When the members of the UCSB men’s soccer team assemble this afternoon at Zodo’s Bowling and Beyond to see if they receive an at-large bid, and more importantly, where they are seeded, there are only two things that will happen for sure: Yours truly will order the cheapest beer on tap after conducting a few interviews, and I will follow that up with a crummy, sub-nineties round of bowling against fellow Nexite Chris Trenchard.
Beyond that, anything can happen.
The selection committee that decides the fate of the Gauchos and other elite soccer squads is made up of 10 members. Eight of the members are chairs of NCAA regional committees, while two members are chosen at large. Now this is where things get tricky.
No one really knows the collective wisdom – or political agendas – of those who sit on the committee. In the NCAA’s portrayed whimsical world of integrity, academics, fairness, rainbows, a yellow brick road and, not to mention, Gumdrop Pass with King Kandy sitting atop his castle, the selection committee would merely comprise a fair and unbiased field that mirrored the major soccer rankings.
But this is not the fairy tale world that we live in.
This is why, although last year’s squad reigned supreme in every major poll, comprised a dominating 17-2-1 record, the committee in all of its professional expertise, handed Santa Barbara an insulting #9 seed.
Why the treachery? Who knows. Maybe they were jealous of our breathtaking ocean views and stellar girl-to-guy ratio. Maybe they couldn’t fathom that the little-conference-that-could Big West was capable of constructing a powerhouse worthy of a #1 seed. Maybe they shared the ideology of several national reporters at the College Cup PressBox who continually muttered the word “dirty” whenever mentioning the Gaucho soccer squad.
So hence the curiosity of what they will award a 12-4-3 team that currently sits at 25th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings, and 17th on Nov. 7 in soccertimes.com – neither of which takes into account Santa Barbara’s last two commanding victories over Riverside and Irvine.
This year, the Gauchos again stacked their non-conference schedule with brutal opponents, showing the committee, or as it was brilliantly coined last year, the “ommittee,” that even a mid-major like Santa Barbara can compete with the nation’s elite. This year, two of the Gauchos’ four losses were at the hands of teams in the top-10, one from the top-20, and the other from unranked Loyola Marymount in a game where the Gauchos apparently tied the game as time expired.
Noteworthy performances on their resume include battling then-#6 Virginia to a 0-0 tie, a 6-1 drubbing over then-#15 Northwestern, a 2-0 victory over then-#23 Portland, Saturday’s 2-0 triumph over Irvine to take over second place in the Big West and only one loss in conference play – one less than yesteryear’s team.
So where does that leave this year’s squad likely seeded, if at all?
With the collective logic – or lack thereof – of last year’s committee ripe in this scribes mind, somewhere probably between first and not seeded at all.
That’s how much confidence the committee warrants.
One can only hope that the member with UCSB’s piece of their game of Pin the Tail on the NCAA Seed has better intuition with a blindfold on than last year’s member.
Daily Nexus Sports Editor Sean Swaby is also highly suspicious of the UCSB admissions committee for letting a slapdick like him in.