After Florida Atlantic punched its ticket to the Final Four I was struck by the announcer saying they had “upset after upset”. While technically these are upsets as a 9 seed, are these actually upsets? After all, this is a team that sits 35-3 now, and I believe there is plenty of proof they were vastly under seeded and disrespected by the NCAA selection committee. Also by the AP and Coaches Polls but less so.
This is a team that was 13th in the NCAA’s own ranking system. NCAA Evaluation Tool or NET. You name your ranking tool and then don’t use it as you should. I respect the NET ranking and I think it’s been an improvement. Anything that takes bias and the “eye test” more out of it I’m for. If you want the average fan to respect your ranking maybe you should lean on it more. It seems to be a lot more accurate and better than where they were actually seeded by the committee. Trust it.
Fellow conference members North Texas and UAB are also in the NIT Final Four adding another layer to this. We had North Texas mocked in the NCAA tournament, and they should have been certainly now in my opinion as well with a number 38 NET ranking. The highest team left out and one of the highest teams ever left out.
I think we all know FAU was a victim in some way of history and stature. If Memphis had the same record and identical metrics like it did in similar CUSA’s of the past does anyone think they are a 9 seed? No, they are a big-time program with tons of fan support, top players, money, and history. This was ultimately under seeding because of the name on the jersey, and it really shouldn’t shock anyone they are in the Final Four when you look at the record and non-bias rankings across the board.
We here at TRN we are guilty too. To be honest with you, I studied this team before the season and while I expect them to get better with the continuity it’s pretty much unprecedented to go from 16-15 vs D1 last year ranked 132nd in NET to this with the same team. We have been skeptical of them all season as a top 13 team as well. There just wasn’t a track record like non-P6 conference teams of the past. Butler for example had two NBA players on their team, including a highly ranked recruiting Gordon Hayward. They had been building towards something like that for a few years, at least their first Final Four appearance. The second one was more like this team, but they had the experience to draw on from the previous season. FAU has gone from nothing to this.
George Mason is the much closer analogs to this FAU team going 16-13 the season before, but they didn’t have rankings like this. They had an RPI 26 half as good by a system that wasn’t as accurate. Both VCU and George Mason felt upset. FAU feels like a legitimate Top 15 team doing what you might expect. It feels more like Butler in their first run the more it has gone on. It’s a pretty amazing feat to go from where they were last year with most of the same team to this, but I think it’s time we all recognize they are this good. They have shown us to us over and over, and it’s time to believe it. This isn’t a Cinderella run.