November 11, 2012

Final playoff projection

Ohio Wesleyan has one loss but no significant wins, and an SOS that reflects that. Will that be enough to get the Battling Bishops in the playoffs?
OWU athletics photo by Mike Serbanoiu

By Pat Coleman
D3sports.com

Some things got easier on Saturday (thank you, Denison) and only a couple of things got more difficult. Here's how we think the playoff brackets should look.

This is a model of what the NCAA could do. It is based on who we think the NCAA should pick as the at-large teams. If you've watched the regional rankings closely, you may have noticed that the East and North committees rank their teams one way, while the West and South committees rank them differently. The national chair is the chair of the South committee, Old Dominion Athletic Conference commissioner Brad Bankston, and as such, we have emulated the South/West model. (It's the proper way to go, too. South and West have this correct.)

Keep in mind that the NCAA does not want to spring for more plane flights than it has to in the first round. This bracket could be done in one flight, or three flights to be perfectly fair. I've put out a bracket which has two flights, since the NCAA surprised us with one extra flight last year.

Here's how it looks.

First of all, we have to compile our own regional rankings in order to do this correctly. We have two new teams in the South, with F&M and Hardin-Simmons playing their way out. Washington and Jefferson clearly played its way in, and we took Randolph-Macon as well. The Yellow Jackets are 7-3 with a .507 strength of schedule (SOS) and are 1-2 against regionally ranked opponents with the win against Hampden-Sydney. H-SC was ranked two weeks ago and even though the Tigers finish 6-4, they still count as a regionally ranked opponent (RRO).

In the West, Willamette enters the rankings in place of Lake Forest, which lost to St. Norbert on Saturday. Also, the order of teams shuffles in every region. The at-large teams in the East, in order of our mock NCAA regional ranking: Rowan, Salve Regina, Lycoming, Bridgewater State, Endicott. North: Elmhurst, Heidelberg, Ohio Wesleyan, Wheaton. South: Louisiana College, Waynesburg, Huntingdon, Muhlenberg, Randolph-Macon. West: Pacific Lutheran, Bethel, Concordia-Moorhead, Willamette. Wesley is the Pool B team.

The committee's process has been in the past to take the top team from each regional ranking and compare the four of them side by side. Elmhurst is the easy first team to put in, as a 9-1 team with a .531 SOS, followed by Rowan, which has just one D-III loss. Heidelberg (only loss to Mount Union) follows, finishing off the easy picks.

Pacific Lutheran has two losses but a massive SOS. They are on the board against two-loss Salve Regina, one-loss Ohio Wesleyan and two-loss Louisiana College (SOS is 72 points higher than Waynesburg and Louisiana College also has a win against an RRO). I think Pacific Lutheran is a shoo-in here. Bethel replaces them on the board and also has a win against a RRO and a higher SOS than Louisiana College, so I put Bethel in.

Which one-loss team is least likely to get in?
Bridgewater State
Heidelberg
Ohio Wesleyan
Waynesburg

That leaves two spots. Now we have only one team who has beaten an RRO, and that's Louisiana College. Their SOS is only 33 points higher than 9-1 Ohio Wesleyan, but they also have the win against an RRO that Ohio Wesleyan lacks. In fact, Louisiana College is 1-2 against RROs, while Ohio Wesleyan is 0-1 (and that's against a former RRO at that, Wabash). Louisiana College has lost two games but they are to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the South, better than anyone OWU has played. So I put Louisiana College in the field.

Last spot: Left with 1-loss Ohio Wesleyan (.483 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO), 1-loss Waynesburg (.441 SOS is the lowest on the board by a long shot, 0-1 vs. RRO), 2-loss Salve Regina (.509 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO but that's because the East committee ranked four NEFC teams) and Concordia-Moorhead. Concordia-Moorhead has a .571 SOS, which blows the doors off anything else here. When you get to the end of the Pool C discussion, everything is in play, including the way you lost. Salve Regina's loss to 5-4 MIT is the worst loss on the board -- it's the only loss to an unranked team among these four teams. And the SOS, even though they went out and scheduled Union and Montclair State, just isn't high enough because Union is 6-4 and Montclair is 5-5. So although it still seems odd to have a third MIAC team, Concordia-Moorhead is the choice. Even anecdotally, the best win on Waynesburg's schedule is Thomas More and the best on OWU's schedule is Case Western Reserve at 6-4. 

I take those eight teams and the 24 automatic bids and break them into the best four groups of eight possible to create our brackets. With a potential of four teams in Minnesota, and one of those on the North Dakota border, the travel in the westernmost group is really difficult. That, and keeping the three MIAC teams from matching up in the first round made our Linfield bracket tricky.

Last year, remember, the NCAA threw us a wrinkle in the bracket, with shuffled pairings in the national quarterfinals. We have a little of that but the NCAA could certainly take any of our groupings of four teams and swap them with any other if it wanted to spend more money on this bracket.

