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knockoff oakleys UAB's Chad Frazier works against the pressure of RutgersÃ¢ÂÂ Jerome Seagears during a NCAA basketball game at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Rutgers was a bigger nonconference name on the UAB schedule this year, but the Scarlet Knights went 12-21. (Mark Almondemail@example.com)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - The exclusion of an at-large Conference USA team from this year's NCAA Tournament left coaches and officials baffled, but committed to making sure that doesn't happen again.
Tulsa won the league's tournament, getting the automatic bid. However, regular season co-champions Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech were left out of the NCAA Tournament and selected for the NIT.
A fourth co-champion, Middle Tennessee, didn't even get an NIT bid. Southern Miss had an RPI of 33 according to WarrenNolan.com and had 27 wins. Louisiana Tech also had 27 wins. Both finished with 29, making it to the NIT quarterfinals.
Conversely, another mid-major conference in the Atlantic 10, got six teams in the NCAA Tournament. According to WarrenNolan.com, the Atlantic 10's conference RPI ranked sixth, while Conference USA ranked 13th.North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo shoots over UAB's Rod Rucker in the second half at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (Mark Almondfirstname.lastname@example.org)
"When you really compare Conference USA top teams to another mid-major conference that got multiple bids, you'll see that there's a trend there," UAB athletics director Brian Mackin said. "There are not as many top 100 games that Conference USA is playing compared to this other conference (Mackin did not identify the other conference). The number of top 100 wins in and outside of the conference falls short as well.
"We need to model scheduling after some of the other mid-major conferences that have multiple bids from an at-large standpoint."
Next year, UAB currently has road games scheduled at Troy, Chattanooga and North Carolina, a home game against LSU and three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament against a combination of Florida, UCLA, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Butler and Oklahoma.
Mackin said there will be 18 Conference USA games on the schedule as the league will have 14 basketball teams next year. Factor those numbers in and UAB has around five games left to finalize for the regular season.
"It is alarming to me that we have teams with 27 wins and conference champions and don't get in the tournament," UAB men's basketball head coach Jerod Haase said. "You have teams that win our conference, regular season title, that don't get invited to the NIT or NCAA. That's alarming.
"What is going to be the formula to get into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team and is there a formula? Obviously, if you play an unbelievably tough schedule and win every game, you have a great chance to do it. The scheduling piece has been something that's been talked about a lot within my staff and within the administration. We've got to try to put the best schedule together for our team. That's a conversation that could go on for days as far as what's best and how you manipulate it."
Haase and Mackin understand that fans would like to see teams from major conferences come to Bartow Arena. That's easier said than done, as Haase noted reading comments from Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall, who fights the same battle.
"It's not easy just to get games," Haase said. "Everybody here would love to see all these BCS teams to come in here and play. I would too. It takes two to tango and we can call everybody and say, 'Hey, come on down and play in Bartow,' but there has to be willingness (on their part) as well."
Mackin acknowledged that it is difficult to get home-and-home agreements with teams from power conferences. The test then is to play road games or in neutral-site tournaments. Scheduling is also tough a year in advance because it's unknown how a team will perform. that unfolded after Rutgers' 2012-13 season, causing the ouster of coach Mike Rice and several transfers out of the program?
Mackin said that future league schedules will be subject to review from the conference office.
"The league is committed to improving our RPI," Mackin said. "We have to go through the league's office, a conference representative, to make sure every game we schedule that the conference looks at that and approves that.
"Starting this next year, if you don't adhere to that, there will be a penalty. Revenue will be taken away. I think the conference is very committed to improving our RPI and I think the teams in this league are committed. We feel very strong that everybody wants to be in this conference. It's a good feeling that everybody wants to improve it and it's a very positive outlook."
Mackin also said UAB and Memphis could resume its rivalry, but it may not begin until 2015-16. Memphis jumped from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference last summer.
"I have reached out to the athletics director at Memphis," Mackin said. "There is a mutual interest in playing a home and home with each other. Right now I've reached out to him in looking at the '15-16 schedule."
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