To NCAA selection committee, top leagues' teams look good
The NCAA Tournament selection committee's members don't realize how many teams from each conference made the field until they see the graphic on TV after the bracket announcement.
Scott Barnes, the committee's chairman, insisted that Sunday when asked why some leagues fared better than others.
While conference affiliation doesn't directly affect whether teams get in, it indirectly influences the process.
The committee takes into account criteria such as strength of schedule, quality wins and bad losses. When a particular school's conference happens to be strong in a given year, that squad is often going to fare well in those areas.
Big non-conference victories by any of the league's members pay dividends for everybody. A team in a highly rated conference sees its RPI boosted in going through league play. It gets plenty of opportunities for quality wins, and many of its losses won't be viewed as bad.
A look at some conferences on opposite ends of the spectrum this Selection Sunday:
BIG 12 (7 teams in)
The Big 12 had the top RPI of all the leagues this season, going 105-22 (an .827 winning percentage) against non-conference foes. That helps explain how Texas and Oklahoma State, which each had a late four-game losing streak and went 8-10 in conference play, could make the NCAA field.
A lot of those eight victories looked good, and many of those 10 losses didn't seem so terrible. When the Longhorns lost four straight late, those came against Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia and Kansas. Those teams were all top-five seeds in the NCAA Tournament in a sign of respect for the Big 12 in the seeding. And Texas snapped that losing streak against Baylor, a No. 3 NCAA seed.
BIG EAST (6 teams in)
The Big East had the No. 2 RPI among all leagues, going 94-30 (.758) in non-conference play with six victories against ranked opponents. Even last-place Creighton helped out on that front with a win over Oklahoma. Butler also beat North Carolina, Providence defeated Notre Dame, and Georgetown topped Indiana among other RPI boosters.
Five of the six Big East teams that got in received top-six seeds. Last year's bracket shows how quickly a conference's fortunes can change: In 2014, the Big East's four invites included squads seeded 11th and 12th.
ATLANTIC 10 (3 teams in)
The A-10 swung the other direction from last season. The conference earned a record six berths in 2014, including three top-six seeds.
With the league's non-conference winning percentage dipping from around 70 percent to about 60 percent, teams such as Richmond and Rhode Island couldn't get into the NCAA Tournament despite strong records in league play.
AMERICAN (2 teams in)
As UConn's title showed last year, the American has some powerful programs at the top. The problem is at the middle and bottom. So the committee isn't too impressed by Temple's victories over league foes such as Tulane or East Carolina, and two losses to Tulsa don't look so good.