The NCAA men’s soccer selection committee did not do any favors for Maryland, UMBC and Navy.
All three programs earned automatic bids to the 48-team field by winning their respective conference tournaments, but each school has a legitimate gripe about its placement in the NCAA tournament, which was announced Monday afternoon.
UMBC, which is ranked sixth in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll and in RPI and leads the country in winning percentage at .895 (16-1-2), got the last of the top 16 seeds. The Retrievers, who claimed the America East tournament crown with a decisive 4-0 shutout of Hartford on Saturday, earned a first-round bye, but they may have to meet top overall seed UCLA (11-3-4) in the third round.
“I do not understand it at all. I’m in shock,” said coach Pete Caringi Jr., whose UMBC squad awaits the winner of Thursday’s first-round game between Quinnipiac (9-4-7) and Connecticut (11-2-6). “Our RPI is up there. In every criteria, we’re one of the leaders. It’s unbelievable. … It’s sad because there are five teams in the tournament [that we've played], and we’re 4-1 against them. Four teams won their conferences and we beat them. I think when people get behind closed doors, they do what they want. This is unbelievable. I never saw that coming.”
Maryland (13-3-5), which is ranked fourth nationally and ninth in RPI, was awarded the No. 5 seed after defeating No. 12 Virginia, 1-0, on Sunday and claiming the program’s second straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and third in the last five years. But the Terps were seeded lower than Notre Dame (12-1-6), which earned the No. 3 seed despite getting bounced from the ACC tournament in the semifinals by the Cavaliers.
“I was a little surprised initially that we’re not a top four seed,” said Terps coach Sasho Cirovski, whose team will meet either Providence (12-5-3) or Pennsylvania (8-8-1) in the second round at Ludwig Field on Sunday at 5 p.m. “But I’m happy that we’re a 5, and we look forward to getting ready for the first game on Sunday.”
Navy picked up the Patriot League tournament championship to add to its conference regular-season title by defeating Holy Cross, 2-0, on Sunday. The Midshipmen (15-3-2) own the nation’s longest active winning streak at 14 games, but they must travel to Richmond to face VCU (11-7-2) in Thursday’s first-round game.
VCU’s RPI at 31 is slightly better than Navy’s 34, which might explain why the Rams were granted the right to host. No matter the reasoning, Midshipmen coach Dave Brandt said the situation is something the team should not be concerned about at this stage of the season.
“I think it probably could’ve gone either way, and obviously I’m not involved in those conversations,” he said. “For us – and I’ve talked about this with the guys a lot – the discipline of not being needy and not worrying about some of the extra stuff, the reality is [it is] white lines and grass and it’s time to play.”
UCLA, Washington (14-1-4), Notre Dame and California (12-4-2) were named the top four seeds.
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