Doug Robinson: Utah State basketball: Selection committee sticks it to USU again

Published: Wednesday, March 16 2011 1:08 a.m. MDT

Tai Wesley and the rest of the Utah State Aggies feel they were given a raw deal — again — in their NCAA seeding.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

An Open Letter to the NCAA Selection Committee:

Dear sirs,

Please direct your attention to the statistical box that accompanies this column. See a trend here? Utah State has earned a dozen NCAA invitations since seeding began — and the best they can get is a 10th seed?

Thanks for nothing.

This year they win 30 of 33 games and they're seeded — what? — 12th.

What are you guys drinking when you do this?

Frankly, the Aggies are developing a complex. If they didn't know better, they'd think you don't like them. What's a team got to do to get a little respect out here?

Win 30 games? Done it, twice in three years.

Win a conference championship? Done it, repeatedly.

Win the conference tournament? Pa-lease.

Win the regular season conference championship AND the postseason tournament? Done it.

A national ranking? Check.

A top-25 RPI ranking? Got it.

Look, this doesn't even include the times when a deserving Utah State didn't get in the tournament at all — in 2004 (25-3) and 2002, 2007 and 2008 (23 and 24 wins).

Here are the numbers for Utah State in 2011: 30-3 record, conference regular-season champion, conference tournament champion, a No. 17 national ranking, an RPI of 15.

Question: What's an unbeaten season get them, a 10th seed and a door prize?

Nobody put it better than ESPN's Pat Forde when he said USU is set up for failure every year by the NCAA, and then when USU loses the committee can say, "See, we told you they aren't that good."

Utah State has won one of its last nine NCAA tournament games — a 2001 upset of Ohio State.

The beauty of the NCAA basketball tournament supposedly is that it is a fair system for determining a national champion. It is considered the ideal format, especially when compared to the system used by college football, which has been hijacked by the BCS and determines a national champion by polls and by stacking the odds against non-BCS conferences.

BCS critics often point to the NCAA basketball tournament as the model and offer it as proof that a postseason tournament is attainable and inherently fairer than the sham BCS method.

The treatment of Utah State's basketball team refutes that notion. The Aggies would be better off if the BCS were in charge of the basketball tournament. At least then they would be given a more defined path to a respectable seed in the postseason. In football, a national ranking, a conference championship, a conference tournament title, a high RPI rating and a sterling won-loss record would probably land them in a big bowl game.

Instead, the basketball selection committee met behind closed doors and decided the brackets and seedings while seeming to ignore some of their own criteria. Utah State ranks 15th in RPI — the Ratings Percentage Index that is used to rank teams based on wins and losses and strength of schedule. Utah State ranks 21st in the latest national poll, another method of determining seeds. Utah State won its conference and conference tournament championships, two more considerations for determining seeds.

Yet they could do no better than a 12th seed. Again.

"It's a slap in the face," said USU star Tai Wesley.

Actually, it's more like a punch in the mouth.

Wesley said the Aggies might as well have lost the tournament championship game. "We'd probably have the same seed," he said.

You should have seen the Aggies' faces when they saw their seeding during Sunday's televised announcement. It looked like someone told them they'd just won a date with their sisters.

How are they supposed to make any sense of this? UNLV was 24-8, finished third in the Mountain West standings and second in the conference tournament and is seeded eighth — while ranking 25th in RPI. Kansas State, the USU's first-round opponent, is 22-10, ranks 23rd in the national polls and placed fourth in the Big 12. The Wildcats are seeded fifth.

The Aggies should have won some respect by now. They've won at least 24 games in each of the last nine seasons. They've produced an 87-14 record in three years, counting the conference tournament. Utah State is also one of just two teams in the nation to win at least 23 games in each of the last 12 seasons (along with Kansas).

USU's victories are devalued by their membership in the WAC, but their RPI ranking says otherwise. Let's face it: 30-3 would be good against air.

Congratulations, selection committee: You've stuck it to the Aggies again.

e-mail: drob@desnews.com

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