Cuonzo Martin baffled by Vols' NCAA tournament snub

Martin: SEC needs to be smarter about scheduling

Brushing aside a hangover of disappointment, Cuonzo Martin eyed the future. “What are we not doing that those leagues are doing?” the Tennessee coach asked Monday morning. “That’s the question we have to answer.”

Hunting to understand Tennessee’s exclusion from the NCAA tournament, Martin spoke with a guarded tone, but had plenty to say. The Vols (20-12) are heading to a second straight National Invitational Tournament and he’d like to know why.

“I wish I knew,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I would say a lack of respect more than anything. When you have a second-place team at this level (Kentucky and Alabama finished second in the SEC and will join UT in the NIT), it’s almost like a mid-major mentality in this league. When your second-place team doesn’t get in the NCAA tournament — this is a BCS league, it’s one of the best league’s in the country — that just shouldn’t happen.”

Of the other power conferences, the Big East earned the most bids with eight, followed by the Big Ten (seven), Big 12 (five), Pac-12 (five) and Atlantic Coast Conference (four).

The Mountain West and Atlantic 10, perceived mid-major conferences, earned five bids apiece.

Dissecting the SEC, a league that added two teams and saw its tournament bids drop from five to three, Martin voiced concern over non-conference scheduling. Five of the league’s 14 teams finished a with non-conference strength of schedule rated worse than 200 — LSU (233), Ole Miss (277), Auburn (293), Mississippi State (300) and South Carolina (321).

The Big Ten had just three programs finish 200 or higher.

A team’s non-conference strength of schedule directly impacts its RPI, which indirectly impacts the RPI of every opponent.

Martin gave the gaudy numbers posted by LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina a free pass, noting that each program is led by a first-year coach looking to rebuild.

He then unsheathed this response to a question on SEC scheduling, “At the rate we’re going, if we don’t get it corrected, in some way shape or form, you’re looking at three or four different new guys (coaches) at somebody’s school every year.

“Something has to give,” he continued. “It’s about a league at the end of the day.”

This year’s NCAA tournament is just the second since 1990 to include less than four SEC teams.

“There is no way in the world that this league, with this caliber of talent … you’re only getting three teams in the NCAA tournament?” Martin said. “Shouldn’t happen.”

“When you look at Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky,” he added, “those are NCAA tournament teams; they’re just not playing in the NCAA tournament.”

But Middle Tennessee State (RPI 28, SOS 129), La Salle (46, 77), St. Mary’s (29, 96) and Boise State (41, 53) are playing.

Tennessee (59, 58), meanwhile, is a No. 2 seed in the NIT and host seventh-seeded Mercer (23-11) on Wednesday (TV: ESPNU, 8 p.m.) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols are appearing in their second straight NIT.

“I’m not angry,” he said. “I’m upset for our guys.”

Alabama and Kentucky, which both finished tied for second in the conference with Ole Miss, SEC tournament champions and a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament field, join the Vols in the NIT bracket.

No team finishing in second in the regular season from a BCS league aside from the SEC was seeded lower than eighth in the NCAA tournament.

Prior to conference play, the SEC went 3-16 against ranked opponents. It finished 15-33 against other major conferences.

“But at the end of the day, you started out of the gates down, but you finished strong,” Martin said. “So you reward teams for how they finish and their body of work. I used to hear ‘body of work’ and ‘the last 10 games.’ I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“There should be a level of consistency. What is the criteria? One year it’s the RPI. One year it’s the strength of schedule. I just think what it comes down to is, what’s beneficial at that time? You can make a case for a team that you want in the tournament and for a team I don’t want in the tournament, I can make a different case. That happens.”

Martin also addressed a much-discussed post-selection show interview featuring Mike Bobinski, the chair of the NCAA tournament selection committee. The Xavier athletic director said UT’s 9-2 finish to the season didn’t include wins over “a lot of very powerful teams” and that the Vols “struggled to win on the road over the course of the year,”

“I didn’t think it was accurate, if that was the case,” Martin said. “I thought he was talking fast, but I didn’t think it was accurate.”

Regarding changes to SEC scheduling, Martin said it will need to be addressed during May’s league meetings in Destin, Fla.

“I don’t know if the perception will change,” he said. “I think there are some things we have to look at as a league.”

