South Florida has eight Big East wins heading into Wednesday night’s game against Villanova. At 8-4, the Bulls are in fifth place and one spot ahead of Louisville in the Big East standings.
If USF stays in that position and reaches double-figure league wins, that’ll mean an at-large invite to the NCAA tournament, right?
Not so fast.
NCAA tournament selection committee chair Jeff Hathaway reiterated during a conference call Wednesday that the committee doesn’t look at conference standings or a conference record.
“The bottom line is we review each individual team sheet and each team is an independent,’’ Hathaway said. “We don’t look at conference RPI. We don’t look at what conference teams are affiliated with. We’re looking at the team’s individual merit.’’
That doesn’t bode well for South Florida unless the Bulls get some work done going forward. USF has one win against the top 50 (Seton Hall) and three against the top 100 (Cleveland State and Villanova). That means six of the Bulls’ eight Big East wins so far came against conference teams ranked outside the top 100.
South Florida, which is No. 63 in the NCAA’s official RPI, has plenty of upcoming opportunities to improve its top 100 win total at Pitt (76), at Syracuse (1), Cincinnati (92), at Louisville (20) and West Virginia (41).
“There is no magic number on conference wins, no magic number in any way, shape or form,’’ Hathaway said. “We sit down and evaluate each team sheet and see if they pass the eye-ball test.’’
When asked for his version of the eye-ball test, Hathaway said, “I watch how good teams are and how they compare to another team and look at the statistical indicators and how well they played and execute. The question is, are they a quality team and are they one of the 37 best teams.’’
Hathaway also hit on a number of other issues:
He will have to leave the room when Big East teams are discussed because he’s now a Big East consultant after being fired as Connecticut's athletic director.
Injuries, suspensions and illnesses will all be taken into consideration, but “it’s pretty cut and dry. We look at how [the teams] performed.’’ That means Alabama, Connecticut and others will be judged by the wins and losses and will not be given special consideration due to suspended players.
Wins in November mean as much as wins in February. “A big win is a big win. It’s the total body of work. We’re looking at the entire body of work. The season starts in November and goes all way through the conference tournaments.’’
Hathaway said the Saint Mary’s-Murray State BracketBuster game Saturday is important for both squads. It could be a big win on the road for the Gaels or a quality win for the Racers. “Murray State beating Saint Mary’s isn’t weighted more than Murray State beating Memphis. It’s the full body of work.’’
Hathaway said that the committee continues to be transparent in the process by putting the team sheets online at the NCAA website.
Hathaway said the pool of teams is strong for at-large candidates: “There are more better teams than ever before. It doesn’t mean there is more parity. Frankly, there are a lot of very good basketball teams. And that’s a challenge for the 10 committee members.’’