Let's assume for a moment that we have 36 of the 37 at-large teams chosen for the tournament field and there is just one team left to select. Below there will be four resumes, but no team names attached to them. You decide which of these four teams should get a bid, and at the bottom click the "read more" link to reveal the teams.
Record vs RPI top 50: 0-2
Record vs RPI top 100: 2-3
Wins vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): vs #48
Record vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): 1-2
Losses to RPI 100+: 2
Non-Con Strength of Schedule: 12
Road/Neutral Record: 13-5
Record vs RPI top 50: 1-3
Record vs RPI top 100: 6-4
Wins vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): vs #34
Record vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): 1-3
Losses to RPI 100+: 2
Non-Con Strength of Schedule: 122
Road/Neutral Record: 11-5
Record vs RPI top 50: 4-2
Record vs RPI top 100: 8-3
Wins vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): vs #1, vs #36, vs #42, @ #14, vs 50
Record vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): 5-3
Losses to RPI 100+: 7
Non-Con Strength of Schedule: 303
Road/Neutral Record: 3-9
Record vs RPI top 50: 2-10
Record vs RPI top 100: 5-10
Wins vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): vs #5, vs #15, @ #44
Record vs teams under consideration (by S-Curve ranking): 3-10
Losses to RPI 100+: 3
Non-Con Strength of Schedule: 43
Road/Neutral Record: 6-8
Team A: Middle Tennessee State
Team B: St. Mary's
Team C: Virginia
Team D: Baylor
So who did you choose? Were any of these teams a clearly head and shoulders above the others? This is only to demonstrate that A) All of these resumes are ugly and B) St. Mary's is not the slam dunk that a lot of people say they are. Does one win at home against Creighton make you a tournament team? Is that one "signature" win really that much better than Middle Tennessee's win against Ole Miss? The only reason they have more top 100 wins is because they played in a conference that wasn't terrible (but not good either). Contrast that with the Blue Raiders, who didn't face an RPI top 100 team after Christmas. Should MTSU be penalized for that?
If we're looking at Virginia's top 100 RPI games only, they would be a lock for the tournament. In fact, they'd be a lock for a top 6 seed. They have a couple of good wins out of conference, but their overall non-conference strength of schedule was awful. Not to mention they had countless terrible losses and no team with more than seven losses to RPI 100+ teams has ever been selected for an at-large. Baylor has a few very strong wins, but it's impossible to deny they only benefited from getting a ton of opportunities in conference play (and rarely came out victorious). Their out of conference SOS was good, but the only thing of note that got out of it was one solid win at Kentucky.
The last spot or two is going to be tough to figure out. Remember that the selection committee is made up of ten different members, five from major conferences and five from mid-majors. There will surely be some members who go to bat for the Blue Raiders, but will they get enough votes to get on the final at-large board? It's doubtful, but not out of the question. I think St. Mary's is going to have a much more difficult time than people realize. If they get selected, they'll probably squeak by as the very last team with just enough votes to get in. The same goes for Baylor and Virginia barring a deep run in their conference tournament.
Growing up outside of Richmond, Virginia in the heart of ACC Country, college hoops was set into the fabric of Rusty Tutton at an early age. A 2008 graduate of VCU, he lives in the Fan District of Richmond and works full-time in higher education.