Mount Union bracket

No. 8 Christopher Newport at No. 1 Mount Union
No. 5 Rowan at No. 4 Salisbury

No. 7 Mount Ida at No. 2 Hobart
No. 6 Washington & Jefferson at No. 3 Widener

Christopher Newport almost made this easier for us by losing to Methodist on Saturday night. Now at 6-4, it's even easier to justify sending them to Alliance rather than sending Mount Ida. 

St. Thomas bracket

No. 8 St. Scholastica at No. 1 St. Thomas
No. 5 Bethel at No. 4 Coe

No. 7 North Central at No. 2 Concordia-Chicago
No. 6 Franklin at No. 3 Heidelberg

It was difficult to build a "North" bracket around a team in Minnesota, but not impossible. Last year not every team needed to be within 500 miles of the quarterfinal opponents and we definitely are building off of that. Bethel's superior SOS and results against regionally ranked opponents make them a better No. 5 seed than Franklin here.

Mary Hardin-Baylor bracket

No. 8 St. Norbert at No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor
No. 5 Washington and Lee at No. 4 Cortland State

No. 7 Framingham State at No. 2 Wesley
No. 6 Wittenberg at No. 3 Johns Hopkins

Louisiana College can drive to Mary Hardin-Baylor but we have different plans for them. The NCAA could choose to penny-pinch here and put Louisiana College at UMHB, but Louisiana College is our No. 5 seed and I am not willing to put No. 5 at No. 1 in the first round. Here winners have to fly to UMHB anyway, so I am not concerned about Cortland potentially being one of them.

Linfield bracket

No. 6 Pacific Lutheran at No. 1 Linfield
No. 5 Adrian at No. 4 Elmhurst

No. 8 Concordia-Moorhead at No. 2 UW-Oshkosh
No. 7 Louisiana College at No. 3 Cal Lutheran

Back when the NCAA used to put seedings on the bracket, it used to be common to see shuffled numbers such as these. Those who are new to Division III may not have seen seedings before but they exist. This is where I put Louisiana College and I fly them to Cal Lutheran. 

The one-flight version of this bracket: Put Louisiana College at UMHB and send anyone to Cal Lutheran. (Perhaps that would be Concordia-Moorhead, with St. Norbert going to UW-Oshkosh.)

The three-flight version of this bracket: Put Louisiana College at Linfield, send Pacific Lutheran to Cal Lutheran and St. Norbert to UMHB.

This bracket is less flexible than the previous two projections, but I have taken away some of that flexibility because St. Thomas a top seed. Here's a look at the top seed candidates.

Remember that starting in 2011, it became permissible for the football committee to use the previous year's playoff results as a tiebreaker among unbeaten teams. This becomes relevant in breaking this year's teams down.

I see six legitimate candidates for top seeds:

Team Record* SOS* RRO Last year's playoffs
Mount Union 10-0 .524 beat North 4, North 8 Won four games
Mary Hardin-Baylor
 
9-0
 
.534
 
beat South 2, South 5
former South 10 
Won two games
 
Linfield
 
8-0
 
.612
 
beat West 4, West 6, West 10,
former South 10 
Won one game
 
St. Thomas 10-0 .544 beat West 7, West 8 Won three games
UW-Oshkosh 9-0 .528 beat West 9 DNP
Hobart 10-0 .498 None Lost in first round

* - in-region record and strength of schedule

Of those six teams, four beat multiple regionally ranked opponents, and four won games in the NCAA playoffs last year. Those should be our four top seeds.

Another possibility is that the national committee could choose to fix the North Region rankings, which are ranked by winning percentage first before any other factor, meaning no two-loss team could get in from the North ahead of Ohio Wesleyan. But even if Wheaton were on the board, its SOS is .517, which is nearly identical to Louisiana College's, and Wheaton has a loss to an unranked team in Albion. Moving Wheaton into OWU's place would not change the final decision.

On Sunday, shortly after 6 p.m. ET, we'll begin to learn what the NCAA decided to do. We'll have links on the site for you to watch the selection show.

