It’s that time of year again, our first playoff projections.
This is where we take the 23 automatic bids, nine of which are not yet set, then figure out at-large bids, some of which will lose between now and Selection Sunday, then seed them and pair them up logically â€¦ or fiscally â€¦ or geographically â€¦ or fiscally, depending on the bracket.
In doing this every year, we have to toe a fine line. We can call some conference races, leave some open, pretend we know what’s going to happen, or ignore what has yet to be played. This is an inexact science, but it’s an attempt to look at the entire field using the NCAA’s stated selection/seeding criteria. But you can’t simply try to project one bracket in isolation. How do you know if there are eight West teams getting into the field, and not seven or nine or 10?
First, the basics:
Thirty-two teams will form four eight-team brackets. And we know the champions of 23 conferences will get an automatic bid to the playoffs. Three bids (Pool B) are set aside for independents or members of non-automatic bid conferences. The remaining six bids go to what’s called Pool C, which is everyone left over.
So how will the brackets be formed, who will play whom? That’s what we hope to answer. For more info check out our Playoff FAQ.
Teams that have clinched playoff spots are in bold.
1. Cortland State
2. Ithaca (C)
3. Montclair State (C)
5. Plymouth State
7. Hampden-Sydney (C)
8. St. John Fisher
Clearly, the season doesn’t end today, but there are so many moving parts in this region that it seemed better just to take a snapshot. If St. John Fisher loses to Alfred … If Maine Maritime wins the NEFC … If the Cortaca Jug game doesn’t end in an improbable tie … then this would change. But right now we need a team to fill out this bracket and after plugging a few teams in (tried Case Western Reserve, tried Wesley) we ended up with Hampden-Sydney. The South makes it necessary.
1. Mount Union
4. Case Western Reserve (B)
5. Otterbein (C)
8. Thomas More
Thomas More’s reward for losing last week and dropping out of the regional rankings is a trip to Alliance. There is a Franklin-Trine rematch here but the NCAA hasn’t shown any hesitancy to rematch teams that played non-conference games against each other.
3. Mary Hardin-Baylor
4. Hardin-Simmons (C)
6. Wesley (B)
7. Christopher Newport
8. Huntingdon (B)
This is where penny-pinching rears its not-so-pretty head. I’d rather break apart our West Coast teams and our Texas teams and pair them against each other but the NCAA isn’t going to let me. So HSU at UMHB in the first round … again, with Huntingdon at Millsaps, CNU at Muhlenberg and Wesley at Catholic. This is why Hampden-Sydney couldn’t be here in the South.
2. North Central
5. UW-Stevens Point
6. UW-Whitewater (C)
7. MIAC winner
Moving North Central over here as we have only seven West teams qualifying and they dovetail nicely into this bracket. St. John’s can get there in under 500 miles, so it works out. And yes, money rules all here so Occidental goes to Willamette. That and the two WIAC teams leave a mess elsewhere, so here’s how we would pair up the rest of the first round: Wartburg at North Central, UW-Whitewater at Monmouth and the MIAC winner at UW-Stevens Point.
Hardin-Simmons, Otterbein, UW-Whitewater, Ithaca, Hampden-Sydney and Montclair State are our six Pool C teams, chosen in that order. RPI, Wooster, W&J and Redlands were next on the board in each region. If we’d had one more bid to give it would’ve been an interesting debate over the average schedule and one loss of RPI or the mathematically strong schedule and two regional losses of Wooster. W&J has a .377 opponents’ winning percentage, which will make it very tough for them to get off the board, even though Waynesburg will raise that.
With a Huntingdon win and a Northwestern win, Huntingdon stays ahead of Northwestern for the final Pool B slot. If LaGrange beats Huntingdon and Northwestern wins, there will be an interesting discussion about the merits of two fairly weak schedules.
We’ll do this again at the end of the night on Saturday, heading into Selection Sunday.