Billikens should have made tournament

Head men’s basketball coach said it best on Mar. 15: “I don’t want [not making the National Invitational Tournament (NIT)] to diminish the great season the team had, and you can underscore ‘great.’” The coach was voicing his displeasure over the recent snub of the Billikens by the NIT, but raised an excellent point that fans should be certain to take note of: this team did have a great season. Not good, but great.

After watching the great play the Billikens had down the stretch (winning eight of their last 10), it could be easy to forget that this is the youngest team in Div. I basketball, a team without a single upperclassman and a team that was selected to finish 12th in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll. This team brought Saint Louis University back into the postseason conversation, something they hadn’t done since making the 2004 NIT. By any standards, this team deserves to be commended.

But that is what makes the NIT snub so harsh. How does SLU, a team that finished fourth in the A-10, not get a selection, but Rhode Island and Dayton, the fifth and sixth place teams, respectively, do? SLU defeated Dayton twice in regular season and split their match-ups with the University of Rhode Island.

Admittedly, SLU’s rating percentage index (RPI) isn’t as high as one would like it to be. But the RPI argument is irrelevant when teams like North Carolina, North Carolina State and Northwestern University all get bids with worse RPIs than SLU. And the strength of schedule argument hardly holds any weight either when you look at a team like Illinois State, which got an invite to the NIT, but had a non-conference strength of schedule ranked No. 326 in the nation, a full 100 teams behind SLU’s. Illinois St. didn’t schedule one BCS-conference team; SLU faced off against four.

It’s difficult to discern which criteria the NIT used. But its faulty standards don’t matter at this point. It’s a shame, though. The NIT lost out on an exciting team this year, and they will next year too, as the Billikens will be dancing in the NCAAs come next March.