Lycoming is on our list, but will the Warriors ever get on the board?
Lycoming athletics photo
By Keith McMillan
For the purposes of discussing Pool C on Monday’s podcast, Pat Coleman and I ran a loose projection of what regional rankings would look like after Saturday’s games (new ones come out Wednesday afternoon). Then we took a look at the teams who have the best chances at securing the seven at-large playoff bids.
Given last week’s regional rankings and last Saturday’s upsets, some changed, but not much. In the East, we move St. John Fisher out and Delaware Valley in. In the South, Franklin & Marshall takes the place of Hampden-Sydney. In the North, Wabash tumbles from fourth out of the ten regionally ranked teams, while Wheaton joins, and slots no lower than sixth. In the West, losses by Bethel and Concordia-Moorhead weren’t enough to push them out, which meant teams like Illinois College, St. Olaf and Willamette, which might be ranked in less competitive regions, are still on the outside looking in.
With that part of the exercise complete, Pat and I were able to project automatic qualifiers in the 11 conferences with bids up for grabs. The main ones that affect Pool C are the CCIW and NCAC, with the MAC not far behind. For this, we projected North Central (by virtue of a win against 5-4 Augustana and an Elmhurst win over 6-3 Illinois Wesleyan) and Widener in. At the time of recording, we didn’t feel comfortable with how we were interpreting the NCAC tiebreaker, but as I read it then and read it now, I think Kenyon would win a three-way tiebreaker with Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan. The Lords have the worst overall record, but their only conference loss is to OWU, because it doesn’t play Wabash or Wittenberg. The Tigers and Battling Bishops losses are to Wabash, which is lower in the standings than OWU.
Kenyon in is bad news for other Pool C hopefuls, who’ll be rooting for potential Pool C teams to take any Pool A bid possible.
What we came up with is the below chart. This is both what the board would look like after the AQ teams are put into the field, and the way these teams fell in our mock regional ranking, excluding teams we project to win the AQ. Included with each team is its current strength of schedule figure and its record against regionally ranked opponents. Asterisks denote a Week 11 clash with an RRO.
Most likely Pool C candidates:
|Pacific Lutheran, .625, 0-2||Elmhurst, .530, 1-1||Huntingdon, .603, 1-1*||Rowan, .508, 1-1|
|Bethel, .585, 1-1||Heidelberg, .450, 0-1||Louisiana College, .505, 0-2*||Lycoming, .536, 0-1|
|Concordia-Moorhead, .604, 0-2||Wheaton, .558, 1-1||Muhlenberg, .548, 1-1||Bridgewater State, .511, 0-1|
|UW-Platteville, .530, 0-1||North Coast runners up||Franklin & Marshall, .537, 2-1||Delaware Valley, .471, 0-2*|
If you want to simulate the way the national selection committee will approach at-large selections on Saturday night, take the top four teams in each regional and compare them on the criteria. Instead of evaluating a pool of 16 or 18 teams at once, they’ll just look at four. Each time you put a team in — say Elmhurst finishes 9-1 and is your first — then you just bump the next team up on to the board (in this case Heidelberg) and compare the four. In theory, all seven at large teams could come from the same region.
The purpose of this post is not to pick the seven for you — I’ll leave that for you — but to give you insight on what the facts are, and what the committee is looking at, prior to Saturday’s final week of games. Some points of analysis:
Few one-loss teams: Though we always say its about who you beat not who you lose to, number of losses clearly matters, as winning percentage is primary criteria. Loosely translated, that means 9-1 and 8-1 teams are usually Pool C locks, provided there are enough bids to accommodate them. But this year, there are seven bids and just a handful of teams who could finish 9-1 and not earn an AQ: Elmhurst, Heidelberg, Ohio Wesleyan, Wittenberg, Bridgewater State, Illinois College. That’s it. Rowan, which could finish 8-2, but 8-1 against Division III opponents, makes a seventh “one-loss team” for playoff purposes.
Strength of schedule: If only wins mattered, we’d slot those seven in and call it a day. But we know all schedules are not created equal. So the NCAA adds two-thirds opponents winning percentage (who you played) and one-third opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (reflects strong conference, strong non-conference scheduling) to get the SoS figures linked to above. And that means Pacific Lutheran, with its monster figure, could be in better shape than half of the one-loss teams. It also means if, say, Huntingdon were on the board alongside Delaware Valley, which beats Widener but not by the 16 points required to secure the AQ, then the Aggies are at a serious disadvantage. One note about how to interpret SoS figures. Slightly higher is not a big deal to the committee, but a very noticeable difference could tilt the scales among otherwise tied teams. Below .500 is not very good.
