Drexel and other bubble teams nationwide nervously stood by Wednesday as the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, made up of the people who will be selecting, seeding and bracketing 68 teams for the NCAA tournament, began its work Wednesday in Indianapolis.
While he doesn’t commit specifically on individual teams, former Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway, chairman of the committee, gave the Dragons and the fans some reasons for hope, and some reasons to feel a bit discouraged, on a conference call with reporters.
Consider this answer to a question about how much the committee takes into play a long winning streak during the season. Drexel won 19 in a row in capturing the CAA regular season title before losing to VCU in the conference championship game.
“Winning games is obviously the bottom line and the most important factor,” Hathaway said. “Winning them in a row, I don’t know that that really factors into the equation. The bottom line is: Who did you play, where did you play them, and how did you do?”
He said the committee does take trends into consideration when they discuss different teams but he added, “I’m not sure winning streaks are something that, we all sit there and make a focal point.
“I will say,” he concluded, “that if they won the regular season, obviously you know that’s a big deal, because it puts them under consideration automatically. But that’s as far as I can go with that.”
Hathaway also was asked about how the committee can compare outstanding mid-major teams such as Drexel against teams in BCS conferences that finish at or just above .500 when considering them for NCAA selection.
“We really don’t use the term mid-major, power conferences,” he said. “We don’t talk in those terms in the (meeting) room. When we look at teams, we look at their body of work, front to back, beginning to end, and we put them up against other teams that are being considered for selection.”
Hathaway added that he felt mid-majors were not at a disadvantage in not getting as much national television exposure as BCS conference teams because smaller schools now stream games on their web sites or those of their conference.
Drexel is considered to be in jeopardy because of its RPI, which stood at 66 at mid-afternoon Wednesday, and a strength of schedule of 208. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Dragons as one of the last four in the tournament, but Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com does not list Drexel, and does not have the Dragons as one of his “first four out” teams.
Asked about the role of RPI and strength of schedule, Hathaway said they are just two of “a litany of criteria that we look at, and that could involved head-to-head competition common opponents, road records … overall strength of schedule, non-conference strength of schedule. Obviously, we look at competition against top quality teams.”