Postseason Play Begins


INSIDE THE 18
By for WVUsports.com
November 02, 2009 10:02 AM

Posted by Adam Zundell on November 2, 2009
(10:03 am)

 
  Nikki Izzo-Brown

Welcome to Inside the 18! It’s time to get a little mud on the jersey as postseason play starts.

It’s an exciting time as both the West Virginia men’s and women’s soccer teams are pursuing championships as the calendar turns to November. Both teams have given themselves a chance, which is all you can ask for.

Part of the trouble with trying to project the NCAA Tournament (men’s or women’s) is the fact that most of the major polls are, seemingly, very arbitrary. That stands to reason because I imagine most pollsters do not get to see a lot of games and truly evalutate teams. Instead, people base their votes only on results and not necessarily performance. (The two do not always go hand-in-hand.) All of this leads to erratic polling and perhaps a false sense of tournament security.

As an example of the erratic polling on the women’s side, Marquette (West Virginia’s next opponent in the BIG EAST Semfinals) is ranked 12th in the most recent Soccer America poll (Oct. 26 poll). However, the Golden Eagles are not even ranked in the Top 25 in the NSCAA poll. That’s a pretty big discrepency.

Of course, rankings have nothing to do with the NCAA Tournament, although many naturally associate the two. The RPI is a big tool for the selection committee as it is in several other sports. While the Mountaineer women appeared to be big underdogs in Piscataway, WVU went into the game with an RPI of 33 while Rutgers’ had an RPI of 29. I contend WVU’s 1-0 victory was significant, not because Rutgers was ranked ninth in the country, but rather because the Mountaineers took down a team that finished second in the National Division on its home field in a knockout situation.

West Virginia appears to have a good enough resume to make the field of 64 for the 10th-straight season, although you probably are never completely comfortable unless you earn the automatic berth.

WVU has only nine wins, but you can’t really discount its six ties – half of which came against teams that almost assuredly will be in the tournament. Of course, they’d like to have gotten results in those games, but they didn’t lose. In soccer, that counts for something. If the nine wins are still bothering you about the team’s NCAA Tournament’s hopes, consider this note from women’s soccer SID Tim Goodenow: Since 2001, nearly 10 teams per year get into the NCAA Tournament with 10 wins or less.

 
  Marlon LeBlanc

Marlon LeBlanc’s men’s team starts the BIG EAST Tournament at home on Wednesday against Rutgers. The Mountaineer men are likely on the bubble (RPI of 59) and need to do work in the BIG EAST Tournament to secure their place in the field of 48. The men’s field is a much tighter squeeze for at-large bids as there are only 26 up for grabs.

The Mountaineers finished third in the Blue Division behind only Notre Dame and Connecticut- both locks for the tournament. That’s good. The problem is that there are three other teams in the Red Division that would probably be in if the field were selected today: Louisville, St. John’s and South Florida. Last year, five BIG EAST teams got bids to the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia needs to distinguish itself in the BIG EAST Tournament as clearly the next-best team after those squads - or pass one of those teams in the eyes of the committee. It bodes well for the Mountaineers that they beat two of the teams “ahead” of them (Notre Dame, South Florida) and tied another (UConn). That will certainly give the committee something to think about.

Obviously, West Virginia is hoping many of the conference tournaments go as planned. For example, Monmouth has had a great year out of the Northeast Conference. The Hawks could very well get an at-large bid should they not win their conference tournament, giving the NEC an extra bid it does not ordinarly get on an annual basis.

The BIG EAST Championships will be played in Morgantown with the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 13, and the finals on Sunday, Nov. 15. The last time a BIG EAST soccer championship was decided at Dick Dlesck Stadium, Nikki Izzo-Brown’s team took home the hardware.

Coach LeBlanc’s team would love to duplicate the feat. It would certainly make Selection Monday much less stressful.

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