Since I took the Northwest Conference to task for their scheduling, I thought I better take a look at the top teams in the west region to see what type of schedules they are playing. I was most interested in the number of flights each team was making this year. One problem the West Region faces is that it is so spread out and it really requires at least one flight in order to play other West Region teams. This is really important as it allows the West RAC to have enough information (i.e., games played within the West Region) to accurately rank the teams. I have often felt that the west schools really need to take a trip to another part of the west region one weekend, have teams fly in another weekend and then take another flight to another region so the West RAC committee chair can have some ammunition when fighting off the other RACs for those precious Pool C bids. With that said, the schools simply don’t have the money to do this and it’s no surprise to see that with my preliminary 14 top West Region teams that only UTD followed this blueprint. Special shout out to Colorado College as they have to take flights to their conference games and they still worked in an Illinois trip, as well. (Or do they take very long bus trips?)
Oh, for purposes of this post, my 14 top West Region teams are UTD, UTT, UMHB, Hardin-Simmons, Whitworth, Pac Lu, Puget Sound, Trinity, Southwestern, Colorado College, Cal Lu, Claremont, La Verne and Chapman.
As I stated UTD is the only top team in the west that will take two flights this season. Six teams take single flights within the West Region while UTT, UMHB and Hardin-Simmons take no flights this season. Colorado College will not fly to the west with the exception of conference play but do take a trip to Illinois. Claremont and Chapman will take a flight to Georgia while La Verne will head out to Massachusetts.
So what is the fallout of the West Region scheduling this year? One problem (and I really do hate to harp on this) is that the three top Northwest Conference teams only play other West Region teams 4, 4 and 2 times all season. Unless the Northwest sweeps these games (or comes close to it), it will be really hard to rank them ahead of any other top West Region team at the end of the season. This makes the Cal Lu and Claremont games against Whitworth and Pac Lu extremely important. The Puget Sound game against Southwestern is also extremely huge for the region. Playing “what-if” for a second, what if Whitworth wins their Conference and Puget Sound finishes second. Let’s say Puget Sound beat Southwestern who goes on to have another good year. That single match would probably elevate Puget Sound to not only a Pool C bid but a high seed!
Trinity looks to be the linchpin to the West RAC rankings this year as they will play 7 of the top teams – Claremont, Cal Lu (twice), Hardin-Simmons, Southwestern (twice), Colorado College (twice), UMHB (twice) and UTD. Take a match against Trinity this season and it will ripple nicely for that school come regional rankings time.
I really don’t expect UMHB, UTT or Hardin-Simmons to be serious contenders for Pool C bids but not traveling really hinders this opportunity. Linchpin Trinity and also Southwestern will be their key matches if they can turn in good seasons and are looking for a bid.
The only teams not to play a top 14 team in the west with the exception of their conference games are Colorado College and Chapman. So, again, linchpin Trinity and Southwestern will be Colorado College’s key matches if they don’t end up winning the SCAC. Chapman may need a 2nd place SCIAC finish in order to secure a Pool C bid because of their schedule.
I understand it’s early. Heck, we haven’t even started official practices let alone played a match, but the schedule and how it lines up is important. Oh, and I guess if I’m going to harp on the Northwest Conference then I need to add a few ASC teams to that mix and maybe a couple of SCIAC teams, too.