We all complain about the inadequacies of the NCAA brackets. We are told the NCAA only has 6 or 7 flights so the moment you have a West Region, you’ve used more than half of your flights. At that point, it’s impossible to equal out the brackets. I will say that the NCAA has done a decent job the last two years making moves that fall within their restrictions. I’m specifically thinking of Cal Lutheran heading out to Northwestern and Hendrix driving over to UT Dallas in 2016 and flying New Rochelle out to the Southwestern Regional this year. I still will never understand the flying of Washington-St. Louis to Cal Lutheran in 2015 to make the West Regional tougher, but baby steps, I guess. Well, this post is about giant steps. I got bored one day and wondered what I could do with the brackets if I had 7 flights. I used 7 flights because my premise was to use the West Region teams as my bracket fillers. My goal was to equal out the brackets. Remember, that the rule is you can’t drive outside of 500 miles so I had to find 4 teams that I truly could seed 1 to 4 and match them with teams I truly could seed 5 to 8. Now, I admit I don’t know where 80% of these schools are when I started this exercise and outside of Texas, I couldn’t tell you how many miles apart they are from a different school. All this is to say that I did my best to figure it out and play by the NCAA rules, but I’m sure there is a mistake here. (I just know I’ve got a school in the wrong state.) I also tried to keep the host sites but wasn’t successful in every case.
Again, I started with the thought that the West Region was going to fly and fill in spots. Not only spots where I couldn’t find teams but also to strengthen weaker brackets. I then moved to the Emory Regional where I had Emory and Berry seeded as top teams and Thomas More, BSU, Covenant and Hanover seeded as bottom teams. I knew that I was going to fly in two West Region teams and I held them back to see how the other brackets were going to turn out. Spoiler Alert! The two teams turned out to be Trinity and Pacific Lutheran. So, not bad…you probably have Emory, Pacific Lutheran, Trinity and Berry as your top 4 seeds. (Trinity should be ahead of Pac Lu but talk to the West RAC on this.)
Off to Northwestern where I kept the Minnesota schools in place – St. Benedict, St. Thomas and Gust. Adolphus. The bottom teams are Cornell and Wartburg and I had to use both of my West Region bottom teams in Whittier and UT Dallas to round this one out. Still, not bad with your top seeds being Northwestern, Alolphus, St. Thomas and St. Benedict.
Calvin gets a hosting site as this was the toughest bracket to fill and I did everything I could to avoid Grand Rapids. Calvin is in with the Wisconsin schools of La Crosse, Concordia and Carthage. The bottom teams are Greenville, DePauw, Penn St-Behrend and Chicago. This might not be the toughest top 4 but I like DePauw and Chicago on the bottom side of things.
Wittenberg keeps their hosting job as I needed to pull in the top schools west of them while pulling in the bottom schools to the east. They get IWU, Washington-St. Louis and Aurora. On the bottom side they get Brockport, Cabrini, Randolph-Macon and Eastern. Eastern checked in at 499 miles and Randolph-Macon at 496 miles but I couldn’t find anyone closer.
My last “tough” bracket to put together was the Juniata Regional as they get a hosting gig because I needed to pull in the Ohio teams with the weaker teams from the east (again). They get Millikin, Ohio Northern and Otterbein as the top teams. The bottom teams are Swarthmore, Kean, Morrisville State and Hunter. And, “BOOM!”, I just found an error. I’m not sure why I thought Millikin could drive that. I think I had them going to Wittenberg and just moved them over without thinking because I wanted to strengthen this bracket. This means an extra flight or we adjust and put Millikin in with Wittenberg or Calvin. Alright, Millikin goes in with Wittenberg and we move Aurora to the bottom side. They were iffy to start with anyway. That means we move Randolph-Macon over as the 4 seed. This just became the easiest bracket so far with Otterbein, Ohio Northern, Juniata and Randolph-Macon as your top 4.
Three more brackets to go and these are going to be easy. Plus, I’m still sitting on 3 top West Region teams that will fly over. I switched gears and moved over to my most northeastern bracket and host Johnson & Wales. They get Tufts, MIT and I fly in Southwestern. The bottom teams are Maine Maritime, Mass-Boston, Wellesley and Endicott. Because so many of the bottom teams are from the northeast, there are plenty of tweaks we can do, if it makes sense to the NCAA. Figure it will be JWU, Southwestern, MIT and Tufts as your top 4 teams.
I then jumped down to Maryland with Stevenson keeping their hosting gig. They get Johns Hopkins, Christopher Newport and I’m flying in Colorado College to toughen this one up a bit. The bottom teams are New Rochelle, Vassar, Ithaca and Merchant Marine. I figure your seeds are Colorado College, Stevenson, JHU and Chris Newport.
My final bracket is in Clarkson and they get Carnegie Mellon, Stevens and the pride to say the NCAA Champion came out of their region. Yup, say hello to CMS. The bottom teams are Babson, Wesleyan, Worcester State and Elms. Figure you have CMS, Carnegie Mellon, Clarkson and Stevens are your top 4 teams.
So, how did I do with the brackets? Anyone mentioned twice? Anyone left off? Did I list your favorite school as being out of New Mexico? Assuming I’ve got no major errors, not bad with only 7 flights. I’m sure the busing costs will go up as the trips are longer in some cases. The big problem with this type of bracketing is that we are really locked into certain schools always hosting regardless of their ranking unless we get more “bottom” teams west of Pennsylvania. It probably also means we could never have a regional in the South and the West the same year. The big upside is the top teams should have a winnable first match and no brackets of death.