October 25, 2012

Our mock regional rankings

Where might the committee rank Concordia-Chicago, which is unbeaten but has not played a regionally ranked opponent? We have some thoughts.
Concordia-Chicago athletics photo

We’ve had our fun, acknowledged that everyone who sets foot on a Division III field is already a winner in many respects. But now it’s time to get down to business. We may play for the love, but we love to play to win. Thirty-two of the 239 teams get a shot at winning the Stagg Bowl. We’re deep enough into the season that Around the Nation can tune most everything else out for a week to provide the information that D-III die-hards really need.

In the past, playoff selection committees have given up to four sets of regional rankings, which are used to help choose the eight teams in the field of 32 who do not get in by automatic qualification (winning their conference). Today, there are two sets of rankings, on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, and another perhaps kept between members of the committee on selection Saturday night.

Since you don’t want to wait another six days to get a feel for who stands where in the playoff picture, Around the Nation will approximate the regional rankings for you. Later in the column there’s a primer, in case you’re not up on the playoff basics, a glance at Pools B and C and potential No. 1 seeds, and a look at the people who comprise the NCAA selection committee.

Here and now, though, Pat Coleman and I provide a set of mock regional rankings to tide you over until the actual committee releases its first set. We’ve considered the same things the committee will – the five primary selection criteria and the eight secondary criteria. When completed, the regional rankings themselves are one of the selection criteria, in that results against the 10 ranked teams in each of the four regions are considered when choosing who to put in the field. That’s why they’re so important to examine now.

One more important caveat: As far as the committee is concerned, once regionally ranked, always regionally ranked. So if your school has played a team that appears in the committee’s first set of rankings, then that team falls out the next week, it is still a result the committee will consider.

Here are ATN’s mock regional rankings, with in-region record, strength of schedule figure and ranking among 239, and results vs. regionally ranked opponents (RRO). Head-to-head games and games against common opponents are also taken into account, and commentary follows.

East

1. Hobart, 7-0, .559 (47th), defeated RPI.
2. Salisbury, 6-1, .600 (25th), defeated Alfred, St. John Fisher, lost to Wesley (No. 2 South).
3. Widener, 7-0, .423 (206th), defeated Lycoming.
4. Cortland State, 6-1, .472 (149th), defeated Rowan.
5. Rowan, 5-1, .568 (60th), lost to Cortland State.
6. Salve Regina, 7-1, .530 (76th), no results vs. RRO.
7. RPI, 5-2, .532 (74th), defeated Alfred, lost to Hobart.
8. Alfred, 4-2, .580 (38th), defeated St. John Fisher, lost to RPI, Salisbury.
9. St. John Fisher, 4-2, .603 (21st), lost to Alfred, Salisbury.
10. Lycoming, 5-2, .574 (40th), lost to Widener.

The bubble: Kean, Delaware Valley.

Beyond the bubble: Framingham State, Mount Ida

Hobart
Hobart is a clear No. 1 in our regional rankings, although that doesn't guarantee them a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That's a discussion for another week.
Hobart athletics photo by David Colton

The explanation: Seeing teams’ resumes stacked on top of each other like this really puts into perspective what a good strength of schedule figure is. A .568 might not sound like a lot, but it’s 116 teams away from .429.

Hobart is our No. 1, with a decent SoS and the win over RPI. Salisbury, whose loss is to Wesley, which will be a regionally ranked opponent in the South, has wins against Alfred and St. John Fisher. Widener’s SoS is so low they’re behind a one-loss team that’s played three RROs, and beaten two. And one thing we’ve been told by members of the committee in multiple sports in the past is it’s better to have played a RRO and lost than not to have played any at all.

There’s a lot of cross-play in the East; the aforementioned games, plus Cortland State has a head-to-head advantage over Rowan. Salve Regina is the only school who doesn’t have a result against an RRO, though its efforts to play a stronger schedule are reflected in the SoS number.

Because of who they have yet to play, Widener and Cortland State will likely see SoS boosts.

Strength of schedule gave the nod to Lycoming for the 10th spot, but that will likely change as Kean closes with Cortland State, Rowan and Montclair State, while the Warriors finish up with Wilkes, Stevenson and Misericordia. The Cougars can play themselves into a Pool A, and would be regionally ranked but on shaky ground as an at-large pick if it lost again.

Bad SoS and no RROs mean Framingham and Mount Ida are going to have to get into the postseason the guaranteed way.

