A Conversation With MCLA Chair Ken Lovic
Another set of brackets is in the books for the MCLA and the selection committee has closed up shop for the season. As he has for the past several years, selection committee chair Ken Lovic, who is also the head coach at Georgia Tech, talked about the process this year.
One of the interesting revelations this season was that the two divisions within the MCLA approach the at-large selection process and seeding very differently.
"In D-II, each conference has somebody on the committee," Lovic said. "That's something they've wanted and they've done it and it has worked fine in my opinion. In Division I, we don't want that. We want a more select group and keep it so it doesn't become these conference representations, if that's the right term. That's the way they want it. Listening to the conversation [on Sunday], there was nobody beating the drum for the SLC or PCLL. We have seven guys who have to come up with the six best teams for the at-large, and then find a way to seed them."
Each divisional committee has the option to approach selection in a fashion they choose, and even how the representatives are involved.
"In Division II, all of the coaches want to be on the phone call at all times because we are very strict as a group to establish that you are representing a conference or the overall MCLA and that's what we expect. So we don't have guys grandstanding and doing all that. In Division I, it's a little different because all the guys are on the call until we get to the seeding. At seeding time, the guys who are in the tournament are removed from the phone call and the rest of the committee works on the seeding."
Lovic said this year's calls lasted about 90 minutes for each division and the time was split equally between choosing the at-larges and seeding the tournament. The MCLA is still not driven by the equations used in the NCAA selection processes, mostly because that's not tenable at this point.
"There is no formula because we're still such a national association," Lovic said. "It's still hard to compare A and B a lot of times because it's hard for all of these guys to be playing each other as much as we'd like them to. It would be great if we had all the Top 16 teams playing each other like they do in NCAA Division I. We don't seem to have that as much in the MCLA because of location a lot of times."
Lovic said the committee used the LaxPower poll for strength of schedule data, but it didn't use the MCLA coaches poll as much as in years past in selecting the at-larges or seeding the tourney.
"There were some concerns about the poll this year that we had as a group," said Lovic. "We had reservations throughout the year about how much fluctuation there seemed to be."
When asked whether a conference's overall success rate, as opposed to a team's individual resume, played a part, Lovic said there was nothing official, but it did have an indirect role.
"That's a tough one. We usually don't talk about it, but it does have an impact," he said. "The back end of Virginia Tech's and Oregon's schedule, and even Texas for that matter, there wasn't a whole lot there. When they get into their conference play, it hurts them because they aren't playing anyone of any value that can help them. There's a chance it could hurt them, but there's not a whole lot that could help them."
One of the wrinkles this year for Division II was when SCAD, a highly-ranked team with a strong schedule, failed to make its own eight-team conference tournament because of tiebreaking criteria. Was there any concern about that?
"There was only one voice that spoke up on the committee that brought it up as an attention factor in terms of an at-large," Lovic said. "Do we want to consider that in the at-large selection? There's nothing in our bylaws and it doesn't say we have to, and people were impressed enough with their resume that we felt confident enough that it was a team we wanted to have in our national championship."
What the MCLA and NCAA committees have in common is they take into account how well a team is playing at the end of the season. It was a criterion that doomed Clemson's long-shot bid.
"We are concerned about how teams are playing come tournament time," Lovic said. "There's no question that is a factor."
One of the last questions was about the MCLA's legendary use of the "good loss" metric. How much weight does it really have?
"It's not as heavy as people think," Lovic said. "'Quality loss' is the term I used. When I talk about a quality loss, I don't mean the score. It's a combination of things. I'd rather see a team playing St. Thomas out of conference and giving it a good run as opposed to traveling out of conference, but they didn't take on the best competition."