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 164

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Yeah, SEC...
why did you not politely decline the NIT??

a quiet, firm rebuke to the Selection Committee process.

as it is now, it simply looks as though the SEC agrees with the Selection committee as it meekly accepts the NIT bids.

iadvol writes:

of course your going to accept a NIT invitation..more practice and tv appearances alone make this a given..sheesh

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Yeah, SEC...
why did you not politely decline the NIT??

a quiet, firm rebuke to the Selection Committee process.

as it is now, it simply looks as though the SEC agrees with the Selection committee as it meekly accepts the NIT bids.

Well, it's not the NIT's fault the SEC got snubbed..They are by far a better tourney than sitting at home in protest..I will agree that if UT doesn't show up why bother to accept..They need to be playing with a chip on their shoulder and after St Mary's or MTSU gets knocked out prove they were the better team by making it to NY.

DC82_Vol writes:

If the Vols BB team does not win, then they prove the selection committee was right in us not being selected.

Man up, play ball and move on. Win more games and this is not an issue.

BrassMonkey writes:

It is pretty simple really. When Martin decides to coach the team in November, December, and January we will have a shot at the big boy tourney. Until then we will have to rely on a "too little, too late" rally in February. Then we will peter out in March and ruin our chances early in the SEC tourney. Just like we did last year against Ole Miss. Look for a 1st or 2nd round NIT flame out. We are actually lucky MTSU made the big dance, because we would have been embarrassed by them again this year in the NITs.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

It is pretty simple really. When Martin decides to coach the team in November, December, and January we will have a shot at the big boy tourney. Until then we will have to rely on a "too little, too late" rally in February. Then we will peter out in March and ruin our chances early in the SEC tourney. Just like we did last year against Ole Miss. Look for a 1st or 2nd round NIT flame out. We are actually lucky MTSU made the big dance, because we would have been embarrassed by them again this year in the NITs.

Einstein, if MTSU were invited to the NIT UT would be dancing in the big tourney..

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

yeah, you boys are probably right.

I am from an era where you took a stand when you disagreed with the process at hand. Sometimes that stand could be tough on you.

As I look around, I don't much see people doing that much.

My apologies, carry on.

The1 writes:

NIT is where TN can be competitive right now....what good does a 1st round beat down in the NCAA tourney do?

Disgruntled_the_Elf writes:

Don't know why he is so baffled! Beat Bama and don't loose to GA twice and you're in. In other words...TCB!

etu_vol_fan writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Yeah, SEC...
why did you not politely decline the NIT??

a quiet, firm rebuke to the Selection Committee process.

as it is now, it simply looks as though the SEC agrees with the Selection committee as it meekly accepts the NIT bids.

Go and get the experience in the NIT. Fact of the matter is UT did not take care of business. They got beat 2 times by a woeful UGA team and got swept by a subpar Ole Miss team. Even a Georgetown win could have helped the cause.

golfman1975 writes:

In listening to the NCAA explanation he actually said we had no quality wins to speak of which is
somewhat interesting. Florida, Kentucky, Wichita St, UMass, Xavier...some of them in the tournament. Then there was LaSalle, Middle Tn, and Boise St?

bUTch_please writes:

I'm not lined up with the lack of SEC respect alibi. Gotta say, if our ability to get to the dance is dependent upon AU or SC failing to schedule strong non-conference games.. well.. can't get on that train. Yes. I know. It's part of the formula. But still.. not hopping on that train.

The team had a solid non-conference schedule. Point is.. not good enough to just schedule.. got to beat 'em. Would we be in if we had beat Oklahoma St? Georgetown? Memphis? 2 outta 3 of those games and we wouldn't be sitting around here poor mouthing the selection committee's criteria.

If the Final Four includes Florida, Ole Miss and Mizzou...and we win the NIT.. we might have a gripe.. till then..

Zo VOLS!

RoadTrip writes:

Agree that Zo didn't change his game plan and style to fit his players soon enough this season. He also has not recruited a good PG in his first two recruiting periods. The UTAD has scheduled poorly for him - not keeping up with the trends and push toward mid-majors by the NCAA when their intentions have been in the press for years.

Zo - go play the NIT, work hard and get better; especially you and your staff. Recruit another PG and tell Golden to get it together in the off-season or be prepared to sit his senior year. Then take a class in assertiveness and communication because the league office and officials don't care what you think in the rare instances you actually express some emotion and passion.

