Our projected Field of 32

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 … or fiscally … or geographically … 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.

East Bracket
1. Cortland State
2. Ithaca (C)
3. Montclair State (C)
4. Hobart
5. Plymouth State
6. Albright
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.

North Bracket
1. Mount Union
2. Wabash
3. Trine
4. Case Western Reserve (B)
5. Otterbein (C)
6. Franklin
7. Aurora
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.

South Bracket
1. Millsaps
2. Muhlenberg
3. Mary Hardin-Baylor
4. Hardin-Simmons (C)
5. Catholic
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.

West Bracket
1. Willamette
2. North Central
3. Occidental
4. Monmouth
5. UW-Stevens Point
6. UW-Whitewater (C)
7. MIAC winner
8. Wartburg
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.

30 thoughts on “Our projected Field of 32

  1. so much is left to be decided.. but wow, a trip to Alliance for Thomas More.. I knew they’d rue the loss to Geneva, but this would clearly be a huge lesson for the Saints.

    I’d like to start the debate on the “7th Pool C Team”. I believe it would be Redlands in as it would erase the need for a flight to Los Angeles for a team.. Sucks that the committee would think this way.. especially with the Texas teams.

  2. Pat –

    Thanks for all your hard work and for taking the time to do this.

    A couple of questions , (actually 5 – 2 questions in #3).

    1. Which regions line up in the Semi-finals this year? A cursory looks indicates it may rotate from year to year.

    2. Does the higher seeded team in a region always have the home field?

    3. How is the site for the Semi final game deteremined? Highest seed is say a 1 and a 2 make the semis? If its a 1 and 1 are the top 4 seeds seeded 1,2 , 3 and 4?

    4. How are roster sizes structured once the playoffs start. I understand the limit on fielding a team for each game, but are there limits on how many players continue to practice once the post season starts?

    Thanks Again

  3. Carl,

    1. Indeed, it’s not a pre-set rotation. It’s however they line up the brackets each year.

    2. Yes, unless there’s an extenuating circumstance such as a field problem.

    3. Yes, indeed you have hit the nail on the head.

    4. I don’t know if there is a limit on number of players that can practice in the postseason. I believe there is not, though there is a limit on travel and only the 52-player traveling squad can practice at the Stagg Bowl.

  4. SaintsFAN: If Redlands gets in that doesn’t actually save a flight as someone must still fly to Willamette. Just something to consider.

  5. Thanks, Pat. Your projections are always fun, this time of year.

    (Maybe this becomes “bulletin-board” material for RMC and their game on Saturday! 😉 The chaos of the last weekend’s games are always exciting.)

  6. First, Ferrum gets blown out last week. Now Pat has CNU in the playoffs. While I believe it will happen….whew….just more reason for Ferrum to come out firing on all cylinders Saturday against CNU. Can’t wait to wake up Saturday morning.

    Ryan Tipps – first text update…..CNU up 14-0 with 14:30 to play in 1st qt!! 🙂

  7. Pat –

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Something for later — ideas on things that can be done by host schools to really make the playoff experience special for both teams — any traditions carried out,(in addition to winning), by teams that have been pereniel participants in the playoffs.

    I am a Millsaps Parent/Fan and we are excited about being back in the playoffs and are not taking a thing for granted. We hope that if we play up to our potential we will have a chance to win a game or two, maybe more.

    All the teams in the final field are talented.

    Our fan and parent support is significant and any ideas or practices seen elsewhere that we could consider to compliment the excitement and experience of the playoff game(s), both for the Majors and visiting teams and their fans, would be appreciated.

    Thanks again for all you and your staff/team do!

  8. Ugh!!!! I don’t like blogs because you cannot edit ugly errors you find when you proofread too late. … 🙁

    “The chaos of the last weekend’s game is always exciting.”

  9. Pat, you’re right.. long day here on my end, and I’m guilty of not being able to put many thoughts together.

    cnu85, I really feel strongly about the Ferrum/CNU game. One question though, in your opinoin, have the Captains just not opened up the passing game yet? Or is it by necessity.


    no do-overs!!! Just like for many of the teams this weekend! Cheers

  10. Carl Menist,

    One “tradition” that I know of…and probably will experience firsthand this year, is the Pregame Brunch Buffet at Mount Union. Many have said this is a pretty good spread.. MUC will send opposing teams’ fans home questioning their team, just not on an empty stomach 😉

  11. Hey Pat,

    Remind me….Does the selection committee only look at regional rankings or do they look at strength of schedule also? Aurora is ranked 221 in strength of schedule but ranked 10th in the North. Which one might carry more weight with the committee?

  12. Also, another thing to remember with those obsessed with geography is that the committee is charged with selected the 32 (really 9) teams first, then making the matchups.

    So the ideas of flights and cost-cutting really doesn’t come into the discussion until after the bids have been determined.

    I know it’s an easy scapegoat, and it’s certainly possible its in the back of an individual’s mind … but you’d have to have a really flawed committee to be determining bids based on penny-pinching alone.

    Where that comes in is the directive to bus a team instead of fly it when possible; I don’t know if there’s a specific budget they have to make or limit of flights they are able to pay for. But since D3 gate reciepts don’t pay for our teams’ flights, March Madness does, I think the cost-consciousness is justified, although at times annoying.

    I strongly hope they avoid UMHB-HSU rematch, especially since avoiding first-round matchups of conference teams is one of the committee’s listed goals.
    One of my listed goals is to make known who the committee is this year. These are D3 ADs and coaches, not faceless evildoers in an Indianapolis board room. 🙂

  13. The committee is on Page 7-8 of the handbook.

    There’s the eight-member selection committee, and then there are four eight-member regional evaluation committees, the two cochairs of each region heading up the selection committee.

