First off, I didn’t do a Top 25 this week. The conference tournaments and the articles I posted around selection day kind of wear me out.
Selection Day! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the teams selected but then you should also spend a moment thinking of the teams that were left disappointed. You can’t just say they didn’t deserve it because in most cases these teams are really close and every year the NCAA Selection Committee makes some very questionable calls. That holds true this year, as well. I sent out a tweet earlier that listed 11 bubble teams. I figured there were 5 possible spots for these teams. As it turns out 6 got in (Carthage, DePauw, Mary Washington, Wellesley, Springfield and Franklin & Marshall). Unless you are one of these student-athletes you can’t really fathom the elation that comes with selection when uncertainty existed only moments before. On the flip side that means 5 didn’t get in (Bethel, Concordia Wisconsin, MIT, La Verne and UT-Dallas). The depth of despair these student-athletes felt is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Together, the spectrum of these emotions is what makes Selection Day so special.
As it turns out this year the stories behind Selection Day are centered in the West Region. That’s great for me and this website but I can’t tell you how I wished I was writing about any other region. To start with, I went through a mock selection last night based on the information I had at hand. You can find my thoughts as I went through the selection here. You can find my final prediction post here.
The big story to me is the exclusion of both La Verne and UT-Dallas and the related minutia surrounding those decisions. Another story is that the West Region will not have their own regional. I also want to briefly look at the eight regionals. The final thing I want to talk about is what ties these stories together and that is master puppeteer Springfield Coach Moira Long.
Looking at the La Verne and UT-Dallas decisions first and what I really want to see are the regional rankings and the corresponding data sheets. My first assumption is that La Verne was ranked ahead of UT-Dallas. This comparison has been really close for the past 4 weeks and in my regional ranking posts I’ve mentioned that once UT-Dallas got jumped by Cal Lutheran then the Comets could fall further. Well, I believe the RAC did just that in the final ranking. How close were these teams? I have La Verne ahead on head-to-head and UTD ahead on record. SOS is a wash so it comes down to ranked wins and common opponent. I happen to like UTD’s ranked wins more but when you drop two matches to ranked teams in your conference tournament it’s going to cloud the issue. So did the ASC double-elimination tournament format possibly cost UTD an at-large bid? Yes, quite possibly. Common opponent was probably a wash here as each has advantages over the other. In the end, it appears that this comparison was so close that the head-to-head advantage won out. What I advocate when the comparison is this close and can really go either way is to position the team with the best chance at selection first. With a higher record and a win over Trinity, UTD had the better chance. We do need to backup a bit to Trinity and Cal Lutheran. Before anyone forgets, both of these teams needed to come off the board before we even got to La Verne. The question that will probably never be answered is when did they get selected. In my mock selection I had Trinity as one of the first 7 teams. No problem there. Next I had Cal Lutheran going off at 11, which still left 8 rounds for La Verne to be selected. It’s quite possible that the selection committee took longer to select Cal Lutheran. Regardless, in my mock selection I didn’t have La Verne and UT-Dallas going off the board to the very end but what you have to remember is that ordering of when teams get selected can greatly impact other teams. The only way not selecting La Verne makes sense is if Cal Lutheran was the last team to come off the board. I don’t see that happening because I can’t see the Regals getting bypassed by Augsburg, Wellesley, Carthage or Franklin & Marshall. This means that there should have been time for La Verne to be selected, but let me make my position on La Verne very clear. They were a good team playing in a tough region and a tough conference that didn’t have outstanding selection criteria. They were a risk from the start. If you told me that La Verne wasn’t selected but Muskingum or Bethel got a bid (instead of Franklin & Marshall) then I say fine. Those comparisons were close and could go either way. So now let’s look at the La Verne and Franklin & Marshall comparison. I have to assume that this did occur in the selection meeting because the only way it didn’t happen is if Franklin & Marshall was selected before Cal Lutheran, which shouldn’t have happened. La Verne has a better SOS and has a head-to-head win against F&M. La Verne also has common opponent because F&M had also lost to Redlands and Occidental but beat Pomona-Pitzer. La Verne has a record of 5-1 against those same teams versus F&M’s record of 1-2. F&M had a better record and the ranked wins are sort of a toss-up. If you give ranked wins to F&M then you have to discount common opponent and ignore the head-to-head win? This decision is just bat-turd crazy.
UT-Dallas is easier to talk about. They were never considered because La Verne never came off the board. Their fate was sealed when La Verne moved ahead of them. In my mind, UTD had a better comparison against DePauw, Carthage and F&M and were close with a couple of other selected teams.
What’s the possible explanation? The only thing I can think of is that the F&M / La Verne comparison wasn’t a 1 for 1 comparison. There had to be another team or teams involved. In the end, the committee decided to take the least qualified team in my opinion.
