2012 playoff primer: Mind your B’s and C’s
Well, we’re updating this for 2012 because there are a couple of things that did change, namely the site of the women’s Final Four! From now until the end of the regular season you may well see a lot of Division III buzzwords floating about on our front page, here in the Daily Dose and on our message boards. Pool A, Pool B, Pool C, OWP, OOWP … what do those all mean?
Pool A, Pool B and Pool C are the labels given to groups (also known as Pools) of bids awarded to the playoffs. The field is 62 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams culminating in the Final Four and national title games in Salem, Va. (men) and Holland, Mich. (women).
Understanding Pool A is fairly simple — let’s just pretend that ‘A’ stands for automatic. Those are the automatic bids that are awarded. There are 42 conferences with men’s automatic bids and 43 conferences with women’s automatic bids. Every conference other than the UAA awards its automatic bid to the winner of a conference tournament.
If you are not in one of those conferences, there is one bid set aside for you, which is what’s referred to as Pool B. The best team out of that group, which includes independents and (for men only) the Great South Athletic Conference teams, gets a bid as well.
Every eligible team not already selected is dropped into Pool C, which consists of 19 men’s and 20 women’s at-large bids. At-large bids are determined using the NCAA’s criteria, which includes regional winning percentage, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, results against common opponents and results against regionally ranked teams.
If your conference has an automatic bid and your team doesn’t win it, then you are only eligible for Pool C bids. If your conference doesn’t have an automatic bid, you are eligible for Pool B or, if you don’t make that cut, Pool C.
Q: Why is the women’s tournament 64 but the men’s only 62?
A: There are more schools with women’s basketball teams than men’s basketball teams. As more schools join Division III (or more women’s-only schools go co-ed), the men’s tournament will grow to 64. It just expanded from 61 to 62 teams this season.
Q: How can my team guarantee it will get into the playoffs?
A: Win your conference’s automatic bid. There’s no guarantees otherwise.
Q: If the two best teams are in the same region, will they be placed in separate brackets?
A: This is at least possible, but not very likely. They don’t seed this tournament like a D-I tournament, unfortunately. Teams are placed in groups according to geography and seeded, though keeping teams from having to travel 500 miles in the first round is more important to the NCAA than maintaining proper matchups. We can expect from history that the women’s basketball committee will do its best to separate the top teams. The history in men’s basketball is mixed at best, but the men’s committee delivered a nice bracket in 2011.
Q: There are a lot of criteria to go through. How can I tell where my team stands?
A: The NCAA releases regional rankings over the final weeks of the regular season, starting today. However, being No. 6 in one region doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ahead of a team that’s No. 7 in one of the other seven.
Q: So if I’m ranked seventh in these rankings, I’m in the playoffs?
A: No. There are still the 42/43 automatic bids. They’ll all get in first. Take the automatic bids out of the rankings (and keep in mind some conferences don’t have anyone in these rankings) and one Pool B team, then the remaining 19/20 get in.
Q: We’re ranked in the D3hoops.com Top 25. Since the bracket has more than 60 teams, we should be in, right?
A: Unfortunately, no. We would love to be able to say that’s the case, but remember that there are still all those automatic bids. Plus, the NCAA doesn’t agree with us as to who the best at-large teams are.
Q: Can you explain more about the various playoff selection/regional ranking criteria?
A: Absolutely. We have a whole section of our FAQ devoted to the NCAA Tournament, with that and game dates and the list of conferences with automatic bids.
Q: I have a question you haven’t answered. What do I do?
A: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and/or post below in the comments section.
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