2010 Playoff Bracket is released – React here!

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.

Floor’s yours.

Our final playoff projection

Do we think Coe gets in?

The job of selecting teams was about the same as it was earlier in the week. It didn’t really get easier with Hardin-Simmons losing. And having a UAA winner didn’t help us read the tea leaves in Pool B.

Here’s the deal: Doing a full projection involves emulating the NCAA process from the beginning, all the way through. We have to create our own regional rankings, because it’s not just important to selecting teams, it’s important for seeding them. So Gordon Mann and I, who have been projecting brackets as a team for years in both football and basketball, started with four regional rankings.

Cortland State
Montclair State
Delaware Valley
St. John Fisher
Maine Maritime
Mount Union
North Central (Ill.)
Wheaton (Ill.)
Ohio Northern
Illinois Wesleyan
Mary Hardin-Baylor
Thomas More
Washington & Lee
Louisiana College
St. Thomas
Cal Lutheran
Pacific Lutheran

I decided instead of spending a lot of text explaining who plays whom since the seedings and travel and conference rematches don’t always line up, I would just create a darn bracket. So here, download the projected bracket and see what we’re talking about.

We end up ranking the three NJAC teams straight by strength of schedule, since so much else here is a wash. And we will talk more about this later.

Some things did change this week. Pool B doesn’t — still Wesley, Salisbury, SUNY-Maritime. Chicago was the one left out — we looked at Salisbury’s overall Division III SOS to help guide us and it ended up being .558, ahead of Chicago’s. And Chicago making our regional rankings has more impact down the line.

Pool C: Remember how this works is that the NCAA takes the top remaining team from each region and compares all four together. They pick the best, then replace them on the board with the next team from that region.

Wheaton is first and easiest. Hampden-Sydney next. Rowan takes a little discussion because of its .500 SOS but it has a win against a regionally ranked team — a team No. 1 in its regional rankings, in fact. Ohio Northern had a better SOS (.512) but no win against a regionally ranked team. However, we put ONU in next. It gets dicey here but we add Bethel, which is like Ohio Northern (only loss is to the No. 1 team in its region) with a lower SOS. But the Royals have a much better showing against St. Thomas than ONU did against Mount Union. That’s five of our six Pool C teams.

Here’s the board now, four teams, with record, SOS and results against regionally ranked teams (no common opponents or head-to-head here):

136 Montclair State 9-1 .493 1-1 beat East-2 lost to East-1
15 Wabash 8-1 (8-2 overall) .574 2-1 beat S4 beat N9 lost N5
74 Louisiana College 7-2 (7-3 overall) .516 1-1 lost S2 beat S9
135 Coe 7-1 (9-1 overall) .493 1-1 lost W3 beat W10

We need just one team. Montclair State and Coe look fairly identical here but Montclair’s 1-1 is better than Coe’s 1-1. This doesn’t get us all the way there, but we can eliminate Coe because at least one team is better than Coe here.

Of the two-loss teams (and Louisiana College isn’t even really a two-loss team), we can eliminate Louisiana College. So it’s Montclair State vs. Wabash.

Montclair has the edge in record. Wabash has a huge edge in SOS — I mean, .574 to .493 is significant. And even if you go away from the numbers for a bit and look at who Montclair scheduled out of conference (Westfield State), the schedule doesn’t grade well. Wabash has two wins against regionally ranked opponents — and even if you don’t think Chicago makes the regional rankings, well, Wabash still has a gigantic 47-0 drubbing of DePauw today.

There is no magic formula that tells us what is worth more, or how many points in SOS it takes to overcome a difference in winning percentage. And perhaps this is not what the NCAA will do. But it’s what the NCAA should do.