With the 2010 field for the NCAA Division I tournament in the books, Tim Pavlechko is nearing the end of his tenure as the chair of the selection committee. Pavlechko, the senior associate athletic director at Bucknell, spoke on Monday about the rationale behind including Johns Hopkins, excluding Georgetown, and having two games at the same time on Saturday.
Question: How difficult was determining the 16-team field this past weekend?
Tim Pavlechko: "I think in the at-large pool, you had a grouping of teams that differentiated themselves at the top. And then you had a second group of very quality teams that had great seasons for those last at-large spots. I think the challenge quite honestly – moreso than the past, but I don't know to what degree – is that those teams were all very similar. Over the past two years, the committee has expanded the selection criteria to make sure that we had all of the tools necessary to try and differentiate those teams, and in the end, it really was a laborious process to finally select the teams that were going to be the at-larges."
Q: What went into the decision to invite bubble teams like Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Hofstra and Notre Dame?
TP: "If you look at it from a committee perspective, you had five committee members – and sometimes four [under committee rules, Loyola coach Charley Toomey was not allowed to be in the room when discussing the Greyhounds] – seeing all of those primary criteria that ended up being circular at some point. You had common opponents, but you could never make sense out of it, and even the head-to-heads didn't show a clear, concise rationale for this is why this team is above others. As we continued to look through the criteria, the committee has remained consistent that results against [teams with a Rating Percentage Index of] 1-to-5, 6-to-10 and 11-to-15 and looking at the full scope of work, the entire season [were significant]. Looking at those games, the 1-to-5, 6-to-10 and 11-to-15, who had success there and who had results there, the players played those games and had results in those categories. That ultimately made for hard decisions that differentiated a team here and a team there."
Q: Did Johns Hopkins get in on the basis of top-10 ratings in both RPI (8) and strength of schedule (4) or two victories over Loyola and Towson, two teams ranked in the top 15 in RPI?
TP: "The simple answer is yes. They had wins in the 11-to-15 category, and the other schools didn't. We had a situation where you take the names off the school and you're really looking at results. Whether it was Hopkins or Bucknell, we had team sheets that showed us some key things. I think at the end of the day, I would come back to that subjectivity is not a part of this. It was based upon selection criteria and the way things worked out."
Q: Georgetown did not earn a spot despite an RPI and a strength of schedule both rated at nine that were better than those of Loyola (11 and 17), Notre Dame (18 and 14) and Hofstra (13 and 25). But while those three schools had at least two wins each against teams ranked in the top 15 in RPI, the Hoyas did not. Was that why they were not invited?
TP: "We talked about their results against the RPI, and that's how close these schools were. … Ultimately, it wasn't like we were down to two schools, and we had to decide who was the one. There were X amount of schools for four spots. I'm an administrator on our campus, and I know how difficult it is come selection time when you're not selected. Someone asked me last night, 'What are your feelings after selections?' My feelings are that I feel good about the bracket and that we're going to have exciting games, and yet there are student-athletes who are disappointed, and that's the unfortunate [by-product] of having a 16-team bracket and 10 at-large spots. We had a lot of quality teams, and it was a tough selection."
Q: How did Hofstra get in when that team finished outside of the top four in the Colonial Athletic Association and did not play in that league's tournament?
TP: "Looking back at Hofstra, you have an entire season of work. Conference tournaments, while there are positives, there are restrictions. You could have a conference tournament of four teams and all of them are tied for second place. I look at how the Metro Atlantic [Athletic Conference] chose two of three teams by picking a name out of a hat. [Marist, Canisius and Manhattan finished with identical 5-3 league records for the last two spots in the conference tournament and due to deadlocks in several tiebreakers, the last tiebreaker involved pulling a name out of a hat. Canisius' name was pulled, and Marist and Manhattan moved onto the tournament.] I think there's a lot of parity in those conferences. The CAA this year is a good example. You had the regular-season champion in Towson not even being .500. I just think there's that parity. There's still a lot of subjective criteria, but the one thing that as a committee throughout the entire weekend that we kept coming back to was, these are our primary criteria for selection. It's not who feels something is this way or taking a subjective focus. It was, 'Here is our selection criteria. Here is the core of our foundation.' And we were looking for the entire body of work over the course of a season. Just discounting that someone didn't make the tournament, no. We were looking at the entire scope of work, and that's kind of how the CAA played out."
Q: Why are there two games on Saturday at noon and none on Sunday at noon?
TP: "That was a deviation requested by our television partner, ESPN. So we have five games on Saturday and three games on Sunday based on the NCAA and ESPN. We've created some strides in the last two years to have all eight games in the first round on TV. Just think about two years when we didn't have that. So for us, it's certainly necessary and important to work with our TV partner to get our games on televsion and provide fans of each of the schools an opportunity to see them in the first round."
Q: What are your thoughts as you finish out your term as the committee chair?
TP: "When I got involved in the sport back in 1998, I became a fan of the sport beyond just working with men's lacrosse. And when this opportunity came up, I wanted to give back to this sport. I hope the sport is in better shape now than when I first took over. I think our championship success and the interest in hosting the championships and the potential for the future is bright for men's lacrosse. … I'm going to look forward to seeing these games next weekend and even moreso next year when I can truly enjoy the entire championship experience."
Q: What will you do with all of your free time next May?
TP: "I don't want to put any pressure on my head men's lacrosse coach, but I hope I'm still busy – just as a team administrator rather than getting involved in the championship committee. No pressure on my coach, Frank Fedorjaka, though."