Selection Sunday usually goes something like this: Wait, see bracket, gripe endlessly about what the committee did wrong.
In a year when one-loss Rowan, Pacific Lutheran and Redlands are staying home and nine teams with multiple losses won their automatic bids or got in via Pool B, including four teams with at least three losses, the committee was placed in a tough situation.
But frankly, they rocked it.
The bracket we end up with is all hype (as in things to be excited by) and few gripes.
Here’s what we have (click for the bracket):
1) A bracket where the defending champion and consensus No. 1 team in the nation, UW-Whitewater, went 10-0 and did not earn a No. 1 seed. If there’s any gripe, that’s it. Yet, the Warhawks will play home games until a potential showdown with North Central, which got the fourth No. 1 seed, and is placed across the bracket from five-time Stagg Bowl opponent Mount Union.
2) Even if we are headed for a sixth straight matchup of the same teams in Salem, for the first time, the purple powers would have to earn it on the road in the semifinals. The committee released the order of its No. 1 seeds, which is how the brackets are then paired. The order is Wesley, St. Thomas, Mount Union and North Central. That means if the No. 1s held and UW-Whitewater won its bracket, the Warhawks’ road to Salem would go through Dover, Del. and the Purple Raiders’ would go through St. Paul, Minn. For those who complain the purple powers have it easy, road semifinals would change the look, if not the result.
3) The return of seeds. After a one-year hiatus, they were provided to D3football.com and are on our version of the bracket. No reason to tick off the fans unnecessarily. Wise move.
4) A bracket which heavily rewards strength of schedule. The selection committee basically said, sure, 10-0 will get you in the field, but if it comes with a very low SoS figure, like Wittenberg (.440), SUNY-Maritime (.433) or Trine (.408), you’re going on the road in Round 1. (although SUNY-Maritime, like Cal Lutheran, earned a higher seed but was not able to host for off-the-field reasons). The SoS figures are also behind the placement of Wesley (.608) and St. Thomas (.548) as the top two No. 1 seeds, as well as North Central (.523) getting one over UW-Whitewater (.487). It’s why DePauw (.549) and Ohio Northern (.512) host Trine and Wittenberg in Round 1 despite the latter’s 10-0 records.
5) Common sense prevailed with regard to Montclair State and Rowan. The numbers and the last set of regional rankings might have slightly favored the Profs, but the Red Hawks won head-to-head, 26-7.
6) It produced compelling Round 1 matchups — granted, travel circumstances made this easy this year — and only one rematch, Cal Lutheran vs. Linfield. Montclair State at Hampden-Sydney and Bethel at Wartburg look like first-round games that could go either way.
I’ll write more about who didn’t get in — Rowan (9-1), Pacific Lutheran (8-1) and Redlands (8-1) by record; Rowan, Louisiana College (7-2 vs. D-III teams), Wabash (8-2) and PLU/Redlands by region; in the comments section.
On Twitter, use hashtag #d3fb32 on tweets about the selection process and playoffs. We also have a thread going on Post Patterns that’s open for comments.
By Thursday, you’ll be ready to look forward, and in our usual Around the Nation slot, our analysts will look at potential surprises, disappointments and winners in all four parts of the bracket, plus we’ll run our regular free pick ’em and the last columns from all of our Around the Region writers.