Two bids for the Summit? Kriens says don’t plan on it

Travis Kriens


The SDSU men’s basketball team has been though a lot in the past 10 years. Going from a Division II power to one of the worst teams in Division I to a team that is being recognized nationally on a weekly basis at the highest level of college basketball has given fans plenty to talk about. This team can give people more to talk about in the coming month if it can win the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls at the beginning of March.

What makes a conference tournament for a non-BCS conference so different and exciting is that the only way a team from the conference will make it to the NCAA’s is if they win the tournament. Your season is made or becomes a disappointment over a span of three or four days.

This year the Summit has two teams that are head and shoulders above everyone else: Oral Roberts and SDSU. A possible conference title game on ESPN2 between two teams that will likely have over 50 wins combined has led some people to ask whether or not one of these two teams could get an at-large bid to the NCAA’s (most likely Oral Roberts as the USD loss last week takes SDSU out of the equation). I shake my head at such talk.

To put it simply, the Summit League will never get more than one bid to the NCAA Tournament.

To even suggest it shows a lack of knowledge of how the selection process works.

The perfect example of this is the 2004-05 Oral Roberts team that went 25-7 (13-3 in conference) and had a signature win at Georgetown and an RPI of 50 but lost to seven-seed Oakland in the finals. The biggest problem with ORU is that their strength of schedule was ranked 302 out of 330 teams because of who they played in conference. Based on the RPI, it ranked from 146 (UMKC) to 325 (Centenary) ,and you just can’t have enough strength of schedule to get an at-large bid when half your games are played against teams like that.

The same is true for SDSU and Oral Roberts this season.

Oakland tried to buck this low SOS trend the past few years by having a hellish out-of-conference schedule. They knew they were the best team in the league and could handle the challenge of playing big-time competition in preparation for an NCAA Tournament game. Last season, Oakland played seven BCS schools, with Michigan having the worst RPI at 52. A list that included Ohio State (2), Purdue (12), West Virginia (21), Tennessee (33), Michigan State (45) and Illinois (48) is impressive for a Summit League team, but they went 1-6 in those games with the lone win occurring at Tennessee. It’s nice to play those teams, but if you don’t win any of the games, it doesn’t do a whole lot for the RPI.


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Jill Young drives in the lane against the Coyotes Feb. 13.


Katie Lingle attempts a shot in SDSU’s 59-53 loss to USD Feb. 13.


USD’s Charlie Westbrook blocks Nate Wolters’ shot Feb. 9

Oakland finished last season with an RPI of 53 and an SOS of 142, which is very comparable to ORU this season with an RPI of 46 and an SOS of 158. Oakland received a 13-seed in the tournament. The lowest an at-large selection is selected at is usually a 12-seed, although at-large teams have been seeded at 13 before.

A look at the teams from recent years that were chosen and those that were left out shows some trends in the selection committee’s choices.

2010: Snubbed – Rhode Island (40); IN – Minnesota (62)

2009: Snubbed – San Diego St. (34), Creighton (40); IN – Boston College (60), Arizona (62)

2008: Snubbed – Dayton (30), Illinois St. (37); IN – Oregon (61)

2007: Snubbed – Air Force (29), Missouri St (36), Bradley (39); IN – Stanford (67)

2006: Snubbed – Hofstra (22), Missouri St (24); IN – Alabama (57), Seton Hall (58)

Those snubbed are teams from the Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley and the Colonial — all conferences that have done damage over time in the NCAA Tournament. The Summit League doesn’t carry that aura.

Let’s take a look at the Hofstra résumé from 2006:

RPI: 22, SOS: 129

Record: 24-6 (16-5) (Lost in conference tourney finals)

Top 100 Record: 7-4

Top 50 Record: 3-1

Bad losses: 1 (vs. 223)

While Hofstra in 2006 had all of the good résumé-builders, the SOS is what got them in the end, and allowed teams like Alabama (SOS: 12) to get the nod.

Every team that got snubbed came from a mid-major conference, while those teams that were selected, some with RPI’s 30 to 40 spots worse, came from BCS conferences.

Oral Roberts will likely win out and reach the Summit League final with a 28-5 record and a 4-4 record against the Top 100. A loss in the championship drops them to 28-6 and out of the NCAA Tournament with a spot waiting for them in the NIT.

It won’t get any easier for an at-large in the future with Oral Roberts joining the Southland Conference next season and Nebraska-Omaha on the way to the Summit League.