Dave Hart if you care about UT basketball at all - fix the schedule. Mid-major and down cubcakes on the road with just a couple of good OOC's at home. There is no secret in this. They need to win 25+ games against whoever - it really doesn't matter. Because the stat system is skewed toward mid-majors and the Big 10. by winning against crappy teams that play in those conferences you get the wins against higher stat making teams.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to iadvol:

of course your going to accept a NIT invitation..more practice and tv appearances alone make this a given..sheesh

TV? What TV appearances? I'm back to watching them on the crappy, stuttering, pixelated, still-loading ESPN3.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

TV? What TV appearances? I'm back to watching them on the crappy, stuttering, pixelated, still-loading ESPN3.

Sorry, missed the ESPNU announcement. Still, not HDTV, though.

ReeseHallRelic writes:

The NCAA Selection Committee has nothing to do with the NIT, so "protesting" the NCAA decision by boycotting the NIT is applea and, errrr, oranges and would be pointless.

Then again, reading some of your commentaries on Coach Martin, it seems like you're kind of used to being pointless, no?

CoverOrange writes:

in response to ReeseHallRelic:

The NCAA Selection Committee has nothing to do with the NIT, so "protesting" the NCAA decision by boycotting the NIT is applea and, errrr, oranges and would be pointless.

Then again, reading some of your commentaries on Coach Martin, it seems like you're kind of used to being pointless, no?

The NCAA owns the NIT.

FWBVol writes:

As someone else pointed out on a story last night, Louisville loses seven of their last 11 games and makes the tournament and Tennessee wins nine of their last 11 and doesn't make the tournament...something is wrong with that picture.

The committee has supposedly always put an emphasis on how well a team is playing at the end of the season, but that doesn't hold water with Louisville in and Tennessee out.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to ReeseHallRelic:

The NCAA Selection Committee has nothing to do with the NIT, so "protesting" the NCAA decision by boycotting the NIT is applea and, errrr, oranges and would be pointless.

Then again, reading some of your commentaries on Coach Martin, it seems like you're kind of used to being pointless, no?

@reese
The only way to make a "point" with you is to drive a nail into your head.

iadvol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Sorry, missed the ESPNU announcement. Still, not HDTV, though.

My ESPNU is in crystal clear HD baby!!

oldbasshead writes:

Coach Martin, my suggestion would be to not be on the bubble. Win more games, get your team prepare and motivated and you won't be left out. Go ask Coach Pearl or Coach Warlick what you need to do because you are not getting it done doing what you are doing.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

The NCAA owns the NIT.

@cover
don't waste your time.

there are a lot of people who don't "get" the idea of symbolic protests.

Just keep'em filled with soma.

Big_Orange_Aide writes:

You can say all the negative things you want about Martin; however, I believe he has a point. Tennessee did lose some games they had no business losing to, but they won quite a few that should have secured them getting into the Big Dance. There is a prejudice against the SEC in basketball. It would serve each SEC school and more fans of SEC schools to do more complaining about this selection process. Other coaches need to speak up like Martin is doing now to help the cause.

oldbasshead writes:

Coach Martin, my suggestion would be to not be on the bubble. Win more games early, get your team prepare and motivated and you won't be left out. Go ask Coach Pearl or Coach Warlick what you need to do because you are not getting it done doing what you are doing.

oldbasshead writes:

The SEC was very average this year and UT was not even at the top of that mess. Part of the problem is that Coach Martin doesn't have the players attention. Just last week Stokes said, "I didn't realize how important rebounding was...". How does that happen?

PUL4VOLS writes:

I love Coach Martin and what he has brought to a down in the dumps Vol program but he should not be so surprised at the snub from the NCAA selection committee. First off, the envy of SEC football is all over the nation and bleeds into other sports. But...the Vols should not have lost to Georgia late, then play a lackluster SEC tourney game against Alabama. With the roll they were on, one would think they could have taken anyone after all those wins in a row. So now, go make noise in the NIT and come back stronger next year. It is a shame some of the teams chosen but hey it is not our choice. Life moves on. GO BIG ORANGE beat Mercer.

MurfVol77 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

As someone else pointed out on a story last night, Louisville loses seven of their last 11 games and makes the tournament and Tennessee wins nine of their last 11 and doesn't make the tournament...something is wrong with that picture.

