Denver captured the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament last spring, grabbing the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Final Four.
The thinking is that the No. 16 Pioneers may need to win the conference tournament this week for a shot at repeating that path. They compiled an 8-5 overall record and a 3-3 league mark, which made them the No. 4 seed behind No. 1 seed Loyola (12-1 overall and 6-0 in the ECAC), No. 2 seed Ohio State (8-6, 5-1) and No. 3 seed Fairfield (11-3, 4-2).
Denver honed its resume with a 15-9 upset of No. 4 Duke last Friday, and coach Bill Tierney said that outcome should solidify a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“Absolutely,” he said in a conference call Monday of the four coaches participating in the conference tournament. “If you look at our body of work and our schedule and the teams we’ve lost to – which a lot of people forget comes into play in these talks at the committee level – if you go by this week’s rankings, you’re looking at a loss to Notre Dame which is No. 2, we lost to Loyola which is No. 3, we beat Duke which is No. 4. So we feel like we’ve played a good schedule, and we feel like we’re there, but that’s not what’s important this weekend. We’ve got Loyola on Wednesday. That’s the only thing we’re thinking about right now.”
Tierney was also asked whether he thought the team had to capture the ECAC tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“As you know, we had a bunch of one-goal losses throughout the year,” he said. “Certainly, our Duke game the other night gave us a little firmer footing. I personally don’t think that’s the case, but I don’t know what goes on with the committee. The Loyola game gives us another opportunity to play for that honor of playing in the NCAA Tournament. And if we were fortunate to win that game, trying to win the ECAC championship for the third year in a row would be our goal, and that’s what we’re looking for right now.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun