April 28, 2009

This article appears in the May issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which mails to US Lacrosse members this week. Join today to start your monthly subscription to LM.

NCAA D-I Committee Considers 'Human Element'

by Steven Russolillo | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Bucknell's RPI might be on the bubble come Selection Sunday, but the regular-season Patriot League champion could fare well in the subjective criteria -- such as regional advisory committee recommendations.

Numbers don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole story, either.

That's an axiom apparently being adopted by the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament selection committee for 2009, and the results could bring some intriguing twists to lacrosse's version of bracketology.

The basic fundamentals underlying the selection process for the Division I men's tournament haven't changed, but the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) may not hold as much weight as in years past.

The selection process has been somewhat formulaic in recent years, relying mostly on numbers such as RPI to determine which teams earned at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. But Tim Pavlechko, chair of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse committee, says the RPI - a measure of strength of schedule - should be considered by the selection committee as only one of its measures rather than the primary criteria to decide which teams earn the chance to participate in the tournament.

"In the past we've been very quantitative in terms of selecting strictly by the numbers, but now we'll continue to use the numbers only as a tool to select the at-large teams," he said.
When reviewing the selection criteria last summer, the committee made some editorial changes and some clarifications to its decision process, "but the foundation of our selection criteria has not changed," Pavlechko said.

Selection committees in several NCAA sports have been criticized in recent years for relying too heavily on RPI statistics when making their at-large picks. Pavlechko acknowledged that while the RPI does show a strength-of-schedule component that is very important in men's lacrosse, other measures such as the regional advisory committee and head-to-head competition, results against common opponents and locations of contests will strongly be considered.

The regional advisory committee is made up of a representative from each conference who each week offers feedback on rankings and other analysis of some of the top teams that will ultimately challenge for an at-large bid.

"Is the selection process formulaic? Is there a human element? I'd say yes to both of those," he said. "We have a lot of tools at our disposal and a lot of information to ponder before the final decisions are made."

The 16-team tournament will be announced Sunday and begins May 9.

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