The Gaels are the fourth team since 1990 to earn that dubious honor.
Saint Mary’s put together one of the finest regular seasons in program history with a 28-5 record that saw them rise as high as 11th in the Associated Press’ top 25 rankings. Despite a stellar performance, the Gaels’ lack of signature wins and an upset loss in their conference tournament ultimately forced them off the NCAA tournament Selection Committee’s final bracket.
The AP still sees them as a worthy team, no matter what the committee thinks.
Saint Mary’s came in 25th in the final AP poll of the season, adding credence to head coach Randy Bennett’s assertion the committee’s new system of drawing teams is stacked against programs in mid-major conferences.
“One hundred percent,” Bennett told ESPN when asked whether the NCAA’s switch to a quadrant system to measure tournament worthiness is hurting mid-majors. “Explain to me how the quadrant system is scored? There’s the problem. I don’t know why they do anything. I will tell you that they won’t tell you how they keep score.”
The Gaels were a top 20 staple before losses to Gonzaga and San Francisco shunted them to the deep end of the poll. A West Coast Conference tournament loss to BYU effectively shut the door on their bracket-busting hopes despite a 16-2 mark in league play.
It’s not the first time a team has earned a spot in the second-to-last AP poll despite failing to earn an invitation to the big dance. History doesn’t bode well for these high-profile snubs in college basketball’s consolation tournament.
SMU finished the 2014 regular season ranked 25th but had to settle for the NIT, where the Mustangs lasted just two games. Utah State went 25-4 in 2003-04 and was ranked 22nd in the pre-tournament poll, then bombed out with an 11-point loss in a first-round NIT matchup with Hawaii. UNLV was ranked 19th in 1992-93 before losing four of its final six games, including a first-round NIT game against USC.
Instead, Saint Mary’s will be one of the four top seeds in this year’s backup bracket. The Gaels host Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday night.