The selection committee’s decision to award the No. 1 seed to Loyola Sunday night was the first time the program had earned that seed since 1999.
That year, the Greyhounds went 12-0 as the only undefeated team in Division I, but fell to No. 8 seed Syracuse, 17-12, in the quarterfinals.
“I know in ’99, we were devastated that we were the only undefeated team in the country and we had to play the winner of Syracuse-Princeton at Princeton,” Cottle said. “That was a terrible spot. It’s probably what [No. 3 seed] Duke feels a little bit this year. They had a great season and they get rewarded with Syracuse in the first round. As much as you try to ignore it, you do know that sometimes you get better draws than other times. I thought in ’99, I might have made a mistake worrying about it too much. I felt like the 2 seed was actually a better place. The 2 seed played the winner of [No. 7 seed] Hofstra and [unseeded] Navy, and the 1 seed got to play the last two national champions at Princeton.”
The 1998 Loyola squad also earned the No. 1 seed, and after disposing of unseeded Georgetown, 12-11, in the quarterfinals, the Greyhounds were routed, 19-8, by No. 5 seed Maryland in the semifinals.
Unlike now when all eight seeds play in the first round, the top four seeds in 1998 were rewarded with opening-round byes. Cottle conceded that he erred in getting the players prepared during the bye.
“In ’98, I don’t think I did as good a job,” he said. “Back then, there was the bye week. It used to be a lot harder with the bye week because you had two weeks off, and you were wondering what to do during that period of time. If you ran them too much, it was tough. Now you go right into playing, and I think it’s a lot easier to be the No. 1 seed rather than coming off the bye. I know that sounds ridiculous, but just staying with your weekly pattern all the way through and playing a game was – I felt – always more advantageous than the other way.”