NEC, A-10 Could Feel Effects of New NCAA Tourney Format
Mackall, Dave, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
No matter what the outcome would have been of the NCAA's announced plans for its newly expanded 68-team men's basketball tournament, the Northeast Conference and Robert Morris likely would have been affected.
The NEC traditionally ranks in the lower portion of the nation's 31 Division I basketball conferences in Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), and the league has been considered almost yearly for sending its NCAA Tournament representative to the preliminary play-in game as a 16th seed.
In April, the NCAA announced the first expansion of the tournament since 2001 by adding three teams to the existing 65-team field.
On Monday, the governing body revealed that eight teams would play a "First Four" round prior to the first round. Two of the early games will match the tournament's lowest seeds with the winners advancing to a first-round game against a top-seeded opponent. The remaining two games will pair the final four at-large teams, which could wind up affecting a program like Duquesne out of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
"Obviously, it's going to affect the Northeast Conference," newly named Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "If you look at history, that's just a fact -- even this year, when we were lucky enough to be a No. 15 seed.
"You can't look at it in a negative light. That's not something you want to do. We're going to get a chance to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. If you don't approach it that way, you're only hurting yourself. …