Selection Monday was not kind to the West region. For the second year in a row, the selection committee did the West no favors.
A year after there being no Western regional hosts, the bubble shrank with some conference tournament bid stealing and then the West Coast nearly fell off of it completely with only Arizona, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA receiving at-large bids on Monday — and UCLA was surprisingly one of the last four teams in the tournament. (Stanford and Long Beach State had already been named regional hosts Sunday night).
The committee chose to stick with RPI being a primary determiner for its analysis even though the tool struggles to adequately show the value of West teams because of the way it is configured to weigh not only the team in question but a team’s opponent and opponent’s opponents. With fewer teams in the West, teams inevitably end up playing each other more and therefore the RPI is pulled down from the top and brought up at the bottom. It’s part of the reason why the selection committee has often selected Western teams with RPIs a bit lower than other regions of the country.
With the committee focusing on the RPI this year, the bubble wasn’t kind to the West and particularly the West Coast Conference. The WCC featured five regional-caliber teams, each featuring 20 or fewer losses. Three teams tied for the conference title, finishing with 20-7 league records and Saint Mary’s bested San Diego on a tiebreaker to make the WCC Tournament with an 18-9 conference mark. Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount both felt if they made the WCC tournament championship round, they would have done enough for an at-large berth.
Gonzaga made the tournament championship, but didn’t hear its name called Monday morning. Even with a 49 RPI and a 17-15 top 100 mark, the Bulldogs sat waiting for an announcement that didn’t occur.