DePaul Looking to Enhance Credentials for NCAA Tournament Berth
April 29, 2013
CHICAGO – The final week of the regular season may well determine DePaul’s softball fate in qualifying for an at-large berth in the NCAA Championship tournament.
And what a way for the Blue Demons to start off the week---with a 4 p.m. game Tuesday at Northwestern (28-18).
Both DePaul (28-18) and the Wildcats are among the dozen or so softball programs firmly entrenched on the tournament bubble. These local rivals will be looking to gain the upper hand in the battle for a postseason bid.
“Every game this week is like an elimination game in the NCAA tournament,” said DePaul coach Eugene Lenti as the Blue Demons are home to Northern Illinois on Wednesday before finishing off with a three-game, BIG EAST weekend series at Connecticut.
“You can’t rely on the second chance of winning the BIG EAST Championship tournament. You want to feel safe about an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament and then go out and win the conference tournament.
“The last time I didn’t feel comfortable about an NCAA berth was in 2004 (DePaul was 25-28-1 in the regular season). We had to win the Conference USA tournament to make the NCAA.
“It was double-elimination, and we lost the opener to Houston. But behind Sarah Martz, we won four straight in the losers’ bracket to take the title and qualify for the NCAA Regionals.”
Lenti understands his team needs to fortify a tenuous position as it seeks to compete in the NCAA tournament for the 16th time in the last 17 years.
Going five-for-five this week would certainly strengthen DePaul’s credentials.
The 32-year coach’s NCAA tournament calculations have traditionally been extremely accurate in forecasting who will make the 64-team field.
“This year, we are the definition of a bubble team,” Lenti said. “It may wind up that we need to win the BIG EAST tournament to get in. We are squarely on the bubble with teams like Notre Dame, Northwestern and Illinois State.
“A lot is going to happen in these next two weeks that will determine where we end up. That’s why we’ve got to win as many games as we can to mitigate circumstances like a team with a low RPI rating upsetting the favorite, winning a conference tournament and grabbing an extra bid.
“As coach Doug Bruno has taught me, we have to win one in a row five times this week.”
Lenti believes teams with a 39 RPI or better should be in pretty good shape to make the tournament. DePaul’s RPI has been in the low 40s in recent weeks.
“Every year since 2007, I’ve felt pretty confident about getting in,” Lenti said. “We always play a tough schedule that helps with your RPI. A bunch of teams we’ve played this season have big wins over top opponents.
“The way this all breaks down, we will either play our way in or play our way out of the NCAA tournament.”