I wrote a post awhile back that listed the conference records and how each did. I also broke up the conferences by region (curse the UAA and its mixed region setup). Anyway, that research showed that although the New York and New England regions were in the bottom half record-wise, they accounted for 6 of the 21 Pool B/Pool C bids last year. A disturbing finding and one that feeds the sense of a Northeast bias when it comes to NCAA selection. This go-around I once again raided the online NCAA statistics database and looked at the out-of-conference records for each Division III conference. I wanted to know which conferences dominated their out-of-conference opponents. I kept this research exclusive to Division III opponents (so no DI, DII or NAIA results were used). I also wanted to see what region had the best out-of-conference records. (Note – I did not split up the UAA teams into their respective regions. Nor did I do it for the independents.)
Let’s start with the regions first and, if you remember, in the last go-around, we saw that the Great Lakes Region had the best record and were followed by Mid-Atlantic, West and Midwest. This time, the out-of-conference records show that the West Region (.555) leads the pack (all data used for this post can be found at the bottom). Great Lakes (.550) take the second spot followed by Midwest (.538) and Mid-Atlantic (.525). So, same four regions but in a different order (not really surprising because there is some overlap in the data). Remember that out-of-conference can still be within the region but you’ll always end up with a .500 record. Someone in the region has to win and the other region team has to lose. So, any deviation from a .500 record reflects out-of-region play.
At this point, I want to use my first time-out and really reflect on the West Region for a second. The West Region is really unique in that only two of the four conferences (ASC and the SCAC) are within driving distance. It’s no surprise then to see that the ASC (116 matches) and SCAC (115 matches) led the West Region with the most out-of-conference matches. They basically played each other a number of times with the SCAC coming out on top most of the time (SCAC had the third best out-of-conference record in the nation). The isolation of the West Region is reflected in the fact that the region played the least amount of out-of-conference matches (371). What fascinated me was that the West Region really doesn’t have a neighboring region to pick on during the year. If they were going to play out-of-region they had to fly somewhere or have teams fly in from their region and at that point, distance really didn’t matter. When you look at the seven teams that made the NCAA Tournament from the West Region, you’ll find that they finished with a 30-8 record against teams outside the region. When looking at my top 9 teams in the West Region, the record goes to 42-10 (and 19-5 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament). What’s the point of my first time-out? We look at things like winning percentage and ranked wins and Strength of Schedule (SOS) (the official selection criteria) to determine selection but when you get down to the nuts and bolts, the West Region proved they were better than the other regions and were rewarded by getting short changed (again) with the number of at-large bids received.
Time-out over but staying in the West Region for some interesting tidbits and we see that the ASC finished with a .431 out-of-conference record, which is why Mary Hardin-Baylor’s SOS was so low (a factor in them not getting an at-large bid last year). The SCIAC finished with a 52-32 record (.619) with a number of those 20 wins coming against out-of-region opponents. I give grief to the NWC at times and part of the reason is reflected in the fact they only played 56 out-of-conference matches (the fewest of any conference in Division III). In their defense, however, they finished at .500 playing in the toughest region and taking down a number of out-of-region opponents to make up for their losses against the SCIAC and SCAC.
When looking at the out-of-conference records for the regions, it becomes quite noticeable that the New York Region is just woeful. They are not far from the South Region but you have to remember that I didn’t factor Emory (UAA conference member) into their record (winning percentage jumps to .477 with them included). When looking at the Pool C bids by region, we see that 9 bids went to the bottom four regions in 2017 with 11 going to the top four regions. In 2016 it was 7 bids versus 13 and 2015 it was 9 bids again versus 11. This is the second year in a row where the worst region received 2 Pool C bids. I know I’m spitting into the wind but it seems like these types of sanity checks should somehow factor into the selection process (especially when the NCAA often just ignores the stated criteria anyway!).
Looking at the conferences and the UAA reigns supreme (again). It’s no wonder they got four teams in this year (half of the conference). The NEWMAC is an interesting second place finisher and it certainly seems like my criticism of the New England Region is on shaky ground. The NEWMAC got three teams into the tournament and both Babson and Wellesley seemed like strange Pool C choices at the time. A further look shows that Babson only played three teams outside of the New York and New England Regions – Franklin (win), La Verne (loss) and Wheaton (loss). None of these teams were in the NCAA Tournament. Wellesley only played one team outside of the New York and New England Regions – Franklin (loss). Again, the need of the NCAA to reward teams bunkered into two of the worse regions who get slapped down when (if) they leave is mind numbing. The 2016 versions of these types of teams were Clark and Ramapo. Why does the NCAA keep rewarding these types of teams? At best these schools are just gaming the system and then the NCAA tops it off by incorrectly applying the selection criteria.
Running down the list of the top 10 conferences and SCAC got three teams in, OAC got two, NCAC got two, Landmark only one, Centennial got two, CAC only one, WIAC only one and the NESCAC got two. The lack of respect by the NCAA for the WIAC has been a favorite (morbid) joke of mine recently but it’s just strange that the best conference in the Midwest Region gets one bid while the top two conferences in the New England Region get five teams! Seriously, is there anyone in the DIII universe that thinks the 2017 teams from Eau Claire or Whitewater wouldn’t have dismantled Vassar, Babson and Wellesley? Again, not a selection criteria but a wonderful sanity check type question to ask when the NCAA incorrectly applies the criteria to favor New England and New York.
I included the 12 worst conferences below (also includes the independents). I don’t have a lot to say about them except that 6 of the 12 conferences are from New England and New York Regions (and the ACAA and independents also include teams from those regions).
I really don’t set out to get myself worked up when I do these types of posts. I really start going through the NCAA statistics in order to get an idea on a new post. It just seems like when I do come up with a pure innocent beautiful thread of a thought; my research turns it into a New England/New York Region raging bonfire! Maybe the 2018 NCAA Selection Committee should try my method come November this year. I’ll even gift them my remaining two time-outs.
Region Out-Of-Conference Records (Matches within DIII)
Best Conferences – Out-Of-Conference Records (Matches within DIII)
Worst Conferences – Out-Of-Conference Records (Matches within DIII)