The committee has supposedly always put an emphasis on how well a team is playing at the end of the season, but that doesn't hold water with Louisville in and Tennessee out.

ummm....Louisville has won 10 straight

thevoice writes:

Is it football season yet? NIT = Pilate Rockey Top League.

pcorange writes:

Instead of feeling sorry for themselves and thinking they are better than an NIT bid, they need to go out and win the NIT. Show the country that UT was good enough to be in the big dance after all. If they go out and get put out in the first or second round of the NIT, then it will just prove the NCAA selections committee had it right in the first place. The reality is that UT should have beaten Alabama in the SEC tournament and we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

tennrich1 writes:

Not defending getting in or not getting in but I think we can all agree that the tourney has turned into something different than it was origianlly intended...the best 64 teams(with play ins) never feature the BEST 64 teams...NEVER...and when u look at the seating its kinda a regional preseason type mentality with the committee now...TV monies....and you have(not slamming here just making a case) Memphis team who hasnt beaten a top 30 RPI all year, hasnt beaten a ranked team in four years, played in without a doubt the weakest conference in the country and gets a 6 seed, well its just hard to explain that...now I think Memphis should have gone but NO higher than say a 9 or 10 seed...one just cant make the agruement for anything higher...and I pull for Memphis when they're not playing the Vols...Should we have gotten in?"?Well a LOT of pundits who know a LOT more than I do think so...but alas, its the same story year after year...had CBP been the coach...well maybe we could have gotten the nod...until CCM gets a little more time under his belt we may be in the same boat again...Just my thoughts...

johnlg00 writes:

in response to golfman1975:

In listening to the NCAA explanation he actually said we had no quality wins to speak of which is
somewhat interesting. Florida, Kentucky, Wichita St, UMass, Xavier...some of them in the tournament. Then there was LaSalle, Middle Tn, and Boise St?

As to that, I would say only that with all the millions of words and billions of pixels expended on NCAA selection talk, it is almost inevitable that SOMEBODY might mis-speak occasionally. None of the ones doing the talking were in the room where the decisions were made. Consensus among the commentators I heard the most was that UT was perhaps the best of the teams that didn't get in, and several of them mentioned the teams you named that maybe shouldn't have beaten the Vols out, but you just can't leave borderline decisions to a roomful of basically unaccountable people the way the Vols did.

Millisa writes:

If The Vols ( Men) played more like the Lady Vols (Women) they'd do better IMO

johnlg00 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

As someone else pointed out on a story last night, Louisville loses seven of their last 11 games and makes the tournament and Tennessee wins nine of their last 11 and doesn't make the tournament...something is wrong with that picture.

The committee has supposedly always put an emphasis on how well a team is playing at the end of the season, but that doesn't hold water with Louisville in and Tennessee out.

Louisville won their conference tournament--decisively. UT lost in the second game of their much weaker conference tournament--decisively. 'Nuff said.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Millisa:

If The Vols ( Men) played more like the Lady Vols (Women) they'd do better IMO

They did play as sloppy as the LV's and that's why they got ousted in the SEC tourney, IMO..

JDX64 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

As someone else pointed out on a story last night, Louisville loses seven of their last 11 games and makes the tournament and Tennessee wins nine of their last 11 and doesn't make the tournament...something is wrong with that picture.

The committee has supposedly always put an emphasis on how well a team is playing at the end of the season, but that doesn't hold water with Louisville in and Tennessee out.

I think you are mistaken on this one. You are suggesting that Louisville shouldn't be in the tourney? Louisville is the NUMBER 1 SEED overall in the tourney. Why in the world would you compare TN and Louisville?

Louisville won their last 10 in a row and 14 of their last 15.

I wished we would have gotten in, but with their hot/cold streaks we would have bounced early. And Heaven forbid we play Louisville!!!

cobragolfer writes:

Hey Martin ... save your crying for when Mercer puts you OUT of the NIT. Just take the consequences for not having a worthy team and be quiet.

oldbasshead writes:

Let's not forget about the Lady Vols. I'm hoping they can make the Elite Eight this year to setup an appearance in the Final Four next year. 6-6, McDonald's All American, Mercedes Russell should fit nicely with Harrison and Graves inside next year. 5-11, McDonalds All American guard, Jordan Reynolds will help replace Spanni's offense.

tomatosoup writes:

I think if we "work like heck" we've got a chance to go far in the NIT! No, it's not the big dance but I'm going to pretend it's dance lessons for next years prom...go Vols!

tomatosoup writes:

in response to tomatosoup:

I think if we "work like heck" we've got a chance to go far in the NIT! No, it's not the big dance but I'm going to pretend it's dance lessons for next years prom...go Vols!

