Q&A with NCAA selection committee chair Tony Seaman

Former head coach at Johns Hopkins, Towson discusses deliberations over giving Loyola No. 1 seed, rationale behind dropping undefeated Massachusetts to No. 6 seed, and the thought process behind inviting Princeton over Penn State

May 07, 2012|By Edward Lee

Tony Seaman compiled a record of 263-166 in 30 years as a head coach at Johns Hopkins, Towson, Penn and C.W. Post. In one of his many current roles, he serves to chair the selection committee tasked with filling out the 16-team field for the upcoming NCAA tournament. Seaman discussed the deliberations over the No. 1 seed, the rationale for Massachusetts not getting a top-four seed, and thought process behind inviting Princeton over Penn State.

Loyola coach Charley Toomey, who is a member of the selection committee, said he recused himself for 40 minutes from Sunday’s meeting before learning that the Greyhounds would be the No. 1 seed. How lengthy were the conversations about which team deserved the No. 1 seed?

It took a while. It’s not a year where we walked in and said, ‘This is the No. 1. There’s no doubt about it. There’s no argument.’ So we looked at two or three teams that we thought had remote possibilities for No. 1, and when we went through all of our criteria, Loyola stood out as being No. 1. Their RPI was No. 1, and we felt that they had only one loss and that was to the No. 2 team in the country [Johns Hopkins] by a goal in overtime. Everything else was in pretty good shape. So we awarded that to them.

Massachusetts fans are probably not happy about the only unbeaten team in the country falling to a No. 6 seed. What led to that decision?

They haven’t played anybody. They didn’t have a win in the top 20. They didn’t play a team in the field. How can we possibly give them a top-four ranking? They had a [No.] 31 strength of schedule and they had a [No.] 31 strength of nonconference schedule. They just didn’t play anybody. … A lot of people can go undefeated if you don’t play anybody. We made a statement back in 2009, and we’ve made a statement in 2012 that you’ve got to play people.

So why not drop them out of the top eight entirely?

Look, they’re undefeated. They made it through a pretty tough league. There were some close games and some not-so-close games. So you’ve got to look at the significant factor that they are undefeated, and in this day and age, the parity is pretty close. To go undefeated is pretty tough. But they needed any kind of a win. That was the only strength of schedule that stood out to us and made us go, ‘Whoa. Look at that strength of schedule.’ There was one other – Denver. We were like, ‘Whoa. Look at this strength of schedule. No. 2 overall and in nonconference, No. 5 in the whole country.’ That means they played somebody. And they don’t have one significant loss. They have losses, but all of them were against top teams in order to get that kind of rating. And they have a very significant win over No. 3 Duke. So that’s why they’re in, and UMass is sixth because of a [No.] 31 strength of schedule. Look at Hopkins. Hopkins played four of the top 10 and won three of them and beat the No. 1 team in the country. There was a long argument and strong feelings that maybe Hopkins should go [No.] 1. They beat the No. 1 team heads-up. They’ve played four teams in the top 10, and they won three of them. What kept them out of being No. 1? Probably the loss to Navy. That really hurt them, and that could have easily put them at [No.] 3. But they had too much of a resume to put at [No.] 3. If you beat the No. 1 team in the country and have that other stuff on your resume, that’s pretty significant.

Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni questioned the seemingly shifting emphasis of criteria to determine the last two at-large bids, which went to Denver and Princeton. Can you illuminate the thought process?

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