NEW YORK -- Tulsa was the last team put in the NCAA tournament field of 68. The Golden Hurricane would have been bumped out by fellow American Athletic Conference member Memphis if the Tigers had beaten UConn earlier Sunday in the AAC tournament title game in Orlando, Florida, according to NCAA tournament selection committee chair Joe Castiglione.
If Memphis had won the tournament, VCU would have been in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, and Memphis would have been the automatic qualifier into the general field. VCU is a No. 10 seed in the West and will open against Oregon State on Friday.
Castiglione said Tulsa got in over its competition because of it four top-50 wins. He said the first four teams out of the bracket were St. Bonaventure, Monmouth, South Carolina and San Diego State.
Castiglione said St. Bonaventure didn't make it because of its overall strength of schedule.
Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a statement that the Bonnies' body of work -- including seven wins against top-70 teams, a tie for first in the A-10 and a 29 RPI -- should have been enough.
"It's a tremendous disservice and disappointment to these student-athletes, the SBU nation and the A-10," McGlade said in a statement. She said she will pursue a further explanation from the selection committee.
Castiglione said Monmouth did what the committee wanted in playing a difficult schedule but it had three losses below the 200 line, including one against Canisius.
"That hurt,'' he said.
He cited San Diego State's win against Cal as positive, but said going 2-3 against the top teams in the Mountain West wasn't good enough. Castiglione said the overall lack of quality wins kept Valparaiso out, and he noted that Saint Mary's only top-50 win was against Gonzaga.
Syracuse's inclusion in the field wasn't really a debate. He said the Orange had five top-50 wins, including a win at Duke and neutral-site wins over UConn and Texas A&M in the Bahamas. Castiglione said the extenuating circumstances of not having Jim Boeheim on the sidelines during a nine-game suspension were not a factor.
Oregon was chosen as a No. 1 seed because the Ducks were the regular-season and Pac-12 tournament champs and had one of the best overall strengths of schedule. He said three wins against Utah was also an outstanding chip. But Castiglione said Michigan State was a close fifth No. 1, and that's why the Spartans were put in the same bracket (for the third year in a row, coincidentally) as Virginia, which got the fourth No. 1 seed in the Midwest.
"It was a vigorous debate,'' Castiglione said. "It was just a close call, and the committee felt Michigan State was the fifth overall seed, regardless.''
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Sunday night on ESPN that he questioned how his team could be a No. 4 seed and Texas A&M a No. 3 after the Wildcats beat the Aggies in the SEC tournament title game earlier Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee. Castiglione answered that Kentucky's lower ranking was a result of its losses to teams not in the field (at Auburn, at Tennessee, to Ohio State in Brooklyn and at UCLA).
"We compared and evaluated them against other teams," Castiglione said, "and the committee felt they deserved their place."