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Hobart 28, at Endicott 18
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Buffalo State 60, at Manchester 32
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Montclair State 7, at Salve Regina 6
Box Score Photos
Final
at Western Connecticut 58, Nichols 0
Box Score
Final
Alfred 34, at RPI 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Brockport State 17, at Cortland State 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mount Ida 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Bridgewater State 29, at William Paterson 20
Box Score
Final
Rowan 31, at Framingham State 21
Box Score
Final
at MIT 38, Becker 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Western New England 17, Westfield State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Stevenson 7, at King's 0
Box Score
Final
Lycoming 26, at Albright 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muhlenberg 42, Franklin and Marshall 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 28, McDaniel 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 10, at St. Lawrence 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Elmhurst 33, at Olivet 27
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 35, at Albion 28
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 35, Christopher Newport 30
Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 26, at Kalamazoo 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Widener 45, at Lebanon Valley 3
Final
at Adrian 40, Carthage 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Juniata 38, Dickinson 35
Box Score
Final
at Randolph-Macon 48, Averett 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 28, Millikin 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wilkes 41, Misericordia 7
Final
at Ursinus 31, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Utica 23, at Union 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia (Mich.) 23, Anderson 18
Box Score
Final
Morrisville State 43, at Hartwick 40
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
N.C. Wesleyan 27, at Lincoln (Pa.) 0
Box Score
Final
Greenville 44, at Minnesota-Morris 9
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 27, at Susquehanna 20
Box Score
Final
Capital 54, at Earlham 20
Box Score
Final
Emory and Henry 14, at Maryville (Tenn.) 13
Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 42, at Franklin 13
Box Score
Final
Centre 34, at Defiance 7
Box Score Photos
Final
Thomas More 45, at Hanover 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hope 37, Augustana 27
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Waynesburg 35, St. Vincent 24
Final
Millsaps 30, at Mount St. Joseph 22
Box Score
Final
Oberlin 47, at Kenyon 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Baldwin Wallace 32, Bluffton 20
Box Score
Final
at Simpson 22, UW-River Falls 6
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. Scholastica 41, at Iowa Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Platteville 26, Dubuque 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Trinity International 49, Wisconsin Lutheran 22
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 55, at Concordia (Wis.) 45
Box Score Photos
Final
at Sewanee 21, Washington and Lee 19
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 31, Bethel 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Carleton 40, Knox 14
Box Score
Final
Gustavus Adolphus 42, at Lake Forest 9
Box Score Recap
Final
Luther 20, at St. Olaf 3
Box Score Photos
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 30, Buena Vista 9
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at St. Norbert 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Texas Lutheran 37, at Hardin-Simmons 14
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Ripon 24, Rockford 14
Box Score
Final
at Beloit 27, Grinnell 23
Box Score
Final
at Carroll 34, Benedictine 6
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern 27, Sul Ross State 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at MacMurray 42, Martin Luther 36
Box Score Recap
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 34, at Crown 13
Box Score
Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 48, at Eureka 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Marian (Ind.) 24, at UW-Oshkosh 20
Box Score
Final
at Occidental 34, Puget Sound 32
Box Score Photos
Final
at St. Thomas 46, UW-La Crosse 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Coast Guard 42, Merchant Marine 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Maine Maritime 42, at Anna Maria 12
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Howard Payne 27, at Wayland Baptist 21
Final
at UW-Stout 21, Loras 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alcorn St. 52, Louisiana College 10
Final
Rochester 35, at Alfred State 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 35, Cal Lutheran 28
Box Score
Final
Whitworth 30, at Whittier 17
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Willamette 34, Trinity (Texas) 10
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at LaGrange 28, Berry 27
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 43, at Salisbury 5
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Geneva 42, Grove City 0
Box Score
Final
Washington and Jefferson 56, at Westminster (Pa.) 21
Box Score
Final
at Alma 31, North Park 7
Box Score
Final
Frostburg State 20, at Shenandoah 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Bridgewater (Va.) 43, Greensboro 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Guilford 52, Methodist 20
Box Score
Final
at Rose-Hulman 74, Illinois College 68
Box Score Recap Recap Photos Photos
Final
Bethany 45, at Thiel 24
Box Score
Final
at Hiram 37, Denison 26
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John's 31, at UW-Eau Claire 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Huntingdon 29, Birmingham-Southern 12
Box Score
Final
at Rhodes 46, Washington U. 22
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chicago 38, Concordia-Chicago 0
Box Score
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 36, Redlands 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Monmouth 28, at Central 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hendrix 24, Bacone 14
Box Score
Final
at East Texas Baptist 43, Austin 27
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 23, Macalester 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Coe 50, at Cornell 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Lawrence 59, Maranatha Baptist 0
Final
La Verne 47, at George Fox 33
Box Score
Final
at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 36, Lewis and Clark 14
Box Score
Final
Linfield 21, at Chapman 14
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at N.C. Wesleyan
Live Stats Video
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Framingham State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Video
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video
Sep. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Wesley 43, at Salisbury 5
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 36, Redlands 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Linfield 21, at Chapman 14
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Thomas More 45, at Hanover 16
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Whitewater 42, at Franklin 13
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 27, at Susquehanna 20
Box Score
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 35, Christopher Newport 30
Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 26, at Kalamazoo 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 35, at Albion 28
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Lycoming 26, at Albright 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Thomas 46, UW-La Crosse 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Hobart 28, at Endicott 18
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wartburg 31, Bethel 14
Box Score Photos
Final
Marian (Ind.) 24, at UW-Oshkosh 20
Box Score
Final
at UW-Platteville 26, Dubuque 21
Box Score Photos
Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at St. Norbert 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 35, Cal Lutheran 28
Box Score

What We're Reading