Once ranked, always ranked: Wabash might have dropped out of our mock regional rankings, but they were ranked at one point, therefore their results still counts as games played vs. RRO.
Week 11 RRO clashes: Adrian at Huntingdon, Delaware Valley at Widener, Hardin-Simmons at Louisiana College.
Watch for falling AQs (first loss): Widener (.450, 1-0*) and Waynesburg (.402, 0-0) could poach a Pool C spot from somebody if they fail to win on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets host Washington & Jefferson for the PAC title. They’re already 9-0 and could get in on record alone, but they also have one of the worst SoS figures and no games against RROs. They might be out with a loss, or they might boot your team from the field. You need them to clinch AQs.
Watch for falling AQs (second loss): Cal Lutheran (.515, 1-1) and Franklin (.471, 0-1) could fall into Pool C by picking up another D-III loss (the Grizzlies have one against I-AA Butler). Lake Forest and Elmhurst could join the group, and will have SoS figures above .530 and results vs. RROs, but would be better off just winning. Illinois College (vs. 7-2 Carroll) has an outside shot at its AQ, but would be in trouble with a defeat, due to a very low SoS and a h2h loss to Lake Forest.
Explaining the North Coast: If Kenyon steals the automatic bad, that’s bad news for everyone. Bumps all three NCAC runners up into Pool C. Ohio Wesleyan, (.511, 0-1); Wittenberg, ( .420, 0-1) and Wabash (.561, 2-0). Right now we have them in this order. But Wabash beat both teams head to head, so you’d want them to get to the board first. But those pesky two losses, to a potential 9-1 for OWU and Wittenberg. So maybe they get to the board first, separated by OWU’s SoS.
Explaining the CCIW: North Central takes the AQ if they, Elmhurst and Wheaton each win. In this case, Elmhurst is a strong Pool C. if North Central loses, Elmhurst can win. If Elmhurst loses, Wheaton wins.
On Bridgewater State: As the NEFC’s third-best team, they miss the conference title game, but are protected from picking up another loss. So while 9-1 is good, it might not be better than 9-2. Framingham State, if it loses the title game and automatic qualifier, has a head to head victory over the Bears. So they would get in first. And maybe Salve Regina would too; having played in the championship game, adding one RRO and also coming in under the ‘conference postseason contests’ criteria, giving it something Bridgewater State can’t match.
Too far out: There are a handful of teams who could finish with only two losses, but not be seriously considered for the field. St. Olaf (0-2, .515) might actually deserve consideration, but they would have to win at St. Thomas (9-0) this week to stay in the discussion. The group also includes Carroll (low SoS), Endicott (losses to Salve Regina, Bridgewater), Ferrum (low SoS), Gallaudet (low SoS), Greenville (no RROs), Millsaps (low SoS), Northwestern (no RROs), Otterbein (stuck behind Mount Union and Heidelberg) and Wisconsin Lutheran (low SoS), among others.
Guide to teams to root for (or against): Teams in need want the other teams with good resumes to pick up an additional loss. Root for Adrian to beat Huntingdon, and for Widener and Waynesburg to finish unbeaten. You sho should pull for the NCAC to shake out in Ohio Wesleyan’s favor. Or Wabash’s somehow. Root for Cal Lutheran to handle business against Chapman; Every AQ in Pool A is one fewer candidate to worry about in Pool C.
Okay fine, just this one: So this is the fun of it.
PLU, Elmhurst, Huntingdon and Rowan come the board first. The Bluejays go based on overall record and decent-enough SoS.
PLU, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Rowan: The Berg can’t lose to Baldwin-Wallace. Their SoS isn’t good enough, even with the expected bump, to make up for the second loss. Here though, Rowan gets in, then Heidelberg.
PLU, Wheaton, Huntingdon, Lycoming. I take the Hawks, with the high SoS and the win over an RRO (Hampden-Sydney). Would need another win over an RRO to survive, so we’re projecting. After that, it’s Pacific Lutheran. Lost to two top-10 teams but beat three with at least five wins.
Bethel, Wheaton, Louisiana College, Lycoming. Two more to choose. By virtue of high SoS and a win over RRO each, the Royals and Thunder round out my field.
My seven: Elmhurst, Rowan, Heidelberg, Huntingdon, Pacific Lutheran, Bethel, Wheaton.
Left on the board: Concordia-Moorhead, NCAC team, LC and Lycoming. So that last-second Royals TD would have decided a playoff bid. And Wheaton would have played its way in. Louisiana College sees two-loss teams get added, but it and UW-Platteville watch others with higher SoS and wins over RROs go.
Leave yours in the comments.
Sorry for not posting this on Tuesday, everybody. It will be reprised for Thursday’s Around the Nation, using the actual regional rankings.