ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich was in the network’s studio in Charlotte, N.C., where he helped provide coverage of the 16-team field in the NCAA tournament. The former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper, who can be followed on Twitter via @QKessenich, provided his opinion on Loyola’s resume as the No. 1 seed, Penn State’s omission from the field, and his stance on not expanding the field. This is part one. Check back Tuesday for part two of the Q&A
Loyola is the top seed in the NCAA tournament. Agree or disagree with that decision?
I agree. I agree strongly. The more I see them, the better they get. They’re really a complete team from a good offense to excellent transition. [Junior long-stick midfielder] Scott Ratliff patrols the middle of the field. The defense is very solid and well-coached. To me, they’re a complete team, and that’s their strength.
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What are your thoughts on Massachusetts getting the No. 6 seed despite being the only unbeaten team in the field at 15-0?
I had them wide open. Anywhere from two to seven, I could’ve seen them slotted. At the end of the day, their lack of strength of schedule with no RPI wins in the top 15 hurt them. They have a lot of RPI wins between Nos. 19 and 28, a lot of those mid-tier wins, and the committee held that against them. They’re 15-0, they’re a very, very good team, but I also don’t think they deserved a top-four seed.
Was Penn State snubbed?
I think Penn State was robbed. I thought this was a classic example of different criteria being used for different teams. When all through the selection process, it appeared that they valued strength of schedule and top wins, and then all of a sudden with Penn State, their RPI wasn’t good enough and then Princeton’s RPI got them into the tournament. That to me was not fair, and that was an injustice. I think Penn State got snubbed, and it was not right.
The shifting emphasis on criteria has occurred in the past. What can be done to avoid this perception in the future?
They don’t have to adjust the criteria, but just state it. It allows for such a cloudy interpretation, and I just don’t think that’s right. I think they need to better define the selection criteria and the weight that they’re giving to each category so that there’s less of a gray area. You always want to have a little human impact because you don’t want it to be a computer spitting out all the data. But I think there was different criteria that was used for different parts of this process, and that’s always dangerous, and it’s always going to lead to criticism.
But this won’t change your opinion about expanding the 16-team field, right?
No, I’m against expanding the field because of the automatic qualifier system. I think there are many teams that had the opportunity to play their way in. Yale is a good example of a team that used its automatic qualifier to good use and improve their standing. I like the balance that we have right now. I believe we’re going to go to eight automatic qualifiers and eight at-large bids next year. Now you’re starting to get a little dicey, but with only 61 teams playing Division I lacrosse, I still think a 16-team tournament is where we should be. I like the fact that the automatic qualifier system keeps teams in the hunt throughout the year. When Stony Brook starts 1-7 and Albany starts 0-7 and to think that those two teams were playing for a league championship [in the America East], I love that because that’s what team sports is all about. Team sports are about getting better towards the end of the year. So I’m a big fan of the automatic qualifier keeping teams in the hunt. The way this tournament is right now, it puts some importance on the regular season, and it puts some importance on the conference tournaments. Unlike the BCS in college football where a loss is catastrophic, one loss in lacrosse is not catastrophic. And unlike college basketball where almost every team makes the NCAA tournament, lacrosse is a little more discretionary. I like the mix right now.