- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Although tournament expansion will allow four more teams into the NCAA Division I postseason, that doesn’t appear likely to reduce the headaches for those charged with setting the 16-team field.The selection committee will convene tonight and tomorrow in Indianapolis to select the pairings, which will be announced tomorrow at 8 p.m. on ESPN News.”[The expansion] has given us a little wiggle room,” said Mount St. Mary’s athletic director Harold Menninger, chairman of the five-man panel. “There will be some lengthy discussion on perhaps two or three or four teams that are eligible for the tournament. That’s been the history for the three years I’ve been on the committee. It doesn’t make a difference what the numbers are. The last choices will take the most time.”The five-man committee (Menninger, Butler associate AD Jon Hind, Duke coach Mike Pressler, Princeton coach Bill Tierney and Syracuse coach John Desko) will have plenty to evaluate. Only the top four teams will be seeded, though eight schools will play host for next week’s first-round games.As in past years, the committee will stress quality wins and strength of schedule. That could bode well for a bubble team like Penn State (6-6), which dealt Massachusetts its only loss.NCAA guidelines stipulate that geography should play a role in the pairings, and balancing the bracket while also producing regionalized first-round games will be one of the committee’s greatest challenges.”We are to avoid plane flights if at all possible,” Menninger said. “We are to avoid conference matchups in the first round. We are to put the bracket together that would make geographic sense. So after we’ve got the 16 teams, the challenge is to make a sensible bracket.”Here’s a conference-by-conference glance at what teams could be involved, with the number of possible berths in parentheses:• America East (1): Hartford (9-7) plays host to Albany (9-5) today for an automatic bid. The winner could be sent to play No. 3 Massachusetts in the first round.• ACC (2-4): Champion Virginia (11-2) probably will receive one of the top two seeds, and Maryland (9-3) could claim the No. 4 seed after beating Georgetown on Monday. Duke (8-7) and North Carolina (7-6) are on the bubble. Both beat Maryland, and the Tar Heels won the head-to-head matchup.•  CAA (1-2): Hofstra (11-4) is likely to make the tournament regardless of tonight’s conference title game at Towson (7-5). Towson’s only quality win was over the Pride, and the it might need another to get a nod from the selection committee.•  ECAC (3-4): Massachusetts (12-1) can clinch the automatic bid with a victory at Rutgers today, and Georgetown (10-2) also is in good shape. Rutgers (9-4) won at both Syracuse and Towson and should get its first NCAA nod since 1991. Penn State is an interesting bubble team because of victories at Massachusetts and Rutgers and close losses at Georgetown and Virginia.• Great Western (1): The tournament’s geographical misfit, Ohio State (9-3) clinched its first NCAA berth last week. The Buckeyes could be on their way to Maryland, Princeton or Virginia in the first round.• Independents (2): With victories over Maryland, Princeton and Virginia, Johns Hopkins likely will be the No. 1 seed. Syracuse (7-5) has struggled this year, but a defeat of Hopkins should be enough to get the Orangemen in. • Ivy (1-3): If both Dartmouth and Princeton win today, there will be a three-way tie atop the league. Under that scenario, the automatic qualifier would be determined by a blind draw. Princeton (9-3) is the only lock, but Dartmouth (10-2) helped its cause last weekend by stunning the Tigers. Cornell (8-4) is the third team in the mix.• Metro Atlantic (1): Mount St. Mary’s (8-7) is the only team in the conference with a winning record overall and is likely to emerge from the league tournament, which began last night.• Patriot (1): Army (8-6) locked up the league title earlier this week. The Black Knights are in the tournament for the first time since 1996.

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