The brackets are now official and being filled out like crazy by millions of Americans, but as always controversy looms. If it seemed like there were more bubble teams than ever before, that’s because there was. A whopping 104 teams won more than 20 games, more than any in NCAA history. While teams like Holy Cross and Florida A&M are happy, others are furious and in disbelief about being left out. The three with perhaps the most convincing arguments are Syracuse, Drexel, and Kansas State.
So why did these three get left out in the cold? For Kansas State, the explanation seems to be in unbalanced scheduling. Since they didn’t play a lot of the good Big Twelve basketball teams, it was important for them to do well in the games that they did play, but the only team they beat of any note was Texas. That’s a good win, but they lost to all other major competition and looked like an okay team who cup-caked the schedule, which is why they were left off. Had they swept bubble team Texas Tech (who slipped in) instead of splitting, that might have been enough to nudge them into the dance.
Drexel is a team that was also undone because of its conference schedule. Drexel's team was fantastic against out of conference teams, and notched big victories over Creighton, Syracuse, and Villanova, but when you look at their in conference record (which is a major determining factor) they finished fourth, and were 1-5 against the three teams ahead of them. Since the CAA isn’t viewed as the biggest powerhouse to begin with, even a 23 win season wasn’t enough with that type of a record against top teams. Right or wrong, that was the reason Drexel fans were left out in the cold.
The biggest head scratcher for most people seems to be Syracuse. Syracuse had several quality wins, and won six of their last eight. With their stunning upset of Georgetown many experts thought they were in, but in the end they just missed. What hurt the Orange was a lack of wins against other quality teams—losing to Drexel, Holy Cross, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame twice. What may have put the nail in the coffin was losses to St. John’s, UConn, and a late loss to Villanova. Villanova and UConn are solid teams, but not great, and St. John’s is just a bad loss. Win any of those, especially late in the season, and the Orange get in. They are probably literally the very first team on the outside, but that’s college basketball: you have to seize every opportunity or else you may just miss your last chance.