Case Study – Final 4 Teams

I wrote a post on the unfair advantage the larger regions (New York, New England and Mid-Atlantic) receive because of the NCAA rule that allows them to regional rank more teams than the smaller regions. You can refer back to that post here. Anyway, I started thinking about the past Division III winners during my cognitive Division III lifetime (which only stretches back 5-years) and outside of Ithaca this year, I couldn’t remember a team from the big three regions making it to the Final 4. I mean, these three regions are almost always assured of placing at least one team in the Elite 8 due to the NCAA travel restrictions on regionals. Surely, Ithaca wasn’t the only team to win an Elite 8 match?

As I started going through the results, I figured I would go back 10-years and track the Final 4 teams based on conference and region. What I found may not be surprising but I thought it was still interesting.

  • I knew this going in, but this study confirmed it…I hate Calvin. Just saying.
  • There are 43 conferences with automatic qualifiers (Pool A Bids) but only 15 conferences have sent a representative to the Final 4 in the last 10 years.
  • The MIAA (Calvin and Hope) leads the way with 8 appearances.
  • The UAA (Washington-St. Louis and Emory) are second with 7 appearances.
  • The SCIAC (CMS, Cal Lutheran and La Verne) are third with 4 appearances.
  • It’s very rare for a conference to have three teams appear in the Final 4 in the last 10 years. In fact, the only conference to do it was the SCIAC. (Proof that the SCIAC is the deepest conference in Division III volleyball…take that UAA!)

OK, kind of cool, right? The thing that jumped out at me at this point was that the Final 4 teams are very selective. Of the 40 possible spots (10 years x 4 spots), only 21 teams have claimed a spot in the Final 4.

Now to the regions and the original reason I started adding up the Final 4 teams. Care to hazard a guess on how many Final 4 appearances have been made by a New England team? How about the New York region (remember Ithaca got a spot this year)? Well, the answer is a grand total of 1 spot combined over 10 years and that is thanks to Ithaca this year. All of the other regions have at least 5 appearances each and that includes our poor picked on sister in the South. In fact, every other region has 5 or 6 spots over the last 10 years with the exception of the Great Lakes, which claimed 12 spots (I really do hate Calvin).

It was at this point that I remembered our old buddy Ned (ned3vball) had done a little study on Pool C bids and how they were allocated across conferences and regions. This was from last year so it doesn’t include the 2017 numbers, but the item that jumped out on me was that the New England Region has received 15 Pool C (At-Large) bids from 2012 to 2016. That’s an average of 3 a year and if memory serves they received 3 this past year.

If we look at the New York Region, they historically didn’t receive a lot of Pool C bids and would really only get one when a New York Region top team lost their conference championship. In 2016, however, Ramapo shocked the world with their bid in addition to Stevens. In 2017, we saw Ithaca and Vassar receive Pool C bids.

So, anyone else kind of worried about the trend to reward the New England and New York regions with 10 Pool C bids over the last 2 years when 10-years of history say that we shouldn’t? Anyone concerned that the regional ranking rules favor these regions when we have proof that larger regions in no way equate to the best regions?

Just another bullet for the 6 other RAC Chairs to use next year, if they feel up to it.




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