Oklahoma State got jobbed on Sunday when the selection committee omitted the Cowboys from the field of 68. A combination of a bad RPI and bad non-conference schedule rating ultimately did them in, even though they proved time and again they had the goods to be worthy of an at-large bid.
So how does Oklahoma State avoid a similar outcome in the future? What steps could it take to prevent the same conundrum it found itself in on Sunday? Here are three tips on how to avoid it — starting first with scheduling more aggressively.
1. Avoid scheduling (very many) sub-200 teams.
This rule of thumb typically applies to mid-major teams who simply cannot afford torpedoing their numbers by scheduling bad teams, but it should now be a rule adopted by Oklahoma State: Do not schedule (very many) sub-200 teams.
It sinks virtually all your metrics, including your RPI. Consider this: If OSU had scheduled and beaten Georgia Tech at home and St. Louis (!) away — two crappy schools that finished worse than Iowa State in RPI — instead of Pepperdine and Charlotte, they would have finished No. 68 in RPI (had the 31st-best schedule instead of 54th) and likely gotten into the NCAA Tournament.
OSU had seven (!!) sub-200 teams it played this season (and four sub-300!). Pepperdine and Charlotte out of the gate was bad as expected, but bad luck also factored in here. Because no one thought that Kevin Stallings would bring down Pitt faster than Travis Ford did at Oklahoma State.
Still, there are 350 teams in college basketball not named Oklahoma State. There are teams that would be willing to play in the non-conference in potential home-and-home series that won’t wreck your tourney odds before Christmas.
Sub-200 teams are essentially the equivalent of OSU football scheduling an FCS team. Schedule aggressively in the future and it signals to the committee that you’re working to improve your resume — even if they result in losses.
“I think a message that a lot of people are seeing is we like to see teams that schedule, especially in the nonconference, that schedule games that allow the committee to take a look at whether or not they’re worthy of consideration,” committee chair Bruce Rasmussen said on Sunday. “In looking at games outside the conference, they had a lot of wins but they had a lot of games against teams that really were in the bottom 100 in the RPI.”
2. Do better in your league schedule.
If you haven’t already, let’s all collectively say it: “Duh, Kyle!”
Of course you should win more games. The goal is to win as many as possible. But simply put: OSU was probably one Texas Tech meltdown in Lubbock or one Texas meltdown in Austin away from getting into the NCAA Tournament.
Generally speaking, eight wins will almost always get you into the Big Dance. But that wasn’t the case this year. Nine wins may now be the bar to reach every year to get into the field of 68 — which means you can’t afford to get swept by the Baylors and the TCUs in league play.
3. Get a Trae Young
* rubs hands together *
* loads up hot take cannon *
* fires away *
🗣️ OKLAHOMA WAS NOT WORTHY OF AN NCAA TOURNAMENT AT-LARGE BID!
I’m sorry. I’m usually not on the controversy bandwagon. But there was no way in this beautiful world that TV executives were going to let Trae Young head to the NIT.
Trae Young sells. Sure, his team sucks. And the committee almost certainly realized as much. But a guy being tabbed as the next Stephen Curry was never going to the NIT, even if the Sooners had lost 18 of their last 20.
Shame on anyone who thought the committee was going to keep Trae Young out of the bracket. The NCAA hates a lot of things. Money is not one of them.
— David Ubben (@davidubben) March 11, 2018
Oklahoma apparently needed to lose 20 of their last 15 games to miss the Tournament.
— Mick Shaffer (@mickshaffer) March 11, 2018
Say what you will about OU’s November and December being good (yes, they had a really good November), but that’s little more than a narrative used to fit a square peg through a round hole. Media, TV execs, and the committee wanted Trae Young and OU in the field. So they made it happen.
Best way for OSU to avoid a similar disappointment: Find a player like Trae Young or Marcus Smart — a polarizing figure — who the committee simply can’t afford to send to the NIT.