November 16, 2013

Our 2013 playoff projections


If the committee gets it right, Kyle Barry and Cody Miller and their St. John Fisher teammates will have a game in the Field of 32 next week. The last time the committee chose St. John Fisher with two losses, they went to the national quarterfinals.
St. John Fisher athletics photo 

By Pat Coleman
D3sports.com
 

With the Division III football playoffs capped at 32 teams and the number of automatic bids on pace to keep growing to 26 in 2015, we're only going to get tighter and tighter when it comes to the at-large bids. There will need to be some decision on how to fix that problem in the future, but for now, we are trying to select the best three Pool B teams and the best five at-large teams.

Reminder that this bracket, like every NCAA bracket, is not about getting the best 32 teams in. We have 24 automatic bids, and it's only the remaining eight that should be "the best teams available." And even those have rules.

For Pool B, a complicated question actually got easier on Saturday: What to do with Washington University? The Bears had a great strength of schedule and a pretty decent record coming into the weekend, but were behind both Millsaps and Texas Lutheran in last week’s regional rankings.

That should not be a problem any longer, however. With Millsaps losing to Rhodes, that gives us another factor that rarely comes into play in these decisions: a common opponent. Wash U has beaten Rhodes, while Millsaps lost to them. That, according to previous committee members, is huge in making the final Pool B or Pool C selection. In fact, it’s what got St. John Fisher in the 2011 playoffs over Case Western Reserve.

Here’s how we see the Pool B picture, in order, for the three spots:

Wesley (8-2, 4-2 .673)
Framingham State (9-1, 9-1 .557)
Washington U. (8-2, 8-2 .565)
Below the line:
Millsaps (9-1, 8-1 .523)
Texas Lutheran (8-1, 8-1 .421)

Millsaps and Texas Lutheran get moved over to the at-large bid discussion. And in order to properly do the Pool C picture, you have to know how teams are ranked and what teams we rank in each region.

In the East, here’s who the 10 ranked teams would be, in our estimation: Hobart, Ithaca, Rowan, Lebanon Valley, Gallaudet, Framingham, St. John Fisher, Alfred, Brockport, Endicott. The order here is kind of roughed out but doesn’t really have an impact on the at-large process except in how the at-large teams are ranked in each region. South: UMHB, JHU, Wesley, Thomas More, Washington U., Millsaps, Texas Lutheran, Maryville, Hampden-Sydney, Washington & Jefferson. North: Mount Union, North Central, John Carroll, Wittenberg, IWU, Wabash, Wheaton, Franklin, Heidelberg, Albion. West: Bethel, UWW, Linfield, UWP, PLU, St. Thomas, UWO, Wartburg, Concordia-Moorhead, Redlands.

When the five at-large bids are being considered, here’s who’s on the board first. The committee considers the top at-large contender from each region so four are on the board at any given time.

Pool C bids (5)

East: St. John Fisher (8-2 vs. D-III, .575 SOS, 2-1 vs. regionally ranked opponents)
North: John Carroll (9-1 vs. D-III, .520 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)
South: Thomas More (9-1, .488 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
West: UW-Platteville (9-1, .477 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)

This is fairly simple in that it’s John Carroll. Even though we list three criteria here, they are not all weighted equally, and even though St. John Fisher has more wins vs. regionally ranked opponents and a higher winning percentage, the second loss is not getting them seriously considered in the conversation yet.

East: St. John Fisher (8-2 vs. D-III, .575 SOS, 2-1 vs. regionally ranked opponents)
North: Illinois Wesleyan (9-1 vs. D-III, .499 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)
South: Thomas More (9-1, .488 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
West: UW-Platteville (9-1, .477 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)

Here it seems clear the committee really wants to get the WIAC runner-up in the field, because it put both WIAC teams ahead of the best Pool C contender, Pacific Lutheran. In all honesty, they are probably doing this to artificially make it look less bad for Pacific Lutheran and Linfield to play in the first round, but we are not fooled. We take UW-Platteville in this group, because wins against regionally ranked opponents are rare among the 9-1 teams. Next selection:

East: St. John Fisher (8-2 vs. D-III, .575 SOS, 2-1 vs. regionally ranked opponents)
North: Illinois Wesleyan (9-1 vs. D-III, .499 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)
South: Thomas More (9-1, .488 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
West: Pacific Lutheran (8-1, .549 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)

Pacific Lutheran. Next question.

East: St. John Fisher (8-2 vs. D-III, .575 SOS, 2-1 vs. regionally ranked opponents)
North: Illinois Wesleyan (9-1 vs. D-III, .499 SOS, 1-1 vs. RRO)
South: Thomas More (9-1, .488 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
West: UW-Oshkosh (7-2, .488 SOS, 0-2 vs. RRO)

Here’s where it gets a little more interesting and/or complicated. St. John Fisher is looking better and better, actually. But Illinois Wesleyan has a strength of schedule that’s … well, almost .500, and we take them into the fold fourth. IWU was ahead of Wabash because IWU had a win against a regionally ranked team. Now Wabash will replace them on the docket. If you think St. Thomas is ranked ahead of Oshkosh in the NCAA's secret regional ranking, they are 8-2/504/1-1 in the main listed criteria. In common opponents, both teams blew out Eau Claire and River Falls. Oshkosh might have a slight edge by beating River Falls a little more soundly.

East: St. John Fisher (8-2 vs. D-III, .575 SOS, 2-1 vs. regionally ranked opponents)
North: Wabash (9-1 vs. D-III, .503 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
South: Thomas More (9-1, .488 SOS, 0-1 vs. RRO)
West: UW-Oshkosh (7-2, .488 SOS, 0-2 vs. RRO)

St. John Fisher’s two wins vs. RRO are vs. our East No. 7 and South No. 10. They’re not the best of all possible wins but they are there. There are two one one-loss team left on our board, as Thomas More, and St. John Fisher holds a common opponent over them as the Cardinals defeated Washington and Jefferson, who Thomas More lost to. Comparing Fisher to Wabash, the other one-loss team, leaves Fisher with a 72-point advantage in strength of schedule, which is huge, and two additional wins vs. RRO. We prefer St. John Fisher here for the final Pool C slot.

Two years ago we spent a lot of time talking about how the committee had basically never taken a two-loss team over a one-loss team. Last year, the committee could have done so again and taken Concordia-Moorhead over Bridgewater State, and Bridgewater State lost 44-14 in the first round. (The committee did also take two-loss Bethel.) It’s time for the committee to recognize strength of schedule once again and select St. John Fisher to the field.

The next order of business: four top seeds. It doesn’t matter, in our mind, who the NCAA picks as the top team in the West because we think both Bethel and UW-Whitewater should get top seeds. No. 1 overall seed, Mount Union, followed by UW-Whitewater (.537 strength of schedule), Mary Hardin-Baylor (.499 SOS) and Bethel. Bethel has the better SOS than UMHB but we went with UMHB third because of the selection and seeding criterion that gives the committee the opportunity to consider last year’s playoff results when comparing unbeaten teams.

Now, filling out the brackets. We seed teams, and so does the NCAA, even though the NCAA won’t admit to it publicly. Remember we try to avoid conference rematches as long as we don’t put an extra team in an airplane, and teams must stay within 500 miles of home on the NCAA’s chart in order to avoid a flight. That means the seedings might not always match the pairings, so read closely.

Mount Union bracket

1. Mount Union
2. Hobart
3. Ithaca
4. Lebanon Valley
5. Framingham State
6. St. John Fisher
7. Endicott
8. Albion

Pairings: Albion at Mount Union; Framingham State at Ithaca; St. John Fisher at Lebanon Valley; Endicott at Hobart.

We could very well have Albion 7 and Endicott 8 but because of mileage, Albion will be going to Mount Union. St. John Fisher wouldn’t play Ithaca again so we shuffled the pairings there.

Bethel bracket

1. Bethel
2. Linfield
3. UW-Platteville
4. Pacific Lutheran
5. Wartburg
6. Washington U.
7. St. Norbert
8. St. Scholastica

Pairings: St. Scholastica at Bethel; Washington U. at Wartburg; Pacific Lutheran at Linfield; St. Norbert at UW-Platteville.

Remember when I said above that PLU was playing Linfield? It happens. That jumbles other things up. Wartburg potentially playing Bethel again in the second round is not something the committee really cares about.

Mary Hardin-Baylor bracket

1. Mary Hardin-Baylor
2. Johns Hopkins
3. Rowan
4. Wesley
5. Gallaudet
6. Hampden-Sydney
7. Washington and Jefferson
8. Redlands

Pairings: Redlands at UMHB (our only first-round flight, beancounters rejoice); Gallaudet at Wesley; Hampden-Sydney at Rowan; Washington and Jefferson at Johns Hopkins.

It’s not a particularly long distance for Gallaudet to fall from 3 in the “East” to 5 in the “South” but that’s what happens when you lose to a .500 team and you play in a lower-level conference. The Bison could have drawn Lebanon Valley but instead have to go to Wesley.

UW-Whitewater bracket

1. UW-Whitewater
2. North Central
3. John Carroll
4. Wittenberg
5. Illinois Wesleyan
6. Franklin
7. Maryville
8. Concordia (Wis.)

Pairings: Concordia (Wis.) at UW-Whitewater; Maryville at Wittenberg; Illinois Wesleyan at John Carroll; Franklin at North Central.

Kind of a jumble here because Maryville can only get to a handful of schools that deserve to host, and North Central and John Carroll are not among them. Nor are Johns Hopkins, Rowan, Wesley or Lebanon Valley. Millsaps could have hosted had they gotten into the field, while Hampden-Sydney or Franklin could host but aren’t deserving.

We’ll find out at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday what the NCAA committee decides when it comes to the Field of 32, the Road to Salem and all that jazz. We’ll have the link to the selection show right on the front page of D3football.com.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap