March 16, 2006, midnight | By Phillip Allen | 18 years, 2 months ago

On the outside looking in on the Big Dance

Since the NCAA men's college basketball tournament expanded to a 65-team field, 31 teams receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournament. Whether it is the powerful Big East, represented by seven teams or the unheard of Horizon League, that sent just one this year, they are given an automatic spot. With the automatic slots filled, an appointed committee must select 34 more spots. This committee examines records, quality wins, strength of schedule and recent performance to select the best teams possible for the tourney. Yet every year, a few bubble teams are left out and a few lucky long shots make it in. As 65 teams get geared up for this year's NCAA Tournament, here are a few schools that were left pouting in their dorm rooms.

Missouri State: Missouri State managed to pull out 20 wins and finished second in the underrated Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC). Their great Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 21 wasn't enough to overcome a lack of quality non-conference wins and a quarterfinal loss in the MVC tourney to Northern Iowa. Still, a team regarded as one of the top thirty in the nation being excluded is an outrage.

Hofstra: The Pride came up just short of an at-large bid when they fell to UNC-Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) final last week. They beat regular season co-champ George Mason soundly twice in the final 10 days of the season, but a weak non-conference schedule and lack of quality wins barred them from the madness.

Cincinnati: Losing star Armein Kirkland torpedoed a very promising season, and a couple of big wins down the stretch weren't enough to avoid the snub after a heartbreaking loss to Syracuse in the first game of the Big East Tournament. Looking at Memphis' number one seed, Cincy has to be questioning their decision to bolt from Conference USA to join the Big East.

Michigan: The Wolverines, who just a month ago looked like a lock for the tournament, are now heading for the NIT for the seventh straight year. Though they started strong, Michigan dropped seven of their last nine games, sealing their fate with a lackluster performance in the semi-final of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Maryland: The loss of Chris McCray at midseason really hurt the Terps. They struggled down the stretch, winning just five of their final 13 games, with no real quality wins in that stretch. They appeared poised for an ACC tournament run after man-handling Georgia Tech in round one, but in their second-round must-win meeting with Boston College, they fell apart.

Florida State: Historically, every team that has over a .500 winning percentage in the ACC has made the NCAA tournament. Well, history has been made. After scraping out 19 wins, including a 9-7 record in the ACC and a stunning win over #1 Duke, Florida State was still snubbed. The Seminoles' only real fault was their first round departure in the ACC tournament and a lack of non-conference wins.

Phillip Allen. Phillip Allen is a CAP junior who basically is a fascinating kid. Though he possesses little writing ability he was accepted to both the Communication Arts Program and now Silver Chips Online. He follows the Washington Redskins, Wizards and Nationals religiously. He plays soccer (for … More »

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