BALTIMORE — As co-champion of the Colonial Athletic Association in the regular season and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, Hofstra still is assured of a postseason berth in the National Invitation Tournament after its 80-73 overtime loss to North Carolina Wilmington in the championship game Monday night at Royal Farms Arena.
The Seahawks earned an automatic NCAA Tournament bid with the victory, but while multiple CAA teams have made the tournament in the past, most bracketologists project one bid this year. As if anticipating the worst, coach Joe Mihalich made the point after Hofstra’s quarterfinal win over Drexel that the CAA is the ninth-ranked conference out of 32 in terms of conference RPI ratings.
Hofstra last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 out of the America East Conference, but with a 24-9 record, Mihalich is hopeful of at least gaining consideration for an at-large NCAA bid. “There’s a slim chance we could be in the NCAA Tournament, but we’ll see,” Mihalich said. “We’ll make a plea for that.“Our RPI is in the mid-50s (58th), and we’ve got a couple top-50 wins and have a good record against the top 100. Our strength of schedule is good, but we could be on the outside looking in. If we are, we’ll be in the NIT, which is an incredible tournament, 32 of the best teams in the country. We’ll try to win that. Who knows? Maybe we’ll end up in the Garden [as part of the NIT Final Four].”
Mihalich knows that some of the power conferences will put as many as six or seven teams into the tournament, middle-of-pack squads that have little chance of going far. It’s the system that stacked against mid-majors.
“There’s no doubt,” Mihalich said. “In our conference, it’s hard to improve your RPI, where in the power conferences, you can lose more games than us, but you play teams with such good RPIs that you end up having a good RPI. We probably dropped a few points when we beat Drexel because their RPI was low. So, it’s set up for the power conferences to get a lot of people in.”
Pointing to wins over Florida State of the ACC in the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas early in the season and a win at Atlantic-10 power St. Bonaventure, Mihalich said that’s evidence of what Hofstra is capable of doing if the NCAA admits it to the 68-team field.
“We could win games, sure,” Mihalich said. We beat Florida State. We beat St. Bonaventure at St. Bonaventure, and they’re in the tournament. There’s no doubt we could win. We’ll say our prayers.”