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NCAA Tournament Selection Committee Chair Tom Burnett explains why Rutgers was selected

The Scarlet Knights did enough to earn a second straight bid to the big dance for just the second time ever in program history.

Rutgers v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Rutgers was the most polarizing team on the NCAA Tournament bubble but ultimately were selected to the field of 68 on Selection Sunday. This group made history once again as they became the team with the worst NET ranking at No. 77 to ever make the big dance. Southland conference commissioner Tom Burnett is the chair of the selection committee and made the rounds following the announcement of this year’s bracket.

On Matt Norlander’s Eye on College Basketball podcast, he interviewed Burnett and specially asked about the decision to include Rutgers. Here is the excerpt of their conversation involving the Scarlet Knights.

Norlander: “Dayton just misses out because you have Richmond get an automatic qualifier there. Rutgers is also in. Those teams have somewhat similar resumes in terms of some very high highs and some glaring lows. Why Rutgers in and a few spots ahead of Dayton? Can you speak to the variety of resumes and was there a lot of disagreement because you had a lot of teams that missed this cut line Tom that had different attributes that were positive versus one’s that ultimately didn’t get into the field.”

Burnett: “The committee can have all sorts of disagreements but they are all collegial and professional. Certainly differing opinions and we bring all of our different perspective into our conference monitoring report. Rutgers is a team with a lot of quality wins. Talking about Quad 1 wins, certainly Rutgers has that. Like any team, no one is perfect. They have some blemishes and such. There are teams like that who are going to be in and are going to be out. That’s normal operating practice. All of these teams kept us very busy down the stretch which is a big problem for the committee to have. I was very pleased to be able to work through what we did. We’ll leave the arguments as to who should be in and shouldn’t be in to others.”

Norlander: “For those who are seeing Rutgers make the field, is the lesson to be learned that if you get enough high end wins, it offsets really, really bad losses? Clearly, Rutgers had worse losses and more of them than any other team that was considered for the cut line or near it.”

Burnett: “I don’t know if it completely offsets it. Matt as you know, we use the term ‘entire body of work’ and we are very serious about that. It starts in November. Dayton was a very young team this year. They stumbled early with some Quad 4 losses. They also beat Kansas, they beat Miami (FL) and they beat a very good Belmont team. There is a balance in there that each individual committee member needs to find. That’s ultimately in the mix of everything we do as a committee.”

To listen to Burnett’s complete interview with Norlander, click here.

At the end of the day, Rutgers made the NCAA Tournament because of their 6-6 record against Quad 1 opponents, 8-6 record against NET Top 40 teams that also made the field of 68, as well as two Quad 1 road victories. Those achievements ultimately outweighed analytics and predictive metrics that many Bracketologists prioritize. Beating good teams was the ultimate differentiator between teams on the bubble as it should be.

Dayton also seems like an odd comparison, as they had three Quad 4 losses compared to one of Rutgers and had just half the amount of Quad 1 victories.

In the final report from the Bracket Matrix, Rutgers was projected to make the NCAA Tournament by just 84 of 211 sites. That’s only 39.8% and the only team to make it that had even greater odds per the projections was Notre Dame, who were picked to make in just 75 of 211 sites for 35.5%. They’ll face off in the First Four round on Wednesday night at 9:10 p.m. ET ironically on the home court of the Dayton Flyers.

For all of our coverage of Rutgers’ second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, click here.