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Penn State left with questions about being left out of NCAA tournament

Penn State Nittany LionsPrinceton TigersNCAA Men's Division I Basketball TournamentNotre Dame Fighting IrishDenver Pioneers

Straight from the “What else is new” department, Penn State was severely disappointed by the selection committee’s decision to exclude the Nittany Lions from the 16-team NCAA tournament, which was unveiled late Sunday night.

And 12 hours after that news dropped, coach Jeff Tambroni still had questions about his team’s omission.

“Usually, you finish games, and you can pinpoint a couple reasons why you didn’t have success – whether it was faceoffs or groundballs or shooting or defense. As a coach, it was the first time I’ve been in that situation myself,” he said Monday morning. “So it was difficult to kind of wrap our arms around it as a team and move forward. I will say that it’s just tough not knowing everything that went into it. It just seemed a little inconsistent with the teams that got in. I think everyone was deserving. I think there were a number of teams that were left out that were also deserving, but it just seemed very inconsistent with the criteria as to why one team got in based on RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] value and then another team seemed to get in based on strength of schedule and quality wins. That was tough. It was tough to explain to our kids. But none of us were sitting in that room, so I’m sure there are justifiable reasons. It was just very difficult knowing that it was Penn State, our program, that was the one being left out, especially since there wasn’t a strict standard this year.”

Penn State’s resume was very similar to that of Denver’s. According to numbers compiled by Laxpower.com, the teams finished the regular season with similar RPIs (16 for the Nittany Lions and 14 for the Pioneers), strength of schedule (5 for Penn State, 4 for Denver) and quality wins (victories over No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 17 Drexel and No. 19 Ohio State for the Nittany Lions and wins against No. 4 Duke and Penn State for Denver).

The other team that appeared to edge the Nittany Lions for the final at-large berth was Princeton. The Tigers had a better RPI (10), but a weaker strength of schedule (23) just two quality wins against No. 12 Yale and No. 15 Cornell.

The apparent differing use of criteria perturbed Tambroni the most.

“When Denver’s name went on the board as a bubble team, we thought, ‘Geez, that bodes well for us,’ because if you’re talking about strength of schedule, quality wins and a top-five win, we’re just like them,” he said. “But I felt like if their name didn’t go up on the board, that it was more about RPI than all of those criteria about strength of schedule, quality wins and also wins on the road. … When it came to that, I felt like we were in great shape. If not, I thought that Cornell and Fairfield probably had a little bit of an edge in RPI and a little bit of an edge in head-to-head over Denver, and I thought they were probably going to go in with Princeton. I felt like when they went in, there was a split in rationale as to why Princeton went in more RPI-based and why Denver went in. It’s a little bit confusing, but I know that the selection committee is a very complicated process itself.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Penn State Nittany LionsPrinceton TigersNCAA Men's Division I Basketball TournamentNotre Dame Fighting IrishDenver Pioneers
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