South 

1. Mary Hardin-Baylor, 6-0, .648 (8th), defeated Wesley, Louisiana College.
2. Wesley, 4-1, .680 (3rd), defeated Salisbury, Louisiana College, lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor
3. Johns Hopkins, 7-0, .541 (65th), defeated Franklin and Marshall, Muhlenberg.
4. Huntingdon, 4-1, .605 (19th), defeated Millsaps. 
5. Millsaps, 5-1, .545 (62nd), lost to Huntingdon.
6. Waynesburg, 8-0, .392 (220th), no results vs. RRO.
7. Louisiana College, 3-2, .591 (28th), lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor, Wesley.
8. Carnegie Mellon*, 4-1, .577 (39th), lost to Ohio Wesleyan, Wabash (non-region game).
9. Muhlenberg, 4-2, .549 (59th), defeated Franklin and Marshall, lost to Johns Hopkins.
10. Franklin and Marshall, 6-1, .493 (114th), lost to Muhlenberg.

* - additional out-of-region loss

The bubble: Washington and Lee, Hampden-Sydney and Bridgewater.

Waynesburg has taken down every opponent it's faced so far but its low strength of schedule keeps it lower in these regional rankings.
Waynesburg athletics photo by Mike Kabay

The explanation: UMHB, which nearly adds another win over an RRO because of its early-season matchup with Kean, is tops by virtue of an win against Wesley, and another against Louisiana College. Kean could become a RRO for Mary Hardin-Baylor with a win Saturday against Cortland State. Wesley, for its part, has beaten Salisbury (East), Louisiana College and unranked Birmingham-Southern, and has a showdown looming.

The south is home to all of the legitimate Pool B contenders. As of now, it seems the Wesley-Huntingdon winner takes the bid; the Hawks’ head-to-head win against Millsaps would make up for their inferior record.

Waynesburg has the best record in D-III, but it’s come against one of the worst schedules.

It’s not much of a bubble. Of the three ODAC teams, two have losses to RROs. Muhlenberg, which beat F&M, which beat W&L, takes the 10th spot instead of the Generals. The Generals could move into the 10 spot because of overwhelming SoS, and they play H-SC in two weeks. But they’re also coming off a bad loss to Bridgewater.

North

1. Mount Union, 7-0, .439 (188th), defeated Franklin
2. North Central, 6-1, .538 (69th), defeated Elmhurst
3. Concordia-Chicago, 7-0, .603 (20th), no results vs. RRO.
4. Wabash, 4-1, .584 (32nd), defeated Wittenberg, Carnegie Mellon (non-region game).
5. Ohio Wesleyan, 7-0, .483 (130th), defeated Carnegie Mellon.
6. Elmhurst, 6-1, .590 (29th), lost to North Central, defeated Wheaton.
7. Heidelberg, 7-0, .371 (224th of 229), no results vs. RRO.
8. Franklin, 5-1*, .444 (183rd), lost to Mount Union.
9. Wittenberg, 6-1, .514 (93rd), lost to Wabash.
10. Wheaton, 5-2, .551 (55th), lost to Elmhurst.

* - additional out-of-division loss

The bubble: Illinois Wesleyan, Baldwin Wallace. Extended bubble: Adrian, Albion, Otterbein, Hanover.

Ohio Wesleyan plays Wabash this week, so they might never appear in the official regional rankings.
Ohio Wesleyan athletics photo by Sara Blake

The explanation: The North is easily the most fluid of the four regions, with Mount Union, Heidelberg and Baldwin Wallace all yet to face each other, contributing to some ultra-low SoS figures. Same goes for Wheaton and North Central, Illinois Wesleyan and both North Central and Elmhurst, and Wabash and Ohio Wesleyan. The North’s rankings will be strongly influenced by the final three weeks, and so we took the liberty of factoring in Concordia-Chicago’s coming drop in SoS based on its final opponents, and other teams’ expected rises. The Cougars have a win over Lake Forest, which just missed the West rankings, and leaves them without a result against an RRO.

Wabash is ahead of Ohio Wesleyan at the moment because of its SoS and performance against common opponents. The Little Giants beat Denison and Carnegie Mellon by an average of 29 points, the Battling Bishops by an average of 5.5. While slight differences in margin of victory are generally not factored in, the criteria (listed further down) say “results” against common opponents, and that goes beyond just the W and L.

West

1. Linfield, 5-0, .722 (1st), defeated Cal Lutheran, Pacific Lutheran.
2. UW-Oshkosh, 6-0, .589 (31st), defeated UW-Whitewater.
3. St. Thomas, 7-0, .528 (78th), defeated Bethel.
4. Coe, 7-0, .498 (109th), no results vs. RRO.
5. Bethel, 6-1, .658 (5th), lost to St. Thomas, defeated Concordia-Moorhead.
6. Concordia-Moorhead, 5-1 .601 (23rd), lost to Bethel.
7. Cal Lutheran, 5-1, .517 (90th), lost to Linfield, defeated Pacific Lutheran.
8. Pacific Lutheran, 4-2, .700 (2nd), lost to Linfield, lost to Cal Lutheran, defeated Willamette.
9. Willamette, 5-1, .594 (27th), lost to Pacific Lutheran.
10. UW-Whitewater, 5-1*, .500 (104th), lost to UW-Oshkosh.

* - additional out-of-region loss

The bubble: Whitworth, Lake Forest, UW-Platteville.

Extended bubble: Augsburg, Northwestern, Illinois College, St. Olaf, Simpson, Wartburg and St. Norbert.

Bethel's strength of schedule and results against regionally ranked opponents could argue for it to be ranked ahead of Coe, but the Royals were not competitive in their loss to St. Thomas, making it a tough sell.
Photo by Scott Pierson, d3photography.com

The explanation: The overwhelming quality of teams in the west – 10 teams with two or fewer losses don’t even get ranked – actually shakes out pretty easily. The top three are all unbeaten with at least one win against an RRO. Coe is the final unbeaten.

In the next tier, Bethel’s beaten Concordia-Moorhead, Cal Lutheran’s beaten PLU and the Lutes beat Willamette. UW-Whitewater edges Whitworth for the 10th spot on virtue of in-region record. Consider the Warhawks’ loss to Buffalo State, and Whitworth’s advantage everywhere else, and that would affect UW-Oshkosh, which no longer has a win vs. an RRO, and gives both Willamette and Linfield one more.

Lake Forest has a loss to Concordia-Chicago, which is ranked in the North, while UW-Platteville has a pair of losses to RROs in UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater.

Playoff primer

If you’re new to D-III, never cared about the playoffs before, need a refresher or are otherwise unfamiliar with any aspect of how the 32-team bracket is set up, this FAQ is for you.

It answers almost everything, including what the heck people mean when they talk about AQs, Pools B and C and “the criteria.” If you’re feeling extra-wonky, the NCAA championship handbook is available on our website.

Simply, there are 32 teams this season – 24 conference champions, one bid reserved for teams who do not have access to an automatic bid, and seven at-large bids for everyone left over. Games are on campus sites, except the Friday night national championship in Salem, Va., and higher seeds host.

The NCAA selection committee is made up of D-III conference coaches, ADs and commissioners, not people who have no idea what’s what in D-III this season. When creating the bracket, the committee is directed to limit trips of more than 500 miles, because the NCAA picks up the tab for trips longer than that, so budget-conscious D-III schools can fly. Most of the committee’s work is done because of the automatic qualifying teams, so they select seven, with four teams – the best from each region – being discussed at any given time. Then they’ll seed the teams and create the first-round matchups. And although we colloquially refer to the brackets as North, South, East and West, there is no directive to build them that way, so if teams in a bracket are within 500 miles of Alliance, Ohio, then Mount Union can be the No. 1 seed “in the East” although it as a North Region team. No region is guaranteed to only play against teams from its own region to get to the final four.

We know this is new to some of you, especially schools that are contending for the first time in years, so please don’t hesitate to use the FAQ, and ask questions on our message board if you have queries beyond that.

Know the criteria

Want to argue that your team should be in? First, make sure you know what the selection committee does and does not look at.

The primary criteria are:

  • Win-loss percentage against regional opponents.
  • Strength of schedule (only contests versus regional competition).
  • In-region head-to-head competition.
  • In-region results versus common regional opponents.
  • In-region results versus regionally ranked teams.

The secondary criteria:

  • Out-of-region head-to-head competition.
  • Overall Division III win-loss percentage.
  • Results versus common non-Division III opponents.
  • Results versus all Division III ranked teams.
  • Overall win-loss percentage.
  • Results versus all common opponents.
  • Overall Division III strength of schedule.
  • Should a committee find that evaluation of a team’s win-loss percentage during the last 25 percent of the season is applicable

(i.e., end of season performance), it may adopt such criteria with approval from the championships committee.

Meet the selection committee

The D-III playoff selection committee is comprised of eight members, all with direct ties to football at our level, not the NCAA home office in Indianapolis. Each of those eight members is paired with a co-chair and presides over one of four regional advisory committees. The 34 members of those committees – each of the four is either eight or nine members, mostly coaches – represent nearly every conference plus independents. That means someone from the committee likely participated in at least one game against every team in the country, and likely watched several more on video. 

This season, the eight-member selection committee is:

Brad Bankston, ODAC commissioner, chairman
Loren Dawson, Austin coach
Duey Naatz, UW-Stout coach
Terry Horan, Concordia-Moorhead coach
Shannon Griffith, Manchester coach
Tim Gleason, OAC commissioner
John Marzka, Albright coach
Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, SUNY-Maritime coach

Unbeatens, one loss and two-loss teams

There are 15 teams in Division III who haven’t lost yet, 26 who’ve lost just once and 45 who have two losses.

If you adjust to subtract the NESCAC teams, move teams like Rowan and Franklin with non-D-III losses from the two-loss to one-loss group, we’re still looking at 36 unbeatens or one-loss teams for 32 playoff spots, not including the teams with two or more losses that will win automatic bids.

That means if your team has two losses already, you need to root for good teams to lose, bottom line. 

Three takes on Week 9

Want our predictions? Curious what we think about your game? You can find out on Friday morning, when three members of the D3football.com staff – Pat Coleman, Ryan Tipps and I -- take a look at the week to come. Specifically, we’re interested in any team that might clinch this week, teams with losing records yet a lot to play for, and which games we’re surprised mean this much at this point in the season. Plus the games of the week, upsets and all the standard stuff. It’s the primer on where to look to find the special in D-III this weekend: The Triple Take.

Six ways to Saturday

Stay connected to ATN …

• Throughout the week on Twitter. Follow @D3Keith. It’s a sporadic stream of short-form minutiae, most of it D-III related. It’s also the best way to directly converse with the column’s author. There’s also @d3football and @D3MidAtlantic (Tipps), plus five of our regional columnists: @AdamTurer, @Andrew_Lovell, @BLester1993, @clydehughes and @kylerobarts.

If you want to get us to notice you, use hashtag #d3fb. On Saturdays, the ability to sort by hashtag on Twitter gives D-III football its own channel for live insights, in addition to our live scoreboards, which is home to instantaneous updates, plus all the live stats, audio and video links we’re aware of.

• On Around the Nation’s Post Patterns thread, at the top of the General Football board. That’s the next-best place to ask a question about a topic raised in the column, or continue a discussion unrelated to this week’s ATN.

• Mondays, Pat Coleman and I wrap up the week that was in our podcast. Download from iTunes or listen to it in the Daily Dose’s media player.

• When the column publishes on Thursdays.

• In Friday morning’s Triple Take, on The Daily Dose.

• On instagram, via @d3keith.

On Saturdays, our running game day conversation no longer lives on the Daily Dose, but on Twitter.

The press box

Crowd sourcing: I'm looking for your photos wearing D-III shirts or hats on vacations or at famous places around the world. It's for a future project, showing how we represent.

I’d also like to establish a D-III buzz index. If there is a way we could dump every Around the Nation into a computer, and have it determine how many times each team has been mentioned over the years, it could be pretty interesting what pops out. I always think about how ATN can reach places like Bethany and Lawrence and Howard Payne, which I feel like I so rarely write about.

And I’m still looking for ex-players and others willing to give testimonials about all-star games they’ve played in recruiting services they’ve used and more. Please e-mail for more details.

For the Love of the Game: Show your love everywhere you go with an original, high-quality, color-themed Division III shirt from zazzle.com/D3Keith.

Readers: Around the Nation encourages your opinions, questions and insights. Readers can best get a response by posting on Around the Nation's running thread on Post Patterns (under general football). Send e-mail to keith.mcmillan@d3sports.com or use our feedback form.

Sports Information Directors: To contact Keith McMillan, use keith.mcmillan@d3sports.com, or mail to D3football.com, 12457 Manchester Way, Woodbridge, Va., 22192.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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