Cutting the Selection Committee a Break, In Advance

By Nelson Coffin

Are you one of those folks just waiting for Selection Sunday so you can complain about the inequities of the selection process and that someone got screwed. Well, this year is different. No, there are still huge inequities in the system and quite a few teams will get reamed. But this year we're not listening. You see, it's already a done deal. The inequities have been a forgone conclusion since the AQ's were installed and we've all moaned quite a bit about that already. The absolute hosing of at least one bubble team has occurred since the first selection committee picked the first field and will continue until the last. Just look at the group of hopefuls we present below and apply a formula without the AQ's or with 16 teams or without the AQ's AND with 16 teams and you will still find that the elimination curve is never neat and tidy. Someone will always feel left out unfairly. But that's O.K. The theme of this year's tournament is "Get Empathy". By this, we mean GIVE THE COMMITTEE A BREAK FOR ONCE! And they deserve one, this year.

UMass and Coach Greg Canella won the ECAC

The decisions they are faced with, this time around, are difficult but quite limited. This doesn't mean the selectors will be sipping exotic umbrella drinks on a lush tropical isle while randomly filling the 12 slots for the 2002 playoffs which will be announced Sunday evening. This will be a roll-up-the-sleeves conclave, once the perfunctory automatic qualifiers are set aside. The Patriot League is in a logjam between Army, Bucknell and Hobart, all 5-1 in league play. A winner will have to be determined there, before they move on, but we'll get to that one later. The trickier part will be hammering out the remaining at-large super six selections. If you believe that will be a piece of cake, it never seems to be. You're always allowed to play along with the committee and see how well you do when it comes down to deciding the fate of a slew of bubble teams. It's just that this year we don't want to hear the second guessing. This is how we see it, before the selections are made. After Sunday, we're shutting up.

Inequities you say? If Mt. St. Mary's (5-10, 5-2 in conference) wins the MAAC Tournament this weekend, they are in the tournament as an AQ. Maryland (8-5, 1-3 in the ACC conference) beat them 18-1 early in the season and won't get in!
Start first with the locks: Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Georgetown and Virginia are etched in stone, regardless of how the Hop-Loyola or Orange-Georgetown dustups turn out Saturday. Even if both Hopkins and Syracuse suffered setbacks, it's unlikely either would say bye-bye to a first-round bye. With an upset, however, the Greyhounds could possibly join the elite quartet, forcing Virginia to play in the opening round. Then again, if Loyola takes it on the chin in its season finale, could the 'Hounds possibly miss the final cut? Are things really that tight? For the answer to these questions, all eyes will be on the Ivy League showdown that same afternoon when Princeton (7-4) hosts Brown, which just threw a monkey wrench into Cornell's quest for its first mid-May game in two years.

Syracuse and Princeton in last year's Championship

Regardless of which way that battle at Class of 1952 Stadium goes, there will be a chain-reaction of repercussions on the fate of all the other squads hoping to get in. Look at it this way: If Princeton tops Brown, the Tigers are out of the mix in the bubbling at-large caldron and firmly ensconced as an AQ along with the Patriot champ, Fairfield (Great Western), UMass (ECAC) and winners in the MAAC and America East (Albany or Stony Brook) postseason playoffs that conclude this weekend. A loss puts the defending D-I champ Tigers back in line with every other squad looking for a ticket to the dance. And that means much tighter quarters for Duke, Hofstra, Maryland, Loyola, Cornell, North Carolina, Navy or Penn State to wriggle into the last two openings.

Let's handicap each squad's outlook for those coveted slots in alphabetical order, while laboring under the assumption Princeton will win at home Saturday to become the IVY AQ.

Brown (7-6) - Beating Cornell really only notable achievement. Puny non-league fare is a fault. Odds, 8-1.

Cornell (9-3) - Big Red's fanciest calling card is a win over Syracuse. Brown loss to Princeton helps. If they lose to Hofstra this weekend, that hurts. Odds, 3-1.

Duke (7-6) - ACC champs shoot themselves in the foot by getting crushed at Hofstra after knocking off Maryland and UVa. Odds, 8-1.

