George Thomas: Zips get treated with no respect in NCAA soccer draw

By George Thomas
Beacon Journal sports writer

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There are certain things you can count on these days in America.

Death.

Political partisanship, and that the NCAA will remain consistently inconsistent.

They’re consistent in that they somehow manage to screw up something related to postseason play no matter what the sport.

College football? It is the new “playoff” system that will eventually be implemented.

College basketball? They’ve been screwing up seeding and selection for that for years.

Now it’s soccer.

How are they inconsistent? Different programs get different criteria that they have to follow in postseason play.

How else can anyone explain the mugging … err … selection that the University of Akron just endured when it came to the tournament seeding Monday night?

For those who haven’t heard, the Zips, who captured the Mid-American Conference Tournament crown Sunday against Northern Illinois to earn an automatic bid into the upcoming NCAA Tournament, didn’t exactly get much in the way of respect.

Great stuff huh?

The Zips (17-1-2) had been cruising right along up until Monday evening, when selection for the NCAA bracket took place.

Coach Caleb Porter had high hopes that his team would find itself placed among the top four seeds in the country once the committee finished its work.

And why not?

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America ranked the Zips No. 1 in the country last week, a ranking they held with the release of Tuesday’s poll, and they held the No. 2 spot in the country in terms of RPI, right behind Notre Dame, the only team to beat them this season.

At bare minimum, the Zips should have received one of the top four seeds, given those two facts, right?

Think again. When the NCAA announced the selections, the Zips came up with the fifth seed.

“We are a little ticked off because it doesn’t make sense,” Porter told the Beacon Journal. “Once that wears off though, it is back to business. For me it comes down to we have to win five games to win the national championship. It just so happens the road could be a little tougher.”

Like many teams in other NCAA sports, the Zips got shafted, and it doesn’t make sense.

Notre Dame (Big East), Maryland (ACC), Georgetown (Big East) and Connecticut (Big East) received those top four seeds. Notre Dame makes sense, as it is the only team this year to beat the Zips. Maryland makes sense. Georgetown, to a certain degree, earned its spot.

But UConn? Really? Seriously?

The Huskies are ranked seventh in the coaches’ poll and seventh in RPI. Now, should the Zips and Huskies advance to the quarterfinals, UA would have to play at UConn instead of at home.

Yup, something smells worse than a rotting corpse.

I’m not soccer expert, but I know fair.

And this entire situation reeks of everything that’s been wrong with the NCAA throughout the years — paying homage to “tradition” rather than reality.

It’s the reason that Notre Dame football continued to be propped up despite years of mediocrity — a fact only changing this year. It’s the reason three Big East teams and one ACC team get the top four seeds in the men’s soccer tournament. But that doesn’t make it right.

From this corner, the Zips got punished for being a big fish in a little pond known as the Mid-American Conference (that isn’t meant as an insult, just a reflection of reality).

The MAC doesn’t possess the glamour of the other two conferences.

But the Zips’ nonconference schedule, which was ranked No. 1 in the country, does.

Apparently, that didn’t matter.

“I am a little bit surprised on the pairings and on our seed. I would be lying if I didn’t say that. We are No. 2 in the RPI and we ended up getting the No. 5 seed, which is a bit shocking, but it is what it is. We can’t do anything about what the committee says,” Porter said.

Sorry, but he’s wrong.

There is something he and his team can do. To quote catcher Jake Taylor from Major League: “Win the whole [expletive] thing.”

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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