Constructing an NCAA field of 64 is a time consuming process. I do it because I’m lucky enough to have the time and in my warped reality, it’s fun. In the process of doing the research other story/research ideas will come to me and they usually spawn some other effort down the road. In this case I started wondering what the “normal” win/loss percentage, Strength of Schedule (SOS) and ranked wins percentage are for teams that receive an at-large bid. Unfortunately I only kept the RAC data sheets from last year but I used this to go through each of the 2017 at-large teams. Here is what I found:
- The average winning percentage of a Pool C team was 0.776.
- The average SOS of a Pool C team was 0.603.
- The average ranked wins percentage was 0.554.
That’s a pretty darn good season if you can pull those numbers and, although I rail against the selection committee for not looking deeper into the numbers, you can’t really complain too much about any team that can achieve them. Here’s the thing, however; only 4 teams from last year achieved or exceeded all of those numbers – Ohio Northern, Carnegie Mellon, Millikin and Emory. These four teams were all no doubt selections so I thought were there any teams that didn’t achieve any of these numbers? Again, there happened to be 4 teams on this list – Swarthmore, Babson, Birmingham-Southern (BSU) and Whittier.
When looking at the 2017 NCAA selection that Ricky Nelson and this site did independently, only Whittier from this list was selected prior to the last four teams in. Ricky didn’t select Swarthmore where I did. Neither site had Babson selected and both sites had BSU as our last team off the board (selected). So, not achieving the averages seems to be a pretty good litmus test as to whether you are a true bubble team.
In case you were wondering, there were 8 teams under consideration when the selection was finished and only one of those teams exceeded two of the three averages and that was West Region’s UMHB. (Feel free to check out the case study I did last year on UMHB that argued they were snubbed.)
I then looked at the 2017 selected teams that achieved only one of these three averages and I came up with St. Thomas (W/L), DePauw (SOS), Aurora (W/L), Chicago (SOS), Ithaca (SOS), Vassar (RW), Southwestern (W/L) and Trinity (W/L). Vassar is interesting because they were the only team to get in primarily based on ranked wins and if you remember their ranked wins were constructed pretty much by beating other New York Region teams (which benefits from being able to rank more teams than the smaller regions). Their ranked win percentage was an outstanding 0.600 but it was hallow and, yet, it was still enough to overcome a below average win/loss percentage and the worst SOS of any Pool C selected team. Still, if I’m prioritizing the NCAA selection criteria (Spoiler – a future post will discuss this very topic) you would have to put ranked wins behind win/loss percentage and SOS based on the selected teams from last year.
Now, if I was a West Region coach I would use these numbers to help schedule. Win/loss percentage will take care of itself. SOS is a bit of a problem because I’m not sure you can achieve a 0.600+ SOS without going out-of-region and playing quality teams. To back this up, outside of UT-Dallas (which travels), none of the teams in the ASC or the NWC are currently on target to end the season with an SOS close to a 0.600 SOS this season. Ranked wins is also a problem because the West Region ranks fewer teams and they are typically very good and hard to beat. We had only 4 teams in the West Region last year that exceeded the ranked win average – Colorado College, CMS, Pacific Lutheran (in only 5 matches) and UMHB (they were just hosed last year). Again, this calls for more out-of-region play from our teams. As for me, I plan on keeping these averages and seeing how they adjust from year-to-year and maybe they’ll help me with my predictions. My life is a little simpler than these coaches…thankfully.