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. 18: All times Eastern
Final
MIT 52, at Nichols 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Colby 47, Hamilton 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
Western Connecticut 20, at Fitchburg State 14
Box Score
Final
at Maine Maritime 13, Coast Guard 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Salve Regina 49, Curry 6
Box Score Photos
Final
Westfield State 32, at Massachusetts Maritime 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Juniata 38, Ursinus 10
Box Score
Final
Trinity (Conn.) 17, at Bowdoin 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Husson 12, Gallaudet 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Middlebury 35, Bates 6
Box Score
Final
at Mount Ida 26, Castleton State 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Kean 30, at William Paterson 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Cortland State 35, Southern Virginia 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 31, McDaniel 7
Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 23, at DePauw 16
Box Score
Final
Susquehanna 24, at Moravian 21
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington and Jefferson 34, at Bethany 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Shenandoah 24, at Catholic 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Concordia (Wis.) 49, at Trine 46
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 49, Emory and Henry 27
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Lee 28, Randolph-Macon 25
Box Score
Final
at Carnegie Mellon 21, Grove City 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Guilford 35, Bridgewater (Va.) 28
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Widener 59, Wilkes 12
Box Score
Final
Methodist 73, at LaGrange 28
Box Score
Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 39, at Greensboro 14
Box Score Photos
Final
Brockport State 45, at Alfred 42
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Huntingdon 35, at Ferrum 16
Box Score
Final - 2OT
at Frostburg State 38, Ithaca 37
Box Score Recap
Final
Waynesburg 26, at Westminster (Pa.) 21
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Final
at Muhlenberg 47, Gettysburg 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Wabash 52, at Kenyon 10
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Final
at Salisbury 59, Hartwick 49
Box Score Photos
Final
at Bridgewater State 24, Plymouth State 0
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Utica 7
Box Score Recap
Final
King's 45, at FDU-Florham 17
Final
at Rochester 34, RPI 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Berry 46, Hendrix 24
Box Score Recap
Cancelled
Maranatha Baptist at Washington U.
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 35, Greenville 28
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 30
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 27, Williams 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Case Western Reserve 33, Geneva 19
Box Score Photos
Final
Franklin 38, at Mount St. Joseph 28
Box Score
Final
at Thomas More 49, St. Vincent 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Baldwin Wallace 56, at Wilmington 17
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mount Union 58, Heidelberg 17
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Final
Rose-Hulman 28, at Defiance 12
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Final
at John Carroll 80, Marietta 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Anderson 37, Hanover 35
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Final
Bluffton 24, at Earlham 22
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Final
Otterbein 32, at Muskingum 20
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Final
at Springfield 48, Merchant Marine 21
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Final
Ohio Northern 38, at Capital 31
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Final - OT
at Hope 42, Olivet 35
Box Score Recap Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Kalamazoo 45, Alma 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Rowan 31, Morrisville State 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Oberlin 37, at Allegheny 9
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Final
Lakeland 34, at Rockford 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 52, Chicago 21
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Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 59, at Concordia-Chicago 15
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Final
Centre 31, at Sewanee 3
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Final
St. John's 29, at Gustavus Adolphus 19
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Final
St. Olaf 17, at Carleton 13
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 41, at Augsburg 21
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Final
Monmouth 31, at Lake Forest 7
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Final
Birmingham-Southern 16, at Millsaps 14
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Final
Coe 35, at Simpson 21
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Final
at Buena Vista 48, Luther 41
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Final
Macalester 28, at Beloit 21
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Final
at St. Norbert 13, Ripon 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Louisiana College 24
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Final
Augustana 7, at Illinois Wesleyan 2
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Final
at Central 41, Loras 14
Box Score Recap
Final
MacMurray 58, at Eureka 27
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Final
at UW-La Crosse 21, UW-Stout 7
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Final
Illinois College 35, at Grinnell 10
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Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 37, Westminster (Mo.) 21
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Final
Benedictine 26, at Aurora 0
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Final
St. Thomas 62, at Hamline 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 37, at Becker 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Worcester State 50, Mass-Dartmouth 43
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 19, Sul Ross State 12
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Dubuque 9
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Final
at UW-Oshkosh 37, UW-River Falls 7
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Final
Delaware Valley 35, at Stevenson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
SUNY-Maritime 40, at Anna Maria 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Wittenberg 42, at Wooster 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 70, at Menlo 2
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Martin Luther 14
Box Score
Final
Austin 27, at Southwestern Assemblies 20
Box Score Photos
Final
UW-Whitewater 52, at UW-Eau Claire 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 53, Carthage 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Platteville 31, UW-Stevens Point 13
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Elmhurst 28, North Park 0
Final
at Cornell 49, Knox 29
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 28, TCNJ 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Western New England 36, at Union 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Carroll 76, Lawrence 7
Box Score
Final
at Pacific 31, Pacific Lutheran 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Cal Lutheran 41, Pomona-Pitzer 17
Box Score Photos
Final
at Willamette 45, Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Puget Sound 33, at George Fox 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Linfield 65, Whitworth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Adrian 47, Albion 26
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Christopher Newport 38, at Averett 7
Box Score
Final
at Alfred State 10, Erie CC 3
Box Score Photos
Final
at Crown 30, Minnesota-Morris 27
Box Score
Final
at Trinity (Texas) 22, Southwestern 19
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Final
Howard Payne 54, at East Texas Baptist 53
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 28, at Millikin 3
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Final
at Whittier 36, La Verne 17
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Redlands 31, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 59, Occidental 21
Box Score Photos
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
8:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Washington and Jefferson
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Grove City at Thomas More
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Mount Union
Preview Live Stats Audio Tickets
1:30 PM
Capital at John Carroll
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Wesley at Virginia-Lynchburg
Audio
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Wabash
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Alfred State
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Kenyon at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Misericordia at Delaware Valley
Live Stats Audio
3:00 PM
UW-Platteville at UW-Stout
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:10 PM
St. Thomas at Bethel
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Hobart at RPI
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater
Live Stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Luther at Wartburg
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at Texas Lutheran
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Hamline at Concordia-Moorhead
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at UW-Stevens Point
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Carleton at St. John's
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Linfield at Lewis and Clark
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Pacific Lutheran
Live Stats Audio
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Oct. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 28, at Millikin 3
Box Score
Final
Wesley 70, at Menlo 2
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
Wittenberg 42, at Wooster 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Delaware Valley 35, at Stevenson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 58, Heidelberg 17
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Thomas More 49, St. Vincent 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 80, Marietta 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 49, Emory and Henry 27
Box Score
Final
Wabash 52, at Kenyon 10
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Utica 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Washington and Jefferson 34, at Bethany 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 53, Carthage 23
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Whitewater 52, at UW-Eau Claire 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Platteville 31, UW-Stevens Point 13
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Dubuque 9
Box Score
Final
St. Thomas 62, at Hamline 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 52, Chicago 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Louisiana College 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 41, at Augsburg 21
Box Score
Final
St. John's 29, at Gustavus Adolphus 19
Box Score Photos
Final
at Linfield 65, Whitworth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Pacific 31, Pacific Lutheran 28
Box Score Recap

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