NCAA Selection Committee to Brad Brownell: Put your money where your mouth is

Brad Brownell accused some leagues of jobbing the system to inflate their NET Rankings. The committee obliged by not rewarding those leagues, but also placed Clemson against New Mexico, an 11-seed ranked 22nd in the NET.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell
Clemson coach Brad Brownell / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I have not been a fan of Clemson Men’s Basketball head coach Brad Brownell for several years now, and since the Tigers’ early exit from the ACC Tournament, I’ve been less reserved about expressing it.

It appears that the NCAA Selection Committee isn’t a fan of Brownell either, and they have demonstrated that through actions, not words.

The committee slotted Clemson as the 6-seed in the West Region, which was a decent seed under the circumstances. As late as Sunday morning, many projections had the Tigers as a 7-seed or 8-seed.

It’s the opponent they matched up against Clemson that speaks volumes: the New Mexico State Lobos.

New Mexico won the Mountain West Tournament after finishing 6th in the conference. Before that, they were still in consideration for an at-large berth because the MWC had a strong representation in the NET Rankings.

There were some this season who believed that conferences like the MWC and the Big 12 had played the NET by scheduling weak non-conference schedules and dominating them. This put them higher in the NET Rankings before conference schedules began. Thus when their teams lost to each other, it was often to an equally ranked team, and their ranking didn’t suffer.

One of those people who called out this gaming of the system was Brownell.

"So the Big 12, they’re playing eight nonconference games, seven nonconference games against low level teams and increasing their NET. Then when they all get into the league, their totals are higher, their NET rankings are higher. And so their teams are perceived to be a little better than they are."

Brad Brownell

While his criticism was specifically of the Big 12 (a peer of the ACC), the criticism soon migrated to the MWC as well.

The committee wasn’t oblivious to the criticism and they didn’t reward the Big 12 or the MWC for their strategy. The Big 12 got 8 teams but there were examples, such as Iowa State, of teams that didn’t get as favorable a seed line as many predicted (several thought the Cyclones could be a 1-seed but they were placed as the 2-seed in the defending champions bracket).

The MWC received six bids, which is very solid for a mid-major, but none of the teams were placed higher than a 5-seed. The most glaring example of a high NET ranking team that received a relatively low seed is the Lobos.

New Mexico reached 22nd in the NET ranking after winning the MWC Tournament, yet were placed on the 11-seed line.

Who did they pair this NET-heavy program against in the first round? Brad Brownell and his Tigers.

The selection committee has matched Clemson against the program with the biggest discrepency between NET ranking and seed-line

I don’t think this was a coincidence. I think the committee has decided that Brownell needs to demonstrate his point with actions instead of words. "Do you really think these teams are jobbing the system? Prove it."

After all, the counterpoint to the accusation that these two leagues played the system is that the teams still needed to go out and dominate the weaker opponents. Scraping by or dropping games to Quad 4 competition wouldn’t get the job done, which is something Brownell and his Tigers learned in 2023 when they missed the tournament after playing a weak non-conference and failing to dominate.

Brownell and his program get his chance to prove his point this Friday at 3:10 PM on truTV. New Mexico is currently a 2.5-point favorite over Clemson.

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