A conversation with selection committee chair Tim Pavlechko
Just talked to Tim Pavlechko, who chairs the selection committee for the NCAA tournament, and he laid out the panel’s process for selecting Brown over Loyola for the ninth and final at-large bid.
Essentially, both teams had impressive records. Although the Greyhounds’ strength of schedule was superior to Brown’s (No. 3 for Loyola compared to No. 32 for the Bears, according to laxpower.com), the gap in their RPIs wasn’t as dramatic (No. 9 for the Greyhounds compared to No. 12 for Brown, according to the NCAA).
The clincher was that the Bears had wins against two tournament teams in Cornell and Massachusetts, while Loyola did not.
"Loyola played a very strong schedule. They had a great year," Pavlechko said. "But they had some losses. They lost to a common opponent – UMass – with Brown. There are some of those other quality wins as you mentioned. There was a quality win [against Cornell] that wasn’t on Loyola’s resume. I’m not saying that’s the ultimate thing. It was the total breadth of work, scope of the season, and all the selection tools of trying to differentiate teams for that last slot."
There seemed to be some consternation that quality wins were being given as much value as strength of schedule and RPI, but Pavlechko pointed out that significant wins are as much a part of the criteria as strength of schedule, RPI, won-loss record and other factors.
"The RPI is certainly a tool for the committee to look at," Pavlechko said. "Strength of schedule is a tool and quality wins and what’s your record against those ranked teams. ... It’s not one thing. They’re all tools that we don’t have in priority order on purpose because otherwise, we could just run the computer and that’s who’s in. I don’t think that’s fair to student-athletes who are on the positive side or negative side of some very tough decisions."
A little later, Pavlechko said, "I think what you found was there were a lot of similarities in terms of strength of schedule for a lot of teams, and so there was a lot more criteria going into play that were differentiating teams. I will say this: that RPI and strength of schedule was certainly a factor, but it was also not the quantitative [end]. You’re looking at the whole picture, what a team has done throughout the year."