Hofstra (12-3) - 10-game winning streak with consecutive triumphs over Duke and Carolina treat the Dutch right. They can lose to Cornell and still get in. Odds, 2-1.

Loyola (9-3) - Loss to Butler haunts 'Hounds almost as much as pounding at home by Gerorgetown. Win at Hopkins Saturday would change everything. Odds, 3-1.

Maryland (8-5) - Zero big wins. Lots of close losses. It's over. Odds, 10-1.

North Carolina (8-4) - Better, but still not over the hump. Odds, 11-1.

Navy (8-5) - Slapping Army again only real achievement. Similar to UNC and Maryland. Odds, 12-1.

Penn State (8-5) - Second-biggest upset of the year (Butler's stunner over Loyola is tops) in breezing past UVa won't help. Odds, 13-1.

They're sporting the new REBEL/STX Uniforms!

Hofstra will likely move into the field of 12 before any arguing begins. The battle royale in the comittee room, then, should be between Cornell and Loyola and possibly even Duke, given the suprise selection of the ACC's mediocre Virginia squad last year. The strength of schedule issue (Colgate, Canisius) is the Big Red's weakness. Defeat at Hopkins would have Loyola finishing with a meager 2-4 mark in its last six contests. The guess here is that the triumph over Syracuse will carry the day for Cornell and be enough to overcome Duke's two wins over Maryland and one over the same Virginia team that lost to Penn State who got hammered by Navy. Should Brown beat Princeton by a point or two on Saturday, Hofstra would likely be joined by Princeton, having beaten Cornell to round out the field, but if Brown wins big, a victorious Loyola may still have a chance for entry over the Tigers, but Duke would be out.

  1. Fairfied is in from the Great Western.
  2. UMass will represent the ECAC.
  3. In the Ivy, the winner of the Brown @ Princeton match-up Saturday has an invite.
  4. The Patriot Conference sends three 5-1 contenders, Bucknell, Army and Hobart to the comittee for consideration.
  5. In the MAAC they have a tournament to play at Marist this weekend. The seeds are Manhattan, Providence, Mt. St. Mary's and St. Joseph's.
  6. In the America East Conference Albany will play Stony Brook on Saturday for the honor.
Whichever way it goes, UMass Coach Greg Cannella will be feeling for the loser. He knows all too well what it feels like to be left out in the cold when postseason play heats up. Last year, Cannella's Minutemen went 12-2 and were overlooked, despite those two setbacks being of the "good" variety. "I know what those coaches are going through," said Cannella, whose squad dropped one-goal decisions to Georgetown and Syracuse in 2001. "For anyone going through it, it's really tough. It's as bad as anyone could imagine. I feel for those guys." Oh, by the way, the Minutemen have to take care of business Saturday against Rutgers in order for them to be the ECAC champ outright.

"Bad losses didn't seem to count last year," said Cannella. "But I don't know what criteria they [the committee] use. Last year we were told that of the teams considered we had the weakest schedule." What Cannella did eventually find out - four months after the fact - is that the NCAA's in-house RPI placed the Minutemen in the top 10. Not that it did them any good. And that top-secret power rating will be what separates the three hopefuls from the Patriot League At 6-7, Bucknell might be enjoying the irony of being selected with a sub-.500 record after being snubbed in 1996 while compiling a perfect 13-0 slate. "It's funny how the worm turns," said Bucknell Coach Sid Jamieson, whose club beat Army 8-5 and lost to Hobart 12-11. "But that's why Penn State beat Virginia and why Butler beat Loyola and why the automatic qualifier is good for the game."

Bucknell's Sid Jamieson

The Bison made the tourney last year as an AQ and were summarily bounced from the proceedings by Notre Dame, 12-7. This year the RPI could mean RIP for the Bison's hopes. Jamieson sums it up well and looks to the future. "We can't all be Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and Virginia," said Jamieson. "Our institutions are different, our missions are different and our resources are different. When you add all those things up, what we have in common is that we all love the game of lacrosse. And we should all have access through the structure of the NCAA to reach the tournament. When they go to 16 teams (next year) everybody will be taken care of. That will be a win-win for everybody."

May 3, 2002