On June 5, Oklahoma State became the first school to receive an NCAA tournament ban in the aftermath of the federal college basketball corruption trial. Barring a successful and rapid appeal, the Cowboys and star recruit Cade Cunningham will miss the 2020-21 postseason.
The direct beneficiary in the latest bracket is Virginia Tech, which moves into the First Four after slotting as the dreaded "first team out" in our prior projection. Indirectly, Oklahoma State will most likely join a list of modern-era teams under the heading of "What if?"
The Cowboys have floated between 7- and 8-seed projections since the spring. Their NCAA credentials for next season have never been in doubt, a welcome sign for coach Mike Boynton, who enters his fourth year in Stillwater without an NCAA appearance. The star power of Cunningham and the projected depth of the Big 12 were going to change all that.
Instead, the Cowboys fall into a different category. Here is where they rank among banned teams in the 64-plus bracket era:
• UNLV (1991-92, NCAA ban for longtime Jerry Tarkanian transgressions), four NBA players and a win over No. 1 North Carolina, 3- to 5-seed range, Elite Eight potential
• SMU (2015-16, NCAA ban for multiple violations), 4- to 6-seed range, Larry Brown's final season as coach, Sweet 16 potential
• Georgia (2002-03, self-imposed ban from academic fraud committed by assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr.), 5- to 7-seed range, 19-8 overall (11-5 SEC), No. 1 in offensive efficiency, Elite Eight potential
• Oklahoma State (2020-21, NCAA ban following FBI corruption case), 6- to 8-seed range, No. 1 incoming freshman, Sweet 16 potential
In addition to removing Oklahoma State from the latest bracket, recent changes in conference membership have created at least one other adjustment. On June 15, Robert Morris announced its move to the Horizon League (from the Northeast Conference), effective July 1.
While certainly a positive change for the long term, the Colonials were likely to enter the 2020-21 season as NEC favorites. That will not be the case in the Horizon, as Wright State is a borderline Top 100 team and will be the consensus choice to win that conference. We'd slot RMU in the No. 3 to No. 5 range in the league's pecking order for its debut.
In the NEC, Fairleigh Dickinson takes RMU's place as the projected automatic qualifier in our latest bracket. The Knights are the most recent NEC team to appear in the NCAA tournament (2019), although Robert Morris had already earned the automatic bid for the aborted 2020 event.