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Why the NCAA Tournament keeps dealing Saint Mary’s Selection Sunday disappointments

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At this point it’s an unofficial day of mourning on the Saint Mary’s College campus. Or maybe it’s an official unholiday: Hangover Monday, hard on the heels of Selection Sunday.
Once again this season, Saint Mary’s little program that could was overlooked by the NCAA Tournament committee despite a 28-5 record, a 16-2 mark in conference play, a win over Gonzaga and two over BYU, and despite being ranked in the top 20 a week prior to Selection Sunday.
Take it from someone who has joined the Gaels at various Selection Sunday watch parties at the Soda Center on the Moraga campus. They’re a hoot when the Gaels get in. But when the last team in the last bracket is announced and Saint Mary’s hasn’t been called, it’s as if someone dropped a dead frog in the punch bowl.
I’m assuming it went that way Sunday, when 68 teams were awarded berths to the tournament and once again Saint Mary’s was left out in the cold — same as in 2016 (29-6), 2011 (25-9) and 2009 (28-7).
Why?
Speaking on behalf of all mid-major programs, Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis pointed to the new quadrant system . It sounds like a super cool spy weapon in a James Bond movie. In fact, according to ESPN it’s “a new tweak in the way the NCAA Tournament selection committee views road and neutral court wins.”
“It’s going to get tougher for everybody at our level to get at-large (berths) with this new system,” Davis told ESPN . “You’ve got to be perfect.”
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett agrees. “One hundred percent,” Bennett told ESPN. “Explain to me how the quadrant system is scored. There’s the problem.”
The quadrant system adds to the headwinds buffeting programs such as Saint Mary’s. You’re probably more familiar with the East Coast bias . Or the You Didn’t Play Anybody bias. (Bennett, if he wasn’t such a nice guy, might counter, “OK genius, why don’t you try scheduling bigger programs that insist on playing at home and have little to gain from a David-and-Goliath game?”)
Here’s another factor that gets overlooked: No matter how many teams the NCAA Tournament selection committee lets in, no matter where it draws the line, there will be a small handful of teams unhappy about being left out. And most of them will have a point.
It was thus when the field was 25 teams from 1969-1974, and when it was expanded to 32 in 1975, to 40 in 1979, to 48 in 1980, to 52 in 1983, to 53 in 1984, to 64 in 1985, to 65 in 2001 and to 68 in 2011.
No matter how far down the food chain the selection committee goes, it will hear from the near-misses. Which means when it inevitably finds itself with four open berths and seven quasi-worthy candidates, the committee is looking for reasons to kick a program to the curb.
Saint Mary’s has the footprints to prove it. Happy unholiday to you and yours.

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