SMU athletic director Rick Hart defends non-conference schedule
SMU's omission from the NCAA men's basketball tournament field was one of the most notable snubs of Selection Sunday.
SMU (23-9) was one of college basketball's biggest turnaround stories, improving from 15-17 to 23-9 under former NBA coach Larry Brown. The Mustangs boasted two top-25 rankings and four wins over ranked teams, but also suffered bad losses to Temple and USF, and then a one-and-done ouster from the AAC Tournament at the hands of Houston.
Ron Wellman, the Wake Forest athletic director and selection committee chair, explained on Sunday that SMU’s non-conference strength of schedule was in the 300s and the overall SOS was 129, well below some of the teams that barely got into the tournament.
While SMU did not beat a ranked team outside of the AAC, the Mustangs had lost by three to then-unranked Virginia. The Cavaliers would go on to play their way to a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
As a result, SMU is headed to the NIT as that tournament's top seed.
In his weekly website post, SMU athletic director Rick Hart defended the Mustangs’ non-conference basketball schedule, calling it “appropriately challenging” especially considering the team opened its season playing at off-campus venues -- most notably smaller -- until renovations to Moody Coliseum were completed.
“Looking back, I believe our schedule did appropriately challenge our team. We collected 23 wins, 12 in the conference, and were competitive in every game we played – within “striking distance” at the last media timeout of our nine losses. Our team ranked in the top-15 nationally in offensive FG% and defensive FG%. We played nine teams in the NCAA tournament field (with a 4-5 record in those games), collected four victories against ranked opponents – the most since the 1955-56 campaign, and finished tied for third in the conference.WINN: Ranking the NCAA's best bracket busters
“Many droughts ended this season: we beat a ranked team at home, beat a top-10 team at home, beat a ranked team on the road, hosted seven sellouts at Moody Coliseum (including the final six games), earned a national ranking (as high as 18th and finishing at 25th/23rd), and, while we didn’t end our NCAA tournament drought this year, we are in the NIT for only the third time in school history, and the first time since 2000."