Talk about awakening a sleeping giant.
The #1-ranked UCSB men’s soccer team heard its alarm loud and clear Monday after receiving the #9 seed in the 2004 NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament.
When the bracket was revealed, an air of disappointment fell over the Gauchos, who were gathered at Zodo’s Bowling and Beyond to watch the NCAA selection special.
“It’s definitely disappointing after the year that we had not to get the respect from the committee to get a higher seed,” senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy said. “At the end of the day, we need to go and win some tournament games.”
The Gauchos (17-2-1 overall) earned a first-round bye with their nine seed and will play next Tuesday, Nov. 23. UCSB will play the winner of the first-round match-up between the University of San Francisco and University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee this weekend.
Last year, the Gauchos finished the regular season with 15 wins and four losses and earned the #11 seed in the tournament. A seeding in the top eight would have guaranteed two home playoff games for UCSB.
“We’ve done all we could do in order to at least get one of the top eight, and I think we’d have been disappointed with the top eight. So obviously, getting nine, I just didn’t imagine that at all,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Last year we were 11, which is really the same bracketing as the nine. Our schedule and our results this year were much better than last year.”
Tournament selection and seedings are based on a number of different criteria. The selection committee is made up of 10 members. Eight of the members are the chairs of the NCAA regional committees, while two members are chosen at large.
According to the NCAA men’s soccer championship handbook, the selection criteria is based on the recommendation of the regional committee members, head-to-head competition, results against common opponents, unavailable student-athletes and adjusted Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
The RPI is a mathematical formula that takes into account each team’s win-loss record, strength of schedule and opponents’ strength of schedule. For the seedings, the RPI is adjusted based on opponents’ RPI.
When a team wins, loses or ties against a team in the top 75 of the RPI, they receive bonus points with the highest point values awarded for wins against top-40 teams on the road. The adjusted RPI also penalizes teams for playing the bottom 74 opponents in the RPI rankings. The greatest penalty is given to teams who lose at home against opponents ranked 161st to 200th in the RPI.
“I was told that our conference RPI this year was not as strong as it was last year,” Vom Steeg said. “Again, even having said that, there’s nothing else we can do except look at your out-of-conference results, and we can’t control anything else beyond that.”
This season, the Gauchos defeated defending National Champion and this year’s #2 seed in the tournament, Indiana. In total, UCSB played six games against teams featured in this year’s bracket, going 4-1-1 in those matches.
The latest RPI rankings, which were released on Nov. 9, had UCSB ranked #1, followed by UCLA, Indiana and Wake Forest, all teams who received higher tournament seeds than the Gauchos. UCSB also currently holds the #1 ranking in two national polls, including the NSCAA/adidas Coaches’ Poll.
“There’s three different rankings that happen,” Vom Steeg said. “One is the coaches’ poll, which is a bunch of coaches sitting around saying ‘Hey, what do you think.’ The second ranking is a regional ranking where they, the coaches, the representatives of each conference, submit to the national committee the teams from the West. On that one, we knew it was neck-and-neck between us and UCLA, and we knew New Mexico was behind us.
“But then once you take that list, then it goes to the national [committee]. The national [committee] decides all of the seedings and again, whereas last year they felt like the west was incredibly strong, they looked at this year in the West Coast] and said, ‘Well, the West Coast is not as strong.'”
Northridge was the only other Big West team to receive a bid into the tournament. After earning six of the 16 seeds in last year’s tournament, West Coast teams received three of this year’s seeds and have just six total representatives in the bracket.
“As much as it’s UCSB, it’s a West Coast situation where they didn’t regard the West as having a successful season even though, I don’t know, go look at the scores,” Vom Steeg said. “That part is a bit shocking as well.”
A win in the second round would potentially send UCSB on the road for the second year in a row. Last season, the Gauchos made their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, losing in double overtime to St. John’s in New York.
“Last year, we got the experience of seeing St. John’s on the road in the second [game], and now we might be on the East Coast again in the second [game] against a very good Greensboro team,” Kennedy said. “So, I think we’ll be more prepared for that.”
The team is confident that they can play through adversity yet again. In just six seasons at the helm, Vom Steeg has guided UCSB to three Big West Championships in four years and is leading the Gauchos to their third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
“On the other end, this should give our team … a little bit more reason to go out there and prove everyone wrong,” Kennedy said. “I’m using it as motivation and we’re going to go train right now and I’m sure we’ll get the job done.”