    I see one, possibly two who would have to recuse themselves during Pool C discussion.

    Let me check with Pat before I put the committee on blast. But the handbook is public info.

  14. BTW Pat, separately, I end up with the same six Pool C teams. Though the sixth was a tough choice.

    (and won’t win Saturday :wink:)

  15. I wish the D3 guys were in charge of the selections. That is a great bracket.

    The only question I have is what would be your bracket seeding in this scenario. I assume the MUC region is #1, but who’s 2, 3 and 4?

  16. I know I am biased however, if Huntington beats LaGrange this week, a 9-1 Huntington team that will have not beaten one playoff team will get the 8 seed in the South? Salisbury is 8-2 with a win this week and possibly 3 of those 8 wins against playoff teams. Beating SJF, Albright, and CNU looks much better than beating Maryville and Birmingham Southern. The issue that will hurt them is their in-region record which personally seems sort of dumb when considering what going out of region and playing a good team like SJF or Albright is considered versus playing Randolph-Macon or Gettysburg.

    Is there any chance that with a Northwestern loss and a Huntington win that Salisbury gets into the playoffs? Also, if HSC loses to Randolph Macon this week, could a pool C be given to another pool B like Salisbury especially since they could swing in the East or the South?


  17. 56 — I hear you, but Salisbury did have its destiny in its own hands when it played Wesley, at least. Losing to Delaware Valley is kind of a deal-breaker there, I guess.

    Albright is a regional game for Salisbury, for what it’s worth.

  18. Love it SaintsFAN…that pregame buffet at MUC was part of the reason I had 20 or so pounds to lose by the time I graduated in 2001…which I subsequently have, but I didn’t right away 🙂 It is usually packed in there, but the good thing is after you’ve strapped on the old feedsack, the stadium is right next door….but watch out, its likely to be pretty brisk…I remember a turkey day weekend playoff game blanketed in 6 inches of snow in 1997…I marched in it…I still get cold just thinking of that day….

    In all seriousness, best of luck to the field of 32..whoever they turn out to be…
    I’d be lying if I said the Purple Raider faithful ( some of them dubbed Silver Raiders, as my good friend and former band director used to say) aren’t seriously hoping for a run at No. 10…not just for the number, even though it would be impressive…but there are some seriously great seniors on this team that we would love to see go out on top….

    Looking forward to the excitement of the games….

  19. PAT or Keith

    First I understand W&J needs to win and with some style on saturday if they have any shot at getting in.
    My question is what do you guys see needing to happen for the Presidents to get a Pool C bid?
    If not looks like an ECAC game maybe against Salisbury would be in the future for w&j.

  20. Saintsfan,

    CNU’s lack of a passing game is twofold. I think if it was necessary to throw more they would. The QB is a JR but hasn’t played that position since High School. He was an all-conference and pretty sure all-south region Safety. He was the defensive team leader last year. His move to QB was due to the fact that it was either him or one of 6 Freshman. He’s taken the offense and has them on a 7 game winning streak on the legs of d3 rushing leader Ogun at 181 yds per game. His running (and his backups) plus the o-line play make it such that passing is not really necessary. However, I think once you get into the playoffs, and especially past round one, that a passing game is required. First things first…Ferrum tomorrow!

  21. Presidents,

    I am a W&J fan like yourself. A weak schedule has hurt them. Some of it is their fault and some is not. They only played one team in the top 50 and they lost that game. Still there are several scenarios that get them a bid. By my calculations they are eighth in the pool C race. Obviously any of these teams could lose. Montclair, Redlands, Hampton-Sydney, Ithaca, and Otterbein all have tough games. In additions a loss by St John Fisher, Hobart, UWStephens Point, or Catholic will also move them up the list.

  22. mille ..I remember when Ithaca & W J played great games..blow outs on both sides…maybe they will tie up again someday..for today up here we have rain wind,sold out game and live T V on Time Warner for those that can,t attend…go getem Bombers

  23. Great to see you have Monmouth hosting a first round game. This program has been building over the years. this would be their first ever home playoff game. Not sure I like the matchup with Whitewater, but a home playoff game is another step forward.

  24. Neil,

    I recall a very very good game back in 1995. I believe W&J beat Ithaca 23-19 on that day in Ithaca (we loss in the Stagg Bowl at the next game). It was truly a great series. Hopefully, it can be renewed sometime soon.

  25. wow….the alfred win over st john fisher should now assure the W&J is in the field as Ithaca will move to Pool A…Pool C for now appears to be

    Hardin Simmons
    UW Whitewater
    Wash and Jeff

    Of course there are still some games going on and it is subject to change. If Redlands, UW Whitewater, UW Stephens Pointe, or RPI lose, then a two loss team will join Pool C (and that would be interesting).

  26. You can take Muhlenberg and the worthless NINNY 9 (Centennial COnference) out of the #2 spot – for the love of Mike I do not know what pollsters see in this lame conference! All of these teams aren’t worth spit outside of their own little Pennsylvania and Maryland (bad HS Football and sadly overrated I must add) worlds! Muhlenberg is a one and done if they play ANY team from the midwest or from one of the power conferences. Donnelly is an overrated coach who is a legend in his own mind, and the NINNY 9 (used to be called the Egghead 8) is a conference that will always be an also ran in D3 football.

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