NCAA Selection Aftermath

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.


18 thoughts on “NCAA Selection Aftermath

  1. Consider the fact that CMS took JWU to 5 sets and almost a coin flip decision on their first game of the year and they had 5 starters out with injuries. The CMS facilities are probably the best in DIII, but the East Coast bias seems to want us to prove ourselves over and over, yet in the last 5 years SCIAC has put teams in the final 8 or the championship. The plane ride and time change is a significant handicap for the traveling teams so the host schools (and their regional cohorts) come in with a leg up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No question. And CMS draws, in my opinion, the toughest 7th seed in the tournament. Well next to Mount Saint Vincent and Kean. 🙂

      I would love to fly up for those matches on Friday. I’ve got the airline flights figured out but I have to get out of two important family events. Looks bleak but I have hope. Go Lutes. Go Athenas!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes DENNIS, you have identified the problem of politics in Div 3 Women’s Volleyball. I’d put La Verne, Chapman and Whittier against any East Coast teams!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you were going to take away the West Regional why not put each of the displaced teams in separate regionals? Can you imagine the terror inside the Eastern Cronies and their minions if 6 teams from the west converged on Pittsburgh! It would have been beautiful. Best of luck to CMS and Cal Lu. Bring home another championship to SCIAC.


    1. I think you answered your own question. 🙂

      I’m still in shock the other RAC Chairs all allowed their regional teams to be hurt simply because they didn’t want to offend New England. I call that the Long Factor.


      1. It would seem that the logical solution would be to eliminate some of these “automatic bids” from conferences that don’t stand up to the competition. Not a popular solution I am sure, and one that nobody wishes to grapple with. When I see teams ranked in the 150s to 300s (depending on the system you are viewing) get into “the dance” over teams ranked in the teens I’ve got to think the selection system is broke. The elimination of “automatic bids” and strength of schedule has got to play a bigger role to attempt to right the wrongs. The problem is nobody wants to have that difficult conversation.


      2. I am all for holding play-in matches between two automatic qualifiers with low criteria. My end goal would be to spur them into improving their schedules to avoid the extra elimination match.

        No solution is perfect but there are improvements that can be made. No reason currently for the larger regions to agree is an issue. It starