One of the more important decisions made by the NCAA that directly impacts a school’s chances to make the Elite 8 is the selection of the regional host site. As you all know because you’ve read my FAQ page, there are 8 regions and each will have a regional consisting of 8 schools. Obviously the host school has a much better chance of advancing for a variety of reasons (the most important reason is that the host site usually goes to the highest seed). Last year, the host school advanced half the time, which certainly seems low and directly refutes my last sentence but you always know there is a “but”. The four teams not to advance were UTD (made regional finals), Stevens (regional finals), Brockport (regional finals) and Wis-Whitewater (regional finals). In the case of Stevens and Brockport, the NCAA put better teams in the region (Eastern and Emory) that were able to overcome the home court advantage (rather easily). Regardless, all eight hosts made the regional finals and really there were only 2 “upsets” last year.
I do have a blurb in the FAQ page that deals with how the host sites are determined:
How are regional tournament hosts determined?
The NCAA selects hosts based on bids submitted by schools. The NCAA considers, in no particular order: regional rankings, geographic locations, submitted budgets, available lodging accommodations, quality and seating capacity of the playing facilities among many other criteria.
Now it says in no particular order but I believe the host site goes to the highest ranked team in the region that will also have the cheapest regional to the NCAA. Remember that the NCAA pays for team’s travel in the NCAA tournament and the biggest cost are flights. We are told by numerous people that cost is not a factor in NCAA selection but it’s a HUGE component of where the regional takes place. Case in point, Emory should have hosted last year but instead was flown to Brockport. This move meant the NCAA paid for one flight instead of 7.
The timeline for regional host bids starts today as the NCAA will publish the regional host bid materials. I’ve been told that the NCAA will solicit bids from schools that look favorable but really any school can submit a bid. There will be a teleconference on the 23rd of this month and the deadline for submittal is the 27th. There are additional teleconferences but in summary, the NCAA needs to know the potential host sites (and costs) on selection day so they can construct the cheapest regionals consisting of the teams picked.
Now, here in the West Region, we really don’t care too much about these other regions but we do offer a unique set of problems to the NCAA each year. Our region consists of 4 conferences and with the realignment of the Texas schools to the West four years ago; the West Region has become one of the tougher (deepest) regions in Division III. Currently the power house conferences in the west are the SCAC and SCIAC and we typically see two or three schools from each of these conferences make the tournament. What sets our region apart is that we know there are going to be flights to fill out our regional bracket; it’s just a question of how many. Last year, the regional was held at UTD, which meant there were 4 flights. There were actually 5 flights since the NCAA decided to send Cal Lutheran to a different region and bus in Hendrix and 5 flights is probably the norm for our region. When you consider the NCAA would like to limit the total flights to 6 for the entire NCAA bracket, you can see the unique problem the West Region causes.
Looking at the west, it’s pretty obvious that as long as we continue to be a deep region, the regional host sites will always be in Texas or in Southern California. This really could only change if the NWC starts sending more teams to the tournament or if the West Region gets substantially worse in the future. Based on my last West Regional Rankings, I would expect Colorado College, Trinity, CMS, Southwestern, Whittier, UMHB, La Verne and Pacific Lutheran to win their conference or receive Pool C bids (at-large). The NCAA selection committee would then have to discuss the merits of the remaining teams in the west for additional at-large bids. With just those eight, you can see that we have 3 teams in SoCal and 3 in Texas. A lot would then depend on where Trinity and CMS (and Southwestern) are ranked as the highest regionally ranked school would probably be the odds on favorite to host (assuming they submit a bid). Colorado College, my currently ranked #1 school, will not get to host because it means 7 flights.
What can impact that as we move forward? Well, there is a pretty important match in the NWC tonight as Pac Lutheran travels to Whitworth. If Whitworth wins they become the odds on favorite to win their conference and take their automatic qualifier. If Pac Lutheran wins out after a loss tonight and a Texas or SoCal school struggles then that would tip the scales in favor of the other location as we would get two bids for the NWC. Of course, an upset in one of the three conference tournaments is another possibility. Let’s say UTD does enough to win the ASC East Division and hosts their conference tournament and upsets UMHB. That could mean four bids for Texas (2 from the SCAC and 2 from the ASC…remember Colorado College from the SCAC always flies) and a regional host bid is almost guaranteed to be in Texas at that point. Another possibility is four bids for the SCIAC this year, which would guarantee a regional host bid in SoCal. Another thing to watch out for is what teams from the South Region will make the tournament and can any of them bus into a Texas site (as was done with Hendrix last year). The NCAA rule for busing teams to a regional site is that it has to be within 500 miles.
This is getting longer than I intended but one last possibility is that the West Region gets more than 8 bids, which would be AWESOME! The regional host site will still come down to flights but it means more West Region teams will get sprinkled to other regions (like was done with Cal Lutheran last year).
So, right now, I see the West Regional taking place at Trinity University (San Antonio) if things stay as they are which I can guarantee you they will not. I will try to make note of the potential regional host locations on Wednesdays when the RACs start to release their regional rankings.