Sorry Vol Nation....I re-read my earlier post and it doesn't even make sense to me? Let's just do well in the NIT!! Who knows, I'm thinking that if we do advance pretty far in the NIT, maybe we'll start next season in the Top 25!!! Go Vooooooools! Beat Mercer State!

movinonup writes:

Time to quit being baffled and get to work on the next game---it's Mercer, it's NIT----Let's win this game. To put the Kitties out in the semis and win the NIT would make a nice start to next season, which I still think is going to be our year....and yes, maybe I am drinking Kool-aid.....VFL

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Yeah, SEC...
why did you not politely decline the NIT??

a quiet, firm rebuke to the Selection Committee process.

as it is now, it simply looks as though the SEC agrees with the Selection committee as it meekly accepts the NIT bids.

You are apparently under the misguided notion that the SEC or UT cares about symbolism or moral victories.

The only symbol they care about is green(as in money) and an NIT appearance and more television time will put more in their coffers.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to tennrich1:

Not defending getting in or not getting in but I think we can all agree that the tourney has turned into something different than it was origianlly intended...the best 64 teams(with play ins) never feature the BEST 64 teams...NEVER...and when u look at the seating its kinda a regional preseason type mentality with the committee now...TV monies....and you have(not slamming here just making a case) Memphis team who hasnt beaten a top 30 RPI all year, hasnt beaten a ranked team in four years, played in without a doubt the weakest conference in the country and gets a 6 seed, well its just hard to explain that...now I think Memphis should have gone but NO higher than say a 9 or 10 seed...one just cant make the agruement for anything higher...and I pull for Memphis when they're not playing the Vols...Should we have gotten in?"?Well a LOT of pundits who know a LOT more than I do think so...but alas, its the same story year after year...had CBP been the coach...well maybe we could have gotten the nod...until CCM gets a little more time under his belt we may be in the same boat again...Just my thoughts...

Good post tennrich

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to JonGrudensAgent:

You are apparently under the misguided notion that the SEC or UT cares about symbolism or moral victories.

The only symbol they care about is green(as in money) and an NIT appearance and more television time will put more in their coffers.

ha, yeah, you got me there, and I believe you are totally correct.

Best rebuke I've gotten today.

wilk58 writes:

in response to JDX64:

I think you are mistaken on this one. You are suggesting that Louisville shouldn't be in the tourney? Louisville is the NUMBER 1 SEED overall in the tourney. Why in the world would you compare TN and Louisville?

Louisville won their last 10 in a row and 14 of their last 15.

I wished we would have gotten in, but with their hot/cold streaks we would have bounced early. And Heaven forbid we play Louisville!!!

I think he meant Cincy. I know Louisville didn't lose 7 of last 11

StoneJackBaller writes:

Hell yes!!! We made the NIT!! Let's win this thing.

-Things you never hear anyone say

cdamna1 writes:

For everyone who thinks the Vols should be in the Big Dance, that would mean that Alabama should at least be there too. I certainly don't understand the seeding (how is Oregon a 12 seed and UCLA a 6 when Oregon beat UCLA twice and won the Pac 12 tourny?) or the selection process (Florida Gulf Coast??). But it is what it is these days....all about $$.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Look, between Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi you lost 6 out of 7. And you gave another game or two away at the foul line. And there were times you should have been in zone when you were getting slashed to death or couldn't handle ball screens for some reason. It adds up, Cuonzo. I'm sorry, but your team didn't look well coached against Alabama. It was hard to watch. Now if your players don't want to play in the NIT you shouldn't accept their invitation. It's not their fault. Please don't go into it and lay down like you did last year.

Snapshot writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Sorry, missed the ESPNU announcement. Still, not HDTV, though.

What do you mean, my ESPNU is HD.

tomkats3242 writes:

in response to The1:

NIT is where TN can be competitive right now....what good does a 1st round beat down in the NCAA tourney do?

TN is not good enough to play in the NIT. They will get there and the country will know that we do NOT have a good group of players. I don't think this group can compete in any league right now. IT don't look any better for next year. YOU cannot get one good player to play with also rans and compete in the SEC. The Vols need quality players, not a bunch of also ran players. Mr. Hart needs to start the process now if he expects to find a good coach by next year. Thank goodness football is just a short period away. GBO

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to tomkats3242:

TN is not good enough to play in the NIT. They will get there and the country will know that we do NOT have a good group of players. I don't think this group can compete in any league right now. IT don't look any better for next year. YOU cannot get one good player to play with also rans and compete in the SEC. The Vols need quality players, not a bunch of also ran players. Mr. Hart needs to start the process now if he expects to find a good coach by next year. Thank goodness football is just a short period away. GBO

You must be from Haywood County; And I mean that in a negative way.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features