College basketball's big boys still rule Selection Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS — College basketball's big boys still rule Selection Sunday.
And there's nothing the non-power conference schools seem to be able to do about it.
The six BCS conferences took 30 of 34 at-large bids in Sunday's NCAA tournament draw, their highest total this decade.
Davidson, last year's tourney darling with Stephen Curry, is out. St. Mary's, San Diego State and Niagara, all with RPIs in the top 50, are out. Creighton, the regular-season co-champion in the Missouri Valley Conference, is out, too.
The committee did take Pac-10 team Arizona, with an RPI of 62, and three Big Ten teams — Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota — that were hardly locks to make the 65-team field.
To the smaller-name schools, it's a message they don't want to hear.
"The picture is very clear that the opportunity to go through the door for us is not as big an opportunity as for the BCS programs," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "The margin for error is ever so slight."
Since non-power conference schools received 12 at-large bids in 2004, the number has dropped four of the past five years to this year's total of four, the lowest this decade.
Yet committee members, including chairman Mike Slive, insist they don't look at conference affiliations.
Slive told reporters Sunday that the first time he learned the ACC, Big East and Big Ten each earned seven bids was when the bracket was printed just before its release. More than an hour later, Slive said he had to double-check to see how many conferences got six bids. That would be two, the Big 12 and Pac-10.
To change the trend, Slive wants to see stronger out-of-conference schedules.
"You know, there are several teams, you could take a Gonzaga, you could take a Butler, you can take Xavier, that at some point in time were not doing that," Slive said. "They've gone out and they've found a way to play games and to create a resume that resonates with the committee."
Scheduling has always been a problem for those schools. The familiar Top 25 teams don't necessarily want to risk losses that could hurt their tourney resume, and most don't want to play in smaller gyms.
Slive said the committee spent the weekend tracking down injury updates and contending with surprise winners in conference tournaments, a shocking week in which 19 of the Top 25 teams lost.
"I think the best way to describe it is the unexpected became the expected," Slive said.
After all the carnage, the BCS schools still won. Everyone else, except Brigham Young, Butler, Dayton and Xavier was left out.
"We say over and over and over again that the RPI is a tool that is used by the committee amongst a whole lot of other tools," Slive said. "If the RPI was the do-all, end-all, we wouldn't have to meet. We would just figure what the RPIs are and line 'em up. There are teams in the tournament with RPIs higher, and there are teams in the tournament with RPIs lower, because it's the entire body of work that counts."
When it came to consider injuries, the committee discussed six teams, and Slive said only one — St. Mary's — didn't make the field.
The Gaels lost playmaking guard Patrick Mills for a large chunk of the conference season with a broken hand. He rushed back for the conference tournament and a late nonconference game to remind the committee of the team's presence at full strength.
"He obviously made a valiant effort to come back," Slive said. "They didn't have success against Gonzaga. Then they went out and played Eastern Washington. We spent a lot of time talking about St. Mary's. We talked about the pros and the cons. Again, it's about St. Mary's, but it's not. It's about other people."
Connecticut still got a top seed after going 4-3 since Jerome Dyson went down with a knee injury. North Carolina also got a No. 1 seed after losing ACC player of the year Ty Lawson for the conference tournament with an injured toe. Oklahoma was a No. 2 seed, despite losing twice when Blake Griffin was out with a concussion. He has since returned.
Marquette was seeded No. 6 though it has only one win since Dominic James was lost for the season with a broken foot. Purdue, the Big Ten tournament champion, has looked much better since Robbie Hummel has been healthy but only jumped up to a No. 5 seed. Illinois, another No. 5 seed, may be without guard Chester Frazier, who has a hand injury.