Case Study – UMHB 2017

As I continue my case studies I wanted to look at the reasons why the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) didn’t get an at-large selection. My previous case study brought up the point that perhaps the ordering wasn’t correct but for the purposes of this study, we will go by the final rankings across all regions. I will also only look at the final teams selected from each region when making my comparison with UMHB. What we don’t know is when (what round) UMHB came up for selection. It’s conceivable that Whittier was the last team given an at-large bid and, if true, then UMHB was never under consideration. Since we don’t know this, I’ll assume that UMHB was under consideration for at least one of the rounds.

The last at-large teams selected from each region, with their criteria are listed below. UMHB is also listed for comparisons.

Region School W/L Pct. SOS Ranked Pct.
Central St. Thomas 25-6 0.806 0.578 6-5 0.545
Great Lakes DePauw 20-7 0.741 0.621 4-6 0.400
Mid-Atlantic Swarthmore 21-7 0.750 0.595 5-5 0.500
Midwest Chicago 23-8 0.742 0.628 8-8 0.500
New England Babson 20-9 0.690 0.596 7-6 0.538
New York Vassar 22-7 0.759 0.547 6-4 0.600
South Birmingham-Southern 20-8 0.714 0.590 4-7 0.364
 
West UMHB 28-5 0.848 0.533 5-4 0.556

Two things jump out at me immediately and that is UMHB has the best W/L percentage of any of the teams but the worst SOS. It kind of makes our comparisons a little easier because for now we’ll consider this a wash. We then move over to ranked wins and for those not scoring at home I’ll remind you that I’ll deal with this criterion based on the percentage and not (at least initially) on the quality of the ranked wins/losses. (Because that is how it seemed the RACs were doing it.) We see that UMHB has the second best ranked win percentage as they only trail Vassar. Although a number of these ranked win comparisons are close, we can see that UMHB should have had a pretty good case for selection (so far).

Now let’s dive into the UMHB schedule. Here were the NCAA Championship selected teams they beat:  UMass Boston, Birmingham-Southern and UT-Dallas (twice). Here were the NCAA Championship selected teams they lost to:  Trinity (twice) and UT-Dallas (twice). They had one “bad loss” to Hardin-Simmons. The other ranked wins were:  Susquehanna and UT-Tyler. So, certainly not a tough schedule as the SOS confirms. They actually played sort of a traditional New England/New York Region schedule where you just stay near home and maybe stray over to the next region one weekend. The problem with this approach when you do it in the West Region is that we rank fewer teams so you don’t get the same benefit as the larger regions.

Focusing on BSU for a second, you’ll notice that I mentioned UMHB had a head-to-head win against them. Going through the schedule they also have a small common opponent advantage with a 7-3 record versus a 6-3 record for BSU. In the end, this specific comparison is pretty straight-forward as BSU only has an SOS advantage on UMHB and every other criteria is in favor of UMHB. The only way BSU should have received a bid over UMHB is if UMHB wasn’t under consideration at the time BSU was selected for an at-large bid.

Going through other possible common opponents and there isn’t much to be found. UMass Boston is common with Babson but the Beacons lost to both schools. This means we are left with three criteria for the rest of the comparisons – W/L Percentage, SOS and Ranked Wins. We’ve already mentioned that W/L and SOS were pretty much a wash so it really comes down to Ranked Wins, which UMHB had the second highest percentage. Bottom line, I can make a valid case for UMHB to have been selected over every team last selected for an at-large bid with the exception of Vassar. And, in the case of Birmingham-Southern, it’s about as a clear cut as you can get.

So, what could have happened? It’s possible (as mentioned before) that Whittier blocked UMHB until the very end and was the last at-large team selected. Or, they were selected with the 19th at-large bid leaving only one round and they lost out to Vassar (who would have been the last at-large selection). Another possibility is that the selection committee decided to look deeper at the UMHB schedule and ranked wins and didn’t feel like they were deserving. This would surprise me as any in-depth look at Babson or Vassar would turn up a number of problematic issues and should have resulted in at least two Midwest teams being added to the at-large bids.

I believe UMHB was most likely up for consideration for more than one round and therefore was bypassed due to a misapplication of the criteria by the NCAA selection committee or a more detailed examination was performed that was not done across all of the teams up for consideration. Another possibility is that there are other (major) factors being used for selection that are not disclosed to the general public. Advocacy has been mentioned in the past and maybe the stronger chairs are able to circumvent the published criteria. There also seems to be a favoritism towards the larger regions in the last two years. Whatever the reason, the general public are flying blind without more disclosure from the NCAA.

One thing I do know is that UMHB sort of set themselves up for this fall through their scheduling. They have an issue as the ASC conference is not currently going to give them an SOS bump. They need to make an effort to play the better teams outside of Texas. Or, failing that, go play some teams in the New York or New England Region. (Was that too mean to those regions? I feel it was too mean. If it helps, I was giggling while I wrote it.)

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