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.

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Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Massachusetts Maritime 46, at Mass-Dartmouth 41
Box Score Recap
Final
Maine Maritime 62, at Nichols 43
Box Score
Final
at Alfred 14, Frostburg State 3
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 32, Salisbury 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Framingham State 38, at Plymouth State 0
Box Score
Final
Morrisville State 47, at Southern Virginia 23
Box Score
Final
at Wesleyan 35, Bowdoin 0
Box Score
Final
Middlebury 27, at Trinity (Conn.) 7
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final - OT
at Bates 34, Colby 28
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Amherst 30, Tufts 3
Box Score
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Husson 47, at Castleton State 26
Box Score Recap
Final
Williams 21, at Hamilton 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 57, FDU-Florham 0
Box Score
Final
DePauw 59, at Allegheny 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 42, Moravian 12
Box Score
Final
at Olivet 30, Kalamazoo 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Trine 51, Albion 45
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Ida 10, at Gallaudet 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Cortland State 21, at Kean 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 17, at Adrian 7
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Emory and Henry 62, Catholic 28
Box Score
Final
Hope 33, at Alma 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Vincent 38, Carnegie Mellon 31
Box Score
Final
Dickinson 33, at McDaniel 28
Box Score
Final
Guilford 28, at Randolph-Macon 6
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
Methodist 42, at N.C. Wesleyan 39
Box Score
Final
at Ursinus 44, Susquehanna 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Montclair State 20, Rowan 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 21, Springfield 7
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
Hiram 35, at Ohio Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Lebanon Valley 46, Wilkes 0
Final
at Muhlenberg 42, Juniata 13
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Albright 30, King's 24
Box Score Recap
Final
William Paterson 21, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Millsaps 38, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
Endicott 14, at Coast Guard 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 41, Rose-Hulman 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Widener 34, at Lycoming 17
Final
at Heidelberg 40, Marietta 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Union 16, Rochester 14
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 63, Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Bluffton 24, Manchester 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Otterbein 20, at Baldwin Wallace 9
Box Score
Final
Utica 31, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Brockport State 17, at Hartwick 12
Box Score Box Score
Final
at SUNY-Maritime 13, Becker 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bridgewater (Va.) 24, Washington and Lee 13
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Bridgewater State 27, at Westfield State 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hendrix 38, Austin 28
Box Score
Final
at Benedictine 44, Concordia-Chicago 11
Box Score Recap
Final
LaGrange 24, at Huntingdon 17
Box Score
Final
at Lakeland 14, Aurora 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Birmingham-Southern 23, Berry 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia (Wis.) 42, Rockford 14
Box Score
Final
at UW-River Falls 20, UW-Eau Claire 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 38, at St. Olaf 20
Box Score
Final
at Illinois College 49, Lake Forest 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Loras 27, at Simpson 24
Box Score
Final
Buena Vista 44, at Dubuque 39
Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 29, Beloit 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Carroll 48, at Ripon 14
Final
at Macalester 33, Lawrence 0
Box Score
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Augustana 31, at Carthage 26
Box Score Recap
Final
Elmhurst 29, at Illinois Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Park 26, Millikin 7
Box Score
Final
Central 45, at Coe 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
at Monmouth 38, Cornell 21
Box Score
Final
Martin Luther 13, at Minnesota-Morris 12
Box Score
Final
Crown 17, at MacMurray 14
Box Score
Final
at Greenville 52, Iowa Wesleyan 32
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 24, Northwestern (Minn.) 13
Box Score
Final
Grinnell 21, at Knox 18
Box Score
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia (Mich.) 62, at Maranatha Baptist 0
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Centre 47, Rhodes 35
Box Score Photos
Final
Defiance 45, at Earlham 21
Box Score
Final
at Chicago 44, Washington U. 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 28, at Anna Maria 20
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Hardin-Simmons 51, at Howard Payne 20
Box Score
Final - OT
WPI 24, at Merchant Marine 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 59, at Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 56, Willamette 14
Box Score
Final
Redlands 64, at La Verne 28
Box Score
Final
at Whitworth 62, Puget Sound 30
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Pacific 36, at George Fox 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at MIT 35, Western New England 34
Box Score Recap
Final
Worcester State 52, at Western Connecticut 49
Box Score Recap
Final
at Louisiana College 52, East Texas Baptist 49
Final
Ferrum 26, at Averett 14
Box Score
Final
Waynesburg 35, at Thiel 32
Box Score
Final
at Ohio Northern 31, Muskingum 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Denison 38, Wooster 24
Box Score
Final
at Christopher Newport 45, Greensboro 31
Box Score
Final
at Geneva 20, Bethany 14
Final
at St. Scholastica 59, Eureka 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 34, North Central (Ill.) 31
3rd - 03:45
28 Chapman
14 Cal Lutheran
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
Half
0 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
14 Occidental
Live Stats Video Audio
3rd - 01:42
0 Whittier
17 Pomona-Pitzer
Live Stats Video
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 34, North Central (Ill.) 31
3rd - 03:45
28 Chapman
14 Cal Lutheran
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Final
Linfield 59, at Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap

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