the event forward of a team from a extra distinguished convention. And they may be. As of now, although, whereas Indiana owns two victories over NET No. 10 Iowa, Loyola hasn’t overwhelmed anybody ranked increased than 111th. Nearly two-thirds of the Ramblers’ wins are towards groups ranked decrease than one hundred and ninetieth.

In this specific yr, that is much less Loyola’s fault than it ordinarily may be. The alternative to play high-level non-conference opponents — whether or not they be major-conference groups or elite mid-majors — was restrained by the abbreviated schedule. The Ramblers did, nevertheless, get alternatives towards each Wisconsin and Richmond and have been unable to win.

“In my opinion, if you’re trying to get in the 68 ‘best’ teams, then there’s probably a .500 team that belongs in the field,” one longtime mid-major coach informed Sporting News. “But if you’re trying to identify the 68 most ‘deserving,’ then the one that should be included, unquestionably, is that mid-major that has been successful. And the standard has always been, to some degree, the most deserving teams. The pandemic didn’t allow so many non-conference games to take place.”

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For these in the enterprise of projecting which groups shall be chosen to the NCAA Tournament, Maryland has been a team that matches squarely into the argument concerning whether or not the usual may be totally different for the 2021 version of March Madness.

Although they personal a dropping document towards Division I opponents, the Terps achieved street victories towards No. 4 Illinois, No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 52 Minnesota, in addition to a house win over No. 23 Purdue. The downside: Those are the Terps’ solely Big Ten wins. They are 4-9 in the convention, and that has dragged them beneath the .500 mark general.

The Terps’ schedule has been absurdly troublesome. Of their 19 D-I video games, 14 have been performed towards Quad-1 opponents. The six remaining video games on their present schedule should not a breeze, however the problem could possibly be thought-about a bit extra manageable. The common NET rating of these opponents is 69th, in contrast with 18th over their first 13 Big Ten video games. If they have been to go 4-2 in that stretch and end 13-12, would they be deserving of an at-large bid?

“That’s a great question that I’ve thought a lot about,” Tim Krueger, bracket analyst for The Athletic, informed Sporting News.

“Every time you write Maryland off, they come up with another win. And then every time you think this one will put them over, they lose. I guess that’s what bubble teams do, right? Their resume is pretty good. It’s not bad.


“There’s a handful of 9-8 teams, and I just didn’t feel comfortable putting them in until they got another win. My thinking has been that there’s enough other choices that have quality wins. My bracket is scattered with them.

“If there’s not enough choices, then yeah, they may look at something like that.”



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