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Lost amid the NCAA tournament selection snubs and seeding controversy was the release of the NIT bracket -- and the omission of a team that just a few short weeks ago believed it was being considered for inclusion in the field of 68.
Baylor didn't get an NIT invitation and chose not to play in the CBI, which has only one team from a power six conference in the field (Oregon).
The Bears went from an Elite Eight appearance last season to nothing this postseason.
|Despite high preseason expectations, Scott Drew and Baylor are shut out of the postseason.|
The season, which started with LaceDarius Dunn being suspended for an alleged altercation with his girlfriend, ended with star freshman forward Perry Jones III being ruled ineligible for accepting extra benefits from his AAU coach while he was a high school player.
"This is definitely not how we wanted the season to end,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The Bears were so confident that they could be a Final Four team that they used last season's Reliant Stadium court, the one that they played on during the Elite Eight, as a replacement floor in their practice facility earlier in the offseason.
But Baylor failed in high-profile opportunities in the nonconference, losing to Gonzaga in Dallas and Washington State and Florida State in the Diamond Head Classic in December. That put even more pressure on it to perform well in the Big 12. Yet, in each big game -- home versus Kansas, at Kansas State, at Missouri -- the Bears lost. The Bears' only hope was for the committee to look at their sweep of Texas A&M as a positive.
And then Jones was ruled technically ineligible by Baylor (the school has to do that and then the NCAA can reinstate), and the Bears collapsed in the Big 12 tournament with an 84-67 loss to Oklahoma -- which turned out to be Jeff Capel's last win as OU coach before the Sooners fired him Monday.
Baylor finished 7-9 in the Big 12, 18-13 overall and has zilch to show for its efforts.
Drew said the team practiced Sunday and after practice he told his players that there was a chance they may not get selected to the NIT.
Jones' appeal is being heard this week. It probably won't matter because he should be a top-five pick in the NBA draft, but Drew said no decision has been made by the family.
C.M. Newton, the chair of the NIT committee, said that Jones' situation was discussed, but it wasn't the deciding factor in omitting the Bears from the field. The problem for the NIT, and the reason teams like Arkansas, Mississippi State or Maryland weren't invited either, was due to the 13 automatic qualifiers that were thrust into the 32-team field. That happened because those 13 teams won the regular-season championships in their conferences but didn't win their conference tournaments.
Colorado's exclusion from the NCAA tournament put the Buffaloes in front of Baylor in the NIT. The profiles of Nebraska and Oklahoma State were also chosen ahead of the Bears based on numbers and quality wins.
The Big 12 assumed that Colorado would get into the NCAA field, but once the Buffaloes were out, the conference knew that Baylor could be in trouble for an NIT berth, according to Big 12 associate commissioner John Underwood.
The NIT committee is made up of former basketball coaches who became administrators in some form -- Newton, Rudy Davalos, Carroll Williams, Les Robinson, Bob Weltlich, Reggie Minton, Don DeVoe and Jack Powers. Newton sees no issue in the makeup of his committee or that of the NCAA tournament selection committee, of which he was once the chair and a member for seven years.
"My experience is that the bias is checked at the door when you select teams,'' Newton said. "And there are basketball people on there.''
All NCAA championship committees are made up of administrators from conferences whether they're athletic directors or conference commissioners.
The NIT is owned by the NCAA but operates separately. Former chairs have been one-time coaches like Princeton's Gary Walters and Virginia's Craig Littlepage.