Snubbed: Revisiting the 2015 NCAA Tournament and why the Rams missed the cut
March Madness is in full swing and for a sixth consecutive year, Colorado State fans didn’t get an opportunity to see their team compete in the NCAA Tournament.
Since the 8-seeded Rams lost to the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the 2013 tournament, CSU has really only even come close to a bid twice - the first was in 2014-15 when the Rams went 27-7 but still ended up getting snubbed - and the other was in 2016-17 when Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo led CSU to the Mountain West Tournament Championship Game.
While the “Magnificent Seven” took fans on an exciting run in the spring of 2017, the 2015 snub was definitely a bigger deal, as it’s still viewed as one of the most egregious snubs in recent memory.
In an article published by Austin Walther of Fansided, the 2015 Rams were tabbed the second biggest tournament snub since 2000. CSU finished the season with the No. 38 RPI in the nation and went 13-5 in league play. Despite having a great year and seeing three MW teams qualify for 64-team field, CSU players had to watch March Madness from the couch.
So, why didn’t CSU get a bid to the NCAA Tournament?
While there are a variety of reasons we could dive into, CSU getting snubbed really comes down to three factors: 1. The selection committee didn’t care about RPI, 2. CSU played an extremely poor non-conference slate, and 3. the Rams lost to Wyoming twice.
Pt. 1: Where’s the beef?
Despite being one of the more common metrics used by bracketologists, the legitimacy of RPI has always been highly debatable, and in 2015, the tournament selection committee moved away from emphasizing it. Without RPI to fall back on, people looked at the No. 116 strength of schedule and questioned whether a 14-0 start in non-conference play was really all that impressive.
The Rams did beat two tournament teams - Georgia State and New Mexico State. Other than that, CSU beat one Power 5 team - an extremely mediocre Colorado squad that barely finished .500.
In conference play, CSU started strong with a 71-65 victory over Boise State. The Broncos (25-9) started 0-3 against MW opponents that season, before closing with a 15-1 stretch to secure one half of a regular season league title. During the winning streak, BSU defeated the Rams, 72-68 at Taco Bell Arena in the second matchup between the teams.
Along with Boise State, San Diego State (27-9) secured the other half of the league title, and split the season series against the Rams as well. Other than a single loss to both BSU and SDSU, the Rams dropped two games to the Cowboys and lost to New Mexico at the Pit. In total, CSU went 13-5 in the league play and closed out the regular season by winning seven of eight games.
With a 2-2 record against the co-conference champions, both of which were tournament teams, CSU’s argument for the NCAA Tournament was still pretty strong after the regular season. The only team in the league that CSU didn’t beat at least once was a 25-win Wyoming squad led by Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Adams. Not to mention the MW was stronger than it had been in multiple years and the Rams did finish non-conference play undefeated - even if the slate wasn’t very difficult.
An appearance in the MW Tournament Championship Game almost certainly would have helped people forget about the Rams’ poor SOS. and potentially pushed CSU into the field. Instead, CSU was defeated by SDSU in the second round and had to wait out their fate. CSU’s fate would end up being sealed by Wyoming, though.
Pt. 2: Singin’ the Wyoming blues
Along with two regular season victories over CSU, Wyoming, arguably stole the Rams’ bid by winning the 2015 MW Tournament. SDSU and Boise State were going to make the field either way, but even in a strong year for the league, the odds of four teams making the field were not great.
Considering both schools won 25+ games and ranked outside of the top 100 in SOS, their resumes were extremely similar. But when Adams scored 56 points over a three-game span to lead the Pokes to a conference tournament victory and snag the auto bid, Wyoming ended the discussion.
Had the Pokes lost to the Aztecs in the title game, the debate about which team deserved to go more would have been interesting. The Pokes likely would have held the advantage, as they won both head-to-head matchups, and similarly to CSU, had victories over CU, DU and NMSU. However, the Rams did win two more games in total and had a better conference record.
Pt. 3: Did CSU get screwed or what?
In most seasons, CSU very likely would have received a bid to the NCAA Tournament, so it’s easy to understand why this is still a sore subject for the Ram faithful. That being said - CSU’s SOS was truly awful - and the Adams-Nance duo earned the big by essentially single-handedly willing Wyoming to important wins.
On paper, the Rams were a deeper and more rounded team - but when the games mattered most, Wyoming found a way to win. So while I do think the Rams deserved to make the field, the harsh reality is CSU can only blame CSU for not making the 2015 NCAA Tournament.