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How the NCAA Committee Screwed UCF Men’s Soccer

Knights somehow get a #9 seed despite being 5th in RPI

Photo: Derek Warden

On Monday, the UCF Knights found out from the NCAA Men’s Soccer Committee that they would be the #9 national seed.

Wait, what? A 9 seed?!?

UCF gets the 9 seed despite the fact their final RPI ranking is 5th, they are ranked 8th in the United Soccer Coaches and Top Drawer Soccer polls, went 14-2-2, and won The American regular season championship, which is rated the 3rd-best conference according to the RPI.

What makes this all the more confusing is on November 1st, the Committee revealed their top 16 seeds at that time, and UCF came in as the 6th national seed.

So the question is, what caused the Knights to drop from 6 to 9 in just 17 days, considering they went 3-1 since that unveiling, including clinching The American, with their only loss coming to top-ten ranked SMU?

So let’s break down what happened and compare the top 16 on November 1 to what came out on Monday:

NCAA Men’s Soccer Top 12 Seeds

Seed November 1 Record (Nov. 1) Final Selection Move Final Record Conference Result
Seed November 1 Record (Nov. 1) Final Selection Move Final Record Conference Result
1 Georgetown 13-1-1 Virginia Up 1 17-1-1 Won ACC
2 Virginia 13-1-1 Clemson Up 2 16-2-1 Lost ACC Final to Virginia
3 Washington 14-1 Georgetown Down 2 15-1-3 Won Big East
4 Clemson 13-1-1 Wake Forest Up 1 13-4-2 Lost ACC Semifinal to Virginia
5 Wake Forest 12-3-1 Indiana Up 5 14-2-4 Won Big Ten
6 UCF 11-1-2 Washington Down 3 15-3 Lost to Cal and Stanford
7 St. John's 12-2-1 Stanford Up 2 13-2-3 Lost to Cal, tied Oregon St.
8 SMU 12-1-1 SMU Same 16-1-1 Won The American
9 Stanford 10-1-2 UCF Down 3 14-2-2 Lost American Final to SMU
10 Indiana 11-2-3 Virginia Tech Unseeded 9-5-3 Lost ACC Quarterfinal to Wake Forest
11 Penn St. 10-2-3 Marshall Unseeded 15-2-3 Won C-USA
12 Missouri St. 14-0 St. Mary's Up 1 16-1 Won WCC

Here’s a recap of what happened from November 1st-18th:

  • UCF defeated Memphis (RPI #38), Cincinnati (RPI #124), and Temple (RPI #39), lost a 1-0 decision to SMU (RPI #3), and dropped to #9.


  • Clemson lost in the ACC Championship to Virginia and moved up from #4 to #2.
  • Wake Forest lost to Virginia in the ACC Semifinals and moved up from #5 to #4.
  • Stanford lost to California, whose RPI is 49 and was last team to make field of 48, and drew Oregon State, whose RPI is 50 and did not even make the NCAA Tournament. Yet the Cardinal moves up from #9 to #7.
  • Washington lost to Stanford and California, but only drops from #3 to #6.
  • Indiana won the Big Ten Tournament, beating Ohio State (RPI #79), Maryland (RPI #26) and Michigan (RPI #28) via penalty kicks. Michigan was seeded 13th by the committee after not being seeded on November 1st, and having RPI of 28, and playing in the 6th-rated conference in the RPI.
  • SMU went 4-0, including beating UCF in the AAC Championship at UCF, and yet they stay at #8 and get paired up with UCF for a possible rematch in the Round of 16.
  • Oh by the way, Missouri State, who is 17-0-1, remained unbeaten at 3-0-1 since November 1st (losing in the MVC Final on penalty kicks), yet somehow drops out of a national seed despite a #12 RPI and being ranked 12th in the country in the major polls. Missouri State faces Denver to see who plays UCF in the second round on Sunday.

So to recap, UCF got punished for losing to a top ten team at home while Washington, who lost twice, and Stanford, who lost once and tied were not hurt by those results and are in a conference that ranked lower than the one that UCF is in. Got it.

To suggest logic was not used is an understatement. OK, well, maybe they took into account strength of schedule and non-conference schedule strength into account.


Here’s a look into the last strength of schedule rankings, which came out on November 20th:

NCAA Men’s Soccer Strength of Schedule Rankings

Team SOS Rank Non-Conference SOS Rank Conference RPI Record vs. RPI Top 50
Team SOS Rank Non-Conference SOS Rank Conference RPI Record vs. RPI Top 50
UCF 15 33 3 5-2-2
Clemson 53 180 1 7-2-1
Wake Forest 8 49 1 9-4-1
Stanford 86 155 4 4-2-4
SMU 78 160 3 5-1-1
Washington 75 141 4 6-2
Indiana 69 70 6 4-2-4

UCF played a tougher overall schedule than all the teams listed here except for Wake Forest, who were seeded higher than UCF. The Knights also had a tougher non-conference schedule than any of these teams, which includes the powerful ACC teams.

But the reality is the Men’s Soccer committee - just like the other Olympic sports committees - just are not qualified enough, not smart enough, or do not care to understand all these numbers I have just presented that shows UCF is more than worthy of a top-8 seed.

Many of the committee members have not even watched men’s soccer matches during the season, or have any idea, so more times than not they just go with the name schools they are familiar with.

Also politics play into it. For example, did you know that in the Men’s Soccer selection committee there are administrators from the Pac-12 and the Big East and a head coach from an ACC school? Coincidence or not, the Pac-12 got two teams in the top 8 and the Big East got three teams in the top 16. It is worth pointing out there was no representation from The American.

I always said that while it is unrealistic to have every single conference represented, I do not understand why you cannot have, for example, the top ten conferences represented in each committee for each sport. That way, everyone is heard and the perception of bias by region or conference is nullified. The reason is because it makes too much common sense, which does not apply in this case.

It is unfortunate that we hold college coaches and college athletes to standards and question when they do not perform well, but the majority of us do not do the same to these committees for these sports. It is easy to do it to the football and men’s basketball committees, but do it for the other sports - and by the way, MAKE THE CHAIRPERSON OF EACH COMMITTEE AVAILABLE TO THE MEDIA to answer questions about why they did what they did!

To their credit, Football and Basketball do that, and so does Baseball, with Ray Tanner as the the chairman of the Baseball committee. But the rest run and hide. They don’t even give out statements.

That is unacceptable. We are owed an explanation for why they made the decisions that they did. More important than owing us an explanation, the players and coaches are owed one.

Because this is not just about UCF not being a top 8 seed. This is about why SMU is stuck as an 8-seed and possibly having to play UCF again. Why is Missouri State, at 17-0-1, NOT seeded after being 12th on November 1st? All these players and coaches have work hard year round to put themselves in best position possible for the NCAA Tournament. They are owed an explanation why they were placed where they were placed when it does not add up to what they put on the resume.

But instead, we let people shrug their shoulders and play on until the next sport we break down and find out who got screwed with no explanation.

In the end, UCF, SMU, Missouri State and others should not apologize for what they have accomplished to us. The committee are the ones that owe them an apology, or at least an explanation.

At least they earned that.