Tony Seaman wrapped up a long Sunday with a reflection on how it wound up a marathon-length day for the NCAA lacrosse selection committee.
It was shortly after 2:30 p.m. and the field was set. Then Bryant’s 12-6 defeat of Mount St. Mary’s – a game with seemingly no NCAA implications – wrapped up.
Duke passed Johns Hopkins in the RPI, and the committee went back to work for another two hours to make sure it had everything right.
“It upset the whole RPI,” Seaman, the selection committee chairman, said. “You wouldn’t think it, but it affected every team. We couldn’t believe it. We thought we were done. I told everybody last year at the national convention not to play on Sunday because it would make it miserable for us.”
Then again, the committee does dole out its share of misery on an annual basis. This year was no different.
Perhaps no two issues stood out more than the final team in the field and the seeding of unbeaten Massachusetts, both of which won’t soon be forgotten by the impacted teams.
The Sunday surprise facing the committee was Yale’s upset of Princeton in the Ivy League title game, a result that nudged the Tigers into the at-large pool. Princeton finished with an RPI of 10, better than the likes of Fairfield (13), Cornell (14), Denver (15) and Penn State (16).
“Princeton is in because their RPI is higher than Cornell, Penn State or Denver,” Seaman said. “There is a big difference.”
The differentiating factor for Denver, which will visit North Carolina in the first round, was strength of schedule.
That was particularly true in nonconference schedule strength, a figure Seaman repeatedly referenced in an interview Sunday night as evidence of how much of a challenge programs created for themselves.
“Denver was 2 overall and 5 in their out-of-league schedule,” Seaman said. “Nobody came near that. You had to reward them for that.”
That includes Penn State (9-6), who had a signature win (Notre Dame). It just wasn’t as impressive as Denver’s defeat of Duke,
The other instance of strength of schedule playing a large role was connected with Massachusetts (15-0), which was handed the No. 6 seed. The Minutemen did not play a team in the field; the only other team in the tournament not to do so was Metro Atlantic champ Canisius (6-7).
Accounting for schedule strength with an unbeaten team isn’t unprecedented. Cornell was a No. 4 seed in 2007 and Notre Dame was a No. 7 seed in 2009. Both teams entered the tournament with a perfect record.
“UMass was 31 with the regular strength of schedule and 31 with their out-of-league strength of schedule,” Seaman said. “They couldn’t be rewarded.”
The lasting lessons to pass along in vetting future fields. RPI matters – a lot (“When we look at everything really thoroughly, the RPI is usually pretty on.”). Strength of schedule matters most when it is at an extreme.
And perhaps most notably for committee members, this isn’t a quick process – this year, no thanks to Bryant.
“In my four years, we spent more time on it than we ever had,” Seaman said. “We had no automatic 1, no automatic anything. Everything took some time.”