Tulsa should send a thank you note to Connecticut.
After losing to the Memphis Tigers in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the Golden Hurricane seemed destined to miss an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and wind up in the National Invitational Tournament.
But Connecticut beat Memphis and that paved the way for Tulsa to be the last at-large selection in the selection process. Tulsa played Michigan in Dayton, Ohio, Wednesday night in one of the four play-in games in the tournament.
If Tulsa were to beat Michigan, they would play No. 6 seeded Notre Dame (21-11) at 7:40 p.m. Friday in Brooklyn, New York.
The winner of the game between Notre Dame and Tulsa/Michigan will face the winner of the game between No. 3 seeded West Virginia and No. 14 seeded Stephen F. Austin in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday.
NCAA tournament selection committee chair Joe Castiglione said Memphis would have bumped out Tulsa had the Tigers beaten UConn. Memphis would have been the automatic qualifier had they won the league tournament.
Castiglione said Tulsa got in because of four top-50 wins. It helped that SMU (that Tulsa beat) and Louisville were ineligible for post-season play. Castiglione, who is athletic director at Oklahoma, said the first four teams that were out of the bracket were St. Bonaventure, Monmouth, South Carolina and San Diego State.
“We felt really good about our resume going into the Memphis game,” TU coach Frank Haith said. “Regardless of the stuff everybody was saying, we felt good about our resume. After that game, what that did to us, I didn’t know. It’s obvious the (NCAA selection) committee valued our league and what we accomplished in non-league and the league. What a blessing. God is so good. These guys deserve to play in the tournament. I’m so happy for them.”
Tulsa’s last NCAA appearance was two years ago when the Hurricane faced the UCLA Bruins in 2014 first round action.
The Golden Hurricane is making its 30th overall postseason tournament appearance. This year’s NCAA selection marks Tulsa’s fourth straight postseason tournament appearance, having made the CBI Tournament in 2013, NCAA in 2014 and the NIT last season.