Now we look at the CMS Regional. Uh, the Trinity Regional. Whoops. The Chicago/Adolphus/Berry Regional. Once the committee decided to select only 6 West Region teams it makes sense to eliminate the West Regional and fly them all out. The problem I have here is where we sent our teams. Let’s be clear on one fact first; the selection committee is telling the West Region that they are not worthy of additional at-large teams because we are not deep in quality. By flying our teams to 3 of the 4 hardest regions they are also saying that are top teams are not good enough to get a #1 seed. For the record we received seeds 2, 3, 4, 5 (twice) and 6. Number 1 seeded teams better than CMS in the mind of the selection committee are Ithaca, Bowdoin and Berry. Never mind that Chicago and Gustavus Adolphus are also favored more than CMS. Remember you don’t have to host to be a #1 seed (just ask Bowdoin playing at host Babson). I understand the committee will say that sending a West Region team to a weaker region may have resulted in an extra flight but I don’t see it. The Berry Regional being the exception. Just fly CMS to Babson (Bowdoin Regional) and Trinity to Ithaca and drive teams west until it works out. I get Colorado College had a low SOS so go ahead and give them the 8th seed in the JWU Regional. I dare you! Make no mistake West Region, you got slapped across the face twice today – once for no depth and once for no top teams. So, what are you going to do about it?
As far as the regionals go, the Calvin Regional is a nightmare with 4 quality teams and 5 ranked overall. Plus they have two teams that would be the favorite to reach the Elite 8. The Chicago Regional has 4 ranked teams overall and I probably think the top end quality of this regional is even deeper. Trinity is here and plays Aurora who they beat at home during the first weekend of play. Cal Lutheran is also here and draw IWU. The Ithaca Regional is a joke. One ranked team in Ithaca and they aren’t ranked in my Top 25. RIT as the #2 seed is the New York Region just peeing on your feet. Every single West Region team including those not selected plus Chapman, Whittier, Southwestern and Whitworth would take out RIT without breaking a sweat. Maybe RIT beats Mills College. Not sure what Carnegie Mellon did to get the 3 seed after RIT but they have to LOVE this placement. The Juniata Regional has three ranked teams and two that I think could go very far in Juaniata and Thomas More. The rest is pretty weak but watch out for Mary Washington who could surprise. The Gustavus Adolphus Regional has 4 ranked teams thanks to two of our own in CMS and Pacific Lutheran. This regional is the deepest of all of the regionals this year in my opinion. Both St. Thomas and St. Ben are ranked in my Top 25. JWU received a bye into the Elite 8 this year. Well deserved. The Bowdoin Regional is funny because New England is so strong they needed a second regional. Of course, we’ll send up some Mid-Atlantic teams to make it tougher and have them play each other in the first round. Finally we have another very tough regional hosted by Berry. There are 5 ranked teams here including two of our own in Colorado College and UMHB. Five really good teams in this mix. Playing in a tough regional isn’t going to be new for any of our teams. We leave that luxury to the New England and New York teams.
Moira Long. If you don’t know the name you should. She is the New England RAC Chair, the coach of Springfield and, in my opinion, the architect of what happened today. In New England there are 8 conferences but really only two of them are good (my apologies to JWU). Springfield is in the NEWMAC, which is one of the two good conferences. This conference got Springfield, Babson and Wellesley into the tournament. You also have the NESCAC, which got Bowdoin and Wesleyan in the tournament. These two conference recently played a crossover of sorts where the NESCAC did very well. Springfield, for instance, lost to both Tufts and Middlebury (members of the NESCAC). When the regional rankings come out, you’ll find those teams ranked behind Springfield. I call it the Long Factor. In my predictions, I decided that Springfield would end up getting ranked ahead of MIT and despite playing no one of any quality (Wellesely is their best win) they would get a bid. I call it the Long Factor. In case you hadn’t noticed, the end result of not having a West Region means that New England has two of them. I call it the Long Factor. You’ll notice that each regional only has one ranked team in it. I call it the Long Factor. Two New England teams on a clear path to the Elite 8 when in recent history no New England team has won a match when reaching that point. I call it the Long Factor. No West Region team was flown into either New England Regional to toughen it up. I call it the Long Factor. This last paragraph may sound negative but it’s not my intention to be critical of Coach Long. She’s doing her job better than anyone else in DIII and the other RAC Chairs let her. I call it the Long Factor. There is a reason why New England ranks the most teams and even though it’s unfair the practice continues. I call it the Long Factor. There are proposals to split up the larger regions to create 10 from 8. This will give New England the ability to rank 16 teams instead of “only” 12. I call it the Long Factor. Don’t worry, it’s being sold as being more fair. It won’t be approved unless New England signs off on it. Therefore, you can guarantee it won’t be fair for anyone outside of New England. I call it the Long Factor.