I think it is safe to say that the top 25 voters would have made different decisions on Pool C bids than the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees did. According to the pollsters, one women’s and five men’s teams that did not receive tournament invitations are among the top 25 in the nation. This includes men’s #9 UW-Oshkosh, the highest-ranked men’s team ever to be denied a chance to play for the national title. The five “snubbed” men’s teams matches the record total from the 2002 tournament, a tournament played before the expansion from 48 teams to the current 59-team field.
The women’s bracket, by contrast, looks pretty satisfactory from a top 25 persepective. The only ranked team to be left out is #18 Hardin-Simmons, which is a far cry from the 2005 bracket, which omitted seven of the season-ending top 25 from it’s 50-team field.
The final regular-season top 25 poll has proven to be a good but by no means perfect predictor of the national tournament. On the men’s side, there have always been either one or two Final Four teams that were in the year-end top 4. The teams ranked #1, #3, and #4 have reached the Final Four roughly half of the time, but oddly enough the team that finished the season ranked #2 has not made the Final Four in the seven-year history of the poll. The team that carries this dubious burden into the weekend is Wooster. There has yet to be a men’s Final Four team that was unranked at the end of the regular season. The men’s tournament has been won by a top 10 team in every year of the poll except 2001 (won by #14 Catholic,) with the average ranking of the champion being #6 (good news for fans of Amherst.)
The year-end women’s top 25 is also a good predictor, with a bit more variability than the men’s. There was a year (2004) where the Final Four had three top 4 teams, and another (2002) where the entire top 4 was eliminated prior to the final weekend. That was the only year that the year-end #1 team failed to make the Final Four, so women’s #1 Bowdoin looks to be in good shape to reach Springfield. On the other hand Scranton has reason to worry, as the team ranked third in the final pre-tournament poll has never reached the semifinals. On three occasions, including last year’s Hardin-Simmons team, an unranked team has reached the Final Four. There was even one semifinalist that failed to receive a single vote in the year-end poll (Ohio Wesleyan in 2001). The top-ranked team has not won the title since Washington U. ’s last title, in 2001. In the five years since, the Walnut and Bronze has been shipped home by teams ranked anywhere from #6 (Hope last year and Millikin the previous year) to #21 (Trinity (TX) in 2003,) with the average rank of the winner over that period being approximately #12, a good augur for McMurry.
Good luck to all of the participating teams, and may the best teams win!
Women: The Falcons of Concordia University of Wisconsin ended their regular season on a 19-game winning streak, which included the regular season and tournament championships in the Northern Athletics Conference, and enter the women’s poll voting for the first time ever. Concordia travels to Luther this weekend to battle the 25th-ranked Norse.
Men: #23 Centre College enters the men’s Top 25 poll for the first time ever. The Colonels shared the SCAC title this season with DePauw, then won the SCAC tournament in Memphis to advance to the NCAA tournament. Centre takes its 23-4 record to Wooster, OH this weekend, where they will face Capital University.
Congratulations to the Falcons and the Colonels!
Women: #3 Scranton, undaunted by their bad-luck ranking, are a top 25 team for the 90th consecutive week. Puget Sound received votes for the 20th straight week, while Baldwin-Wallace dropped off the voting rolls for the first time in 32 weeks.
Men: The College of Wooster, holders of the unpropitious #2 ranking, are in the top 25 for the 75th consecutive week. This impressive streak is second only to the record 77-week string held by #6 Amherst. #4 Virginia Wesleyan is a vote-getter for the 25th straight time. #16 UW-La Crosse and #13 Elmhurst, both denied bids to the NCAA tournament, can take small consolation in the extensions of their voting streaks to 20 and 10 weeks, respectively. Puget Sound dropped out of the top 25 for the first time in 51 weeks.
Women: #16 Wilmington makes their 100th appearance among the vote-getting teams this week. Congratulations to the Quakers on this achievement! Twelfth-ranked McMurry received votes for the 50th time. Other teams reaching milestones in the vote-getting category include St. Lawrence (70 weeks), #17 Brandeis (60 weeks), #10 Mary Washington (40 weeks), and Kean (20 weeks.) Fourth-ranked Messiah’s appearance in the top 25 this week is their 100th of all-time. Congratulations to the Falcons! #3 Scranton is a top 25 team for the 120th time, while #13 Emmanuel and #20 Medaille are in the poll for the 40th and 10th times, respectively. #7 Calvin is among the top 10 for the 10th time.
Men: #13 Elmhurst and #15 Occidental each appear in the voting results for the 50th time this week. #22 Salem St. is a vote-getter for the 60th time; Capital received votes for the 40th week; and Averett was named on ballots for the 10th time. Fifth-ranked St. Thomas is a member of the top 10 for the 20th week. #25 John Carroll is ranked for the 40th time, while #16 UW-La Crosse and #24 NYU are each a top 25 team for the 10th time.
Women: The hits just keep on coming in Brownwood—#2 Howard Payne has once again set a new record for highest-ever ranking, a record they have broken or matched in every poll this season. Other women’s teams that reached new all-time highs just in time for the NCAAs include #14 Lake Forest, #20 Medaille, and #21 Maine-Farmington.
Men: Men’s teams carrying their highest-ever rankings into the NCAA tournament include #3 Mississippi College, #14 Aurora, #21 Rhode Island College, and debutante #23 Centre. UW-La Crosse tied their highest-ever ranking at #16.
Movers and Shakers:
Women: For the second straight week, the principal movement in the women’s poll was downward. The largest gains were recorded by #16 Wilmington (+66 points and 4 rankings) and #5 Hope (+59/+2), both relatively modest gains. The downward march was led by #24 Illinois Wesleyan, who lost twice last week and shed 144 points and six spots in the final poll. #7 Calvin’s loss to archrival Hope cost them 98 points and 5 placements, while the premature end of #18 Hardin-Simmons’ season was reflected in their 96-point, five-spot drop in the poll.
Men: #17 Wittenberg fell in the NCAC semifinals, costing them 131 poll points, 7 ranking placements, and a chance for a second straight trip to Salem. #19 Guilford also lost 131 points after losing in the ODAC quarterfinals, but it cost them just 2 spots in the poll; and #18 WPI slipped 5 spots and 119 points after losing in the NEWMAC title game. #8 Washington U. clinched the UAA title, moving up 123 points and 4 placements, while CCIW conference and tournament champion #7 Augustana gained 114 points and 2 spots.