Sunday March 14th, 2010

For most of championship week, the bubble looked big enough for everyone (and then some). Then came Swiper Saturday, when Houston, Washington and New Mexico State forced their way into the bracket. The bubble tightened considerably and some viable teams ended up missing the NCAAs.

Here's a look at the teams with the biggest gripes after being left out (in alphabetical order):

Illinois (19-14, 10-8, RPI: 75, SOS: 35) The Illini are the rare team whose profile looks better on paper than how the computers saw it. They had two very legit nonleague wins (Vandy and at Clemson) and stacked three more quality Ws in league play, although they were fortunate on a couple of occasions to catch teams with injuries. In the end, the committee was unable to overlook the number of losses, some bad, and very shaky computer figures.

Mississippi State (23-10, 9-7, RPI: 55, SOS: 97) The Bulldogs were the annual SEC bid thief, but their run ended in the title game to Kentucky and it turns out they needed to win that one, too. Despite a 9-7 league mark, there was very little good in their profile until they beat Florida and Vandy in the tournament. Before that, they only had a win over Old Dominion (and a sweep of Mississippi) and a handful of bad losses to counter them.

Rhode Island (23-9, 9-7, RPI: 40, SOS: 71) Sort of a mini-Cal, URI scheduled a decent RPI but beat next to no one. The Rams went 0-5 against the three best teams in the A-10 and only beat Oklahoma State in Connecticut for a win of substance. The A-10 was very solid this year, but not solid enough to get this kind of a profile into the NCAAs.

Seton Hall (19-12, 9-9, RPI: 61, SOS: 31) Ultimately, there was no room for a team that didn't have a bad loss all season, but just had way too many of them to offset a relative paucity of good wins. Losing on a neutral floor to Virginia Tech when the Hokies were without Malcolm Delaney also ended up being a significant factor. If the two profiles were judged to be similar (for different reasons), it would be very hard to put SHU in ahead of VT.

Virginia Tech (23-8, 10-6, RPI: 59, SOS: 133) This one's simple: The Hokies gambled with a pitiful nonleague schedule and got caught in a year where the ACC wasn't as strong as normal and the bubble tightened significantly late. They were a borderline case as a classic "decent team, weak profile," but they have no one else to blame other than themselves for the horrible out-of-conference slate. Seeing Florida State from their own league get punished for similar schedule fraud for years, this omission shouldn't come as a shock.

William & Mary (21-10, 12-6, RPI: 58, SOS: 109) The Tribe had three terrific nonleague wins -- at Maryland, at Wake Forest and home to Richmond -- but they weren't enough to offset a third-place CAA finish, three horrible league losses (including two at home) and not looking great in two national TV games, including the BracketBusters fiasco at Iona. If the Tribe had just beaten UNC Greensboro and Towson at home, they very well would have been in.

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