Saint Mary’s lost to BYU in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Monday night. The loss has made many question their chances at being picked as an at-large team on Selection Sunday.
Yes, Saint Mary’s is a ranked team. Yes, they’ve defeated Gonzaga once. But, the rest of their schedule? 170th in the country. Besides the Bulldogs, Saint Mary’s best win is at home versus New Mexico State. Besides that, they have no other top 50 wins, and their only other top 100 wins are two against BYU. The Gael’s strength of schedule is not fit for an at-large in the NCAA Tournament, much less a top 25 team.
Saint Mary’s has a few bad losses, as well. The loss against BYU in the WCC Semifinals isn’t necessarily a big time upset. The Gaels were favored, and they have defeated the Cougars twice already this season, though it is the month of March and Saint Mary’s hasn’t proved themselves besides a win over Gonzaga, so people weren’t completely shocked about the outcome. The Gael’s have a loss from Georgia, which is a top 100 team, though the Bulldogs struggled to win 16 games and are the 12th seed of 14 teams in the SEC. They also have two inexcusable losses to San Francisco and Washington State, which is at the bottom of Pac-12 and has only 12 wins on the season.
Saint Mary’s has played 26 teams outside of the top 100. 12 of those teams are outside of the top 200.
If the Gaels were compared to other mid-major at-large candidates, would they stack up well? Let’s take a look at a few teams.
Rhode Island (Atlantic 10):
The Rams are in a bit of a tight spot. Before February 16th, they looked Golden. URI was riding a 16-game win streak, though in their final five games of the regular season, the Rams skidded and lost 3 of their last 5. One loss that sticks out is a 30 point loss to Saint Joseph’s. Thirty points. It was also on Rhode Island’s home court. The Rams then closed out the season with a close loss at Davidson.
URI looked good the majority of the season, rolling through the Atlantic 10, with out of conference wins over Seton Hall, Providence, and College of Charleston. So, the question is, will the Rams make it over Saint Mary’s if they don’t win the Atlantic 10 tournament? My answer is yes, easily. Rhode Island has had chances versus good teams, like Virginia, Nevada, and Alabama, and they should have defeated one of the three to really solidify their resume, but compared to the Gaels, the Rams are just fine.
Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA):
The Blue Raiders haven’t lost a game by over ten points this season. They’ve lost to Auburn, Miami, USC, and Belmont all by under ten points. MTSU lost to Marshall twice, one by nine and the other by ten. The Raiders have some good wins, including Murray State, Western Kentucky twice, and Old Dominion, though one thing they are missing that at-large mid-majors need to go dancing is a big out of conference win. Murray State is a tough out, though they are no ACC or Big 12 team. That’s what Middle Tennessee needs.
Saint Mary’s has a win over Gonzaga. As bad as the Gaels schedule is, they’ve defeated a top 10 team in the nation. Middle Tennessee has a win over the Ohio Valley Conference Champion. In my opinion, MTSU needs to win the Conference USA. It’s possible they’ll get an at-large bid, though I do not think they’ll get in over Saint Mary’s.
New Mexico State (Western Athletic Conference)
The Aggies have a statement win. They defeated Miami in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on December 23rd. The next day NMSU lost to USC, a good loss for the Aggies overall weak schedule based upon a simply bad WAC. The Aggies have also defeated Utah Valley and Davidson, though besides that, there is a large drop off in strength of schedule. The Aggies were undefeated in conference play, until a bad week resulted in back-to-back losses to Utah Valley and Seattle. If NMSU had won those two games, making them undefeated in conference play, they would be a ranked team.
At this point, I don’t think the Aggies would make it to the tourney if they lost in the WAC Tournament. Unlike the other teams compared here, Saint Mary’s and NMSU have a head-to-head, which the Gaels won at home. The Aggies will need to win the WAC Tournament to be relaxed on Sunday.
Selection Sunday is this Sunday. The Selection Show will be aired on TBS at 6 PM ET.