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NCAA Tournament Selection Criteria: Deconstructing the Myth of Murray State

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When we make the case for one team to be the exception to the rule, we should probably look a little longer for what other teams might be in the same boat.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

No one was able to beat them during the conference season, but they won't be representing their conference in the NCAA Tournament. That doesn't seem right.

After you walk through your conference, winning by an average of 17.4 points before losing in the conference tournament, you deserve a better fate than an automatic berth in the NIT. When an 18-2 record from mid-December through Selection Sunday isn't good enough, something's wrong.

The North Carolina Central Eagles deserve better.

Wait, you thought we were talking about someone else?

In the last week, we have had thousands of words dumped on us about how Murray State deserves a bid for its regular season that featured an undefeated conference record. We heard from head coach Steve Prohm. We heard from the talking heads. I am surprised that President Barack Obama has not spoken up on the subject yet. Maybe he will wait until Andy Katz helps him fill in his bracket.

But if you look at the numbers that the committee uses to fill out the field and stock the bracket, Murray State doesn't fit nicely in the box. But still people have advocated for the NCAA to change its selection criteria to add in a team like Murray State.

Some have gone so far as to say that undefeated teams in their conference deserve to get in, even if it is an automatic trip to Dayton.

So if that rule holds for Murray State, it would have to hold for North Carolina Central too.

Others haven't gone as far, but made it clear that being dominant in your conference should be good enough to make it into the field. You beat the teams in your artificial conglomeration of schools that you somewhat identify with in this day and age of rapid conference expansion and realignment, so that should be good enough.

The problem isn't the selection system. We have seen very few teams that truly deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament be sent elsewhere, and those that have been deemed as the snubs never prove it in the NIT.

If you really want to schedule for the NCAA Tournament, it can be done. The Missouri Valley Conference used to do this well. They would set themselves up for success. The Colonial Athletic Association did it one year too. You can game the system without a massive change in your scheduling process.

Murray State almost succeeded at that this season. They just bet on the wrong horses to help boost their resume. There is no fault in that, just some bad luck.

We will be upset we don't see the Racers in the NCAA Tournament, just as we will be upset that Iona isn't there, or Louisiana Tech, who lost in the Conference USA semifinals Friday night.

And we will also be upset that the North Carolina Central Eagles won't be there. LeVelle Moton has built an impressive team within the MEAC.

But just like the Racers, the Eagles' resume doesn't stack up. No good wins, two semi-bad losses, and then the one devastating one against Delaware State on Friday night.

They will be fun in the NIT, and give someone at least a good run for their money before falling.

Just remember though that when we advocate for teams like Murray State, who have done well during the regular season, but not good enough, there are other teams that might meet that arbitrary criteria that we set when making the case for the Racers.

Stephen F. Austin has been 27-1 since Thanksgiving. Albany was 15-1 in conference and 21-2 since Dec. 9. North Carolina was undefeated in its league, just as much as the Kentucky Wildcats were.

Do we make the same case for all of those teams?

Maybe we should start a new hashtag: #EaglesDeserveABid