West Region Preview/Predictions

Today, I am concluding my week of previews/predications with the entire West Region.

Here is my prediction on the top teams in the West Region.  I will rank only 8 so as to mimic the West RAC and as the season goes on, I will once again try to anticipate their rankings.

  1. Colorado College
  2. Pacific Lutheran
  3. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
  4. Trinity
  5. UT-Dallas
  6. UMHB
  7. Whittier
  8. Southwestern

So, you thought you could just look at my Top 25 list and order the West Region teams? Ha! Me smartest than you!

Yes, I changed the ordering a bit. It’s probably a good lesson for me to go through the more in depth conference/team reviews before spitting out a Top 25 list. Oh, well. The first change is moving Trinity up from 6th to 4th and that’s because their “graduating” senior right side is sticking around to play her 4th year of eligibility. I just like the stability she offers and my only concern now with the Trinity Tigers is finding that second outside hitter. The other change is swapping Southwestern and Whittier. The loss of setter Megan Grimes tips the scales for me and makes this 8th slot more wide open to the rest of the region.

Back to the ordering, and Colorado College should come out blazing. They have a tough schedule but their first 11 matches are at home and they don’t lose there. They do have to play at Southwestern in September and that could be trouble if the Pirates can fill their holes in time. They have Trinity the next weekend in Dallas, but I think it could be the Washington-St. Louis match in early October that will give them their first loss. I really think this is probably a 2 loss Colorado College team and then it’s just a matter if they pick up their third loss in the NCAA Tournament or not. My Pacific Lutheran pick is a little out there and it could all come crashing down for me (well, and the Lutes) if they drop their opening match against UW-Oshkosh. The way their schedule is constructed, this is really a must-win with respect to gaining national recognition. They have Millikin that first weekend but they should suffer a drop off from their strong 2017 team. They really need to go 4-0 that first weekend prior to their trip to Colorado College. Losing at Colorado College is understandable but the Lutes do have a chance here. It would be something to see the Lutes go 8-0 and then scamper off to the Northwest for the rest of the season. That’s the crux of the thing, the Lutes have a chance to go undefeated early and then try to run the table in the NWC or drop 2 or 3 early and probably not get any love from the AVCA all year. There is a little hope behind the CMS selection at 3. I’ve heard good things but my source is very biased. Let’s say CMS struggles a bit early, which would be normal with their graduation losses. Losses to JWU (RI), Southwestern, UT-Dallas (once), Trinity, Emory and Washington-St. Louis would put them at 5-6 because their early schedule is so tough. That’s not going to happen but it shows you how important it is for them to get going early, and I’m betting they will. Trinity at 4 just seems a little safer than UT-Dallas. They almost always put a strong team together but their schedule is another tough one. The plus side is that they get a lot of their tough matches at home to start the year. I’ve raved about UT-Dallas to all that will listen and I end up putting them 5th in the West Region. It’s just a sign of how difficult this region really is. I do think while Colorado College is in a tier by itself, the next tier includes the teams ranked 2 through 5 and any order of finish within these teams wouldn’t surprise me at all. To me, UT-Dallas comes down to the health of Brinkman and Zeng. If they are 100% then it’s like getting two experienced transfers to come into an already good team. It’s actually better because they are already part of the team. I need to stop or else I’ll talk myself into moving them up to #2. UMHB scares me a bit with this pick just because I’m unsure on their setter. If they don’t have a good one in place then they slide down the rankings but 6 seems like a good location for the Cru. My only concern with Whittier was their end of the season swoon. They are a really good team that will challenge for the SCIAC title, but the West Region looks deep again. I can see them moving past UMHB but I’m not sure they can get much further. My beloved Southwestern is full of questions going into the season and frankly a number of freshmen will need to play prominent roles for this ranking to pan out. Even if this wasn’t “my” team, the Pirates would be a team to watch that first weekend to see how they shake out.

Best of the Rest (no order) – Cal Lutheran, Chapman, La Verne, McMurry and Pacific

Cal Lutheran is always in the mix so I’m not counting them out in the west. I’m on a bit of a limb with Chapman. They could be in the 8th spot in the West Region or they could falter. I just like a team that brings in known top talent (two DI transfers). Prior to diving into the region more this past week or so, I had thought La Verne was heading for a drop to the middle of the SCIAC (at best). But, they should be strong again this year. McMurry is interesting. Their first chance at a championship for over 6 years has to motivate you a bit, right? I like Pacific a lot and I think they are going to cause problems for the West RAC during the year as to where they get ranked.

Team not mentioned that could shock the world with an NCAA bid – UC Santa Cruz

You laugh? Hey, I got Whittier right last year in this spot! (Please don’t go back and look at this post from last year. Trust is required in any relationship.) There will be two Pool B bids this year and there are a lot of bad independents. The Banana Slugs will need a lot to go right but I’m not counting them out.

Teams that need to be mentioned but weren’t – Austin College, George Fox, Pomona-Pitzer, TLU, UT-Tyler and Whitman

The West Region has a lot of good teams. Put any of these teams in another region and I’d like their chances at an NCAA Tournament bid a lot more. Austin College always seems to win 20 matches a year but are just buried behind really good teams in the SCAC. They have 15 recruits (!) this season. If someone asks you to buy lunch for the ‘Roos team this season…decline or take out a loan. George Fox has a lot to like but I struggle with two teams making it out of the NWC and I just think PLU and Pacific are too strong. Pomona-Pitzer would scare me in the SCIAC just a bit. I don’t see them getting past CMS or Whittier but could a sneaky team in the SCIAC get a third bid? I really liked TLU before I saw they lost both Griffin and Mikelonis. Too much offensive firepower gone to compete in a tough conference. UT-Tyler is not eligible for DIII tournaments due to their pending move to Division II, but they are going to beat people this year and they will count as DIII losses. Whitman has the same issue as George Fox. I like their potential but just a logjam at the top of their conference.

Final Thoughts

Division III is just too fluid. I guess all sports across all divisions are but seeing players that I would select  first-team All-Region in Grimes and Griffin not listed on their team’s roster is a gut check. What other surprises are out there? As far as NCAA selection in early August, we know that 8 bids are about all we can hope for based on recent history. We know that our conference tournaments don’t often lead to a surprise team and when they do (UT-Dallas over UMHB last year), another team in the West suffers as opposed to a 9th team getting a bid. The first 7 spots in the West Region RAC should be locks for bids and then a little hope is required for the 8th. I do believe there will be teams from each conference ranked by the West Region RAC come selection time so I don’t believe an undeserving team will get a bid from the West. In the ASC, the questions will be can they get two bids and can McMurry sneak into the conversation. In the NWC, I really see this as a two team race and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pacific Lutheran have a high West RAC ranking and then lose focus and get upset by Pacific in conference play. Colorado College just seems like a total lock in the SCAC and the only question I see there is whether the conference will receive three bids again. In the SCIAC, the first weekend should shed some light on how good CMS will be and whether they will take the conference title. But there are a number of other good teams and will this conference only get two bids again? And then we have UC Santa Cruz trying to put a lot of pieces together and claim one of the two independent bids (Pool B).

In the end, my best guess is listed above. That 8th spot is so important not only for the teams competing but for where the regional will be played. Right now I have 4 Texas teams in the tournament compared to only 2 California teams. That means a Texas regional. But swap Southwestern for Chapman or La Verne or Cal Lutheran and now it’s 3 to 3 and it becomes a California regional if CMS is ranked the highest. This will all play out and we get to enjoy it while it does. Best of luck to all of the West Region teams!!!

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6 thoughts on “West Region Preview/Predictions

  1. Hi RR,

    Waiting for Tiger to tee off at 2:30 ET. This looks like a good spot for some data I am playing with. Your review of lost senior production got me thinking and I looked at it a bit. I might do a VT posting on it, haven’t decided yet.

    What is the answer to, where do the points come from? Do you just roll out the freshman and keep going? I am still playing around with it. Here are a few things so far.

    This is all D3 data which I think is a significant, D1 with scholarships as enticement, changes things.

    source: 4 good or better D3 conferences(of 45) – Wisconsin IAC(Pablo 2017 conference rank #1),
    Southern Collegiate AC(#11), Southern California IAC(#5), NESCAC(#9)
    data: current league members only, 36 schools, 10 years(2008-2017), this got me 352 seasons(some years missing)

    Definitions:
    “overall” points = offensive points + assists + digs
    “excellent” = win% 80-100
    “good” = win% 60-79
    “average” = win% 40-59
    “poor” = win% 0-39
    (these terms will be applied to both individual seasons and to a school’s 10 year totals)

    the breakout for 352 seasons by type: Excellent (44 seasons), Good (131), Average (102), Poor (75)

    1) Overall points % by school type by class:

    All schools(36) Fr- 22.16% So- 26.06 Jr- 26.50 Sr- 25.29
    Excellent schools(3) Fr- 20.96 So- 26.40 Jr- 25.75 Sr- 26.89
    Good schools(14) Fr- 19.25 So- 25.99 Jr- 28.32 Sr- 26.44
    Average schools(13) Fr- 23.33 So- 26.43 Jr- 26.39 Sr- 23.84
    Poor schools(6) Fr- 26.99 So- 25.22 Jr- 22.86 Sr- 24.92

    note – I was a little surprised senior year was 3rd overall. But this makes sense, excellent and good schools, depend less on freshman and are stabler over time. Average and poor teams are always starting over. If you are not in the rotation you tend to not play 4 years. So the subs, and their points, are coming from younger classes. I must admit I Still thought it would Sr, Jr, So, FR in descending order.

    Does this surprise coaches? Do you look at it this way, expecting junior year to be, at least, if not more, productive than senior year over time?

    2) How might Senior losses effect you?

    Over the 316 seasons from 2008-2016 (no way to analyze 2017 yet) there were 78 examples of a team’s win% dropping by 10% or more the following year.
    if you got:
    0-19% (136 teams) of your overall points from seniors, 14.7% (20) of those teams had a 10% or more drop the next year
    20-39% (118 teams) of your overall points from seniors, 24.6% (29) of those teams had a 10% or more drop the next year
    40-49% (34 teams) of your overall points from seniors, 35.3% (12) of those teams had a 10% or more drop the next year
    50% or more (28 teams) overall points from seniors, 60.7% (17) of those teams had a 10% or more drop the next year

    3) Can you win big with a Freshman setter? answer: it happens but is not likely

    of the 44 excellent seasons 84.1% (37 teams) had freshman contribute less than 15% of the assists
    of the 44 excellent seasons only 4.5% (2) had freshman contribute more than 40% of the assists
    note: the 2 were 68% for CO Coll 2016, 92% for Southwestern TX 2008, the 3rd best team was 37%
    of the 131 good seasons 15.3% (20) had freshman contribute more than 50% of the assists
    of the 131 good seasons 8.4% (11) had freshman contribute more than 80% of the assists
    note: there is an interesting gap in the good seasons data that has to relate to 6-2 versus 5-1,
    from 65.55% the next season in order is 80.51%

    4) Average season contribute by class by season type
    broken out by the 3 areas, offensive points, assists, and digs.

    note: this is a different analysis than “overall” points. the 3 categories are not proportional.

    The Assist numbers are interesting. The excellent teams have Jr setters.
    note: % values for setting are a little tricky in that the data is not smooth like offensive points or digs. The setting numbers are skewed distribution wise, as in general, a player will set a lot or not at all.

    The big picture says you need Jrs and Srs to be Good/Excellent

    Offensive Points
    excellent seasons(44) – Fr- 18.43% So- 23.12 Jr- 29.37 Sr- 29.07
    good seasons(130) – Fr- 18.86 So- 25.62 Jr- 27.48 Sr- 28.05
    average seasons(103) – Fr- 26.43 So- 26.29 Jr- 25.50 Sr- 21.79
    poor seasons(75) – Fr- 27.15 So- 28.35 Jr- 24.68 Sr- 19.82

    Assists
    excellent seasons(44) – Fr- 10.99% So- 27.37 Jr- 35.99 Sr- 25.65
    good seasons(130) – Fr- 20.91 So- 25.58 Jr- 24.97 Sr- 28.54
    average seasons(103) – Fr- 26.19 So- 27.45 Jr- 24.19 Sr- 22.17
    poor seasons(75) – Fr- 28.70 So- 27.35 Jr- 23.42 Sr- 20.53

    Digs
    excellent seasons(44) – Fr- 16.51% So- 26.05 Jr- 27.15 Sr- 30.29
    good seasons(130) – Fr- 18.07 So- 25.28 Jr- 26.85 Sr- 29.80
    average seasons(103) – Fr- 24.23 So- 26.46 Jr- 26.82 Sr- 22.48
    poor seasons(75) – Fr- 25.19 So- 26.63 Jr- 25.80 Sr- 22.38

    Like

  2. Straight from the NWC rumor mill, an OH from “PacLu” says they have a new freshman setter that is “very good”. (But I am not one to pass on rumors)

    Like

    1. Remember that I did trademark PacLu (TM). You must pay a dollar for every time you use it in print, verbalize it or even think about it. Yes, coach has a number of good options at setter, it seems. I look forward towards my first look.

      Like

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