No team has ever made the NCAA Tournament as an at large selection out of the Ohio Valley Conference. After a home loss to Tennessee State two weeks ago, some basketball experts like Andy Katz questioned whether Murray State, at 23-1, would be good enough to wear that moniker should they lose in the OVC Tournament. A statement like that could be debatable, but that would mean there are two sides to the argument. There aren’t. Murray State is a tournament team, and you can expect them to do very well once March Madness begins.
Perhaps reaching #7 was a bit much for this squad, but I don’t think it was all that far off. Now sitting at #14 in the AP poll, you’d be hard pressed to convince me that teams like Baylor, Florida, Louisville and Wisconsin are better than the Racers. Yet I am fully convinced that when the final brackets are released, each of those teams will be given a higher seed than Murray State. Worst case scenario: The Racers end up in the 7-10 range, defeat an average team like Virginia, and then are stuck facing a Syracuse or Ohio State in round 2 (which would be outstanding games). If this team wins out, they deserve to be a 4-5 and offered the same opportunity for tournament success that many larger, and potentially inferior, schools are offered.
The website Crashing the Dance is a really great site to check out for bracketing. They compare current teams to where teams with similar profiles ended up in past tournaments. They have Murray as a 10 seed and Florida as a 5, borderline 4 seed. Something here is afoot.
When comparing team to team, the committee often looks at a report called the “Nitty Gritty” report. This is basically a cheat sheet for each team with important details. Many of those details involve RPI. Florida is 3-3 vs. the RPI top 50, with wins over teams #18, 25, and 34. Murray State is 3-0 vs. the RPI top 50, with wins over teams #11, 26, and 32. Florida has won 4 games on an opponent’s home floor, and Murray State has won 10. Florida also is 5-0 against RPI 50-100 while Murray State is 1-0. However, Murray State has 1 loss to a team with an RPI over 100. Florida has 3, including a loss at RPI 155 Rutgers.
It’s almost as if Florida is being given extra credit for playing good teams and losing. I’d be willing to argue that Murray State has the more impressive profile. Yet somehow Murray State is projected as a 10 seed and Florida as a 5?? The worst part is that this scenario is more likely than Murray State receiving a higher seed than Florida. But just as they have done all season, you can expect the Racers to keep proving the doubters wrong. The Bracket Busters game against Saint Mary’s was supposed to be a real test. Instead it turned into a coming out party for Isaiah Canaan and a blowout over a top 20 team.
Let the doubters continue to doubt. When the tourney rolls around, and the #5 3-point shooting team in the country catches fire and knocks off a higher seed, I won’t be surprised in the least. I look forward to writing Murray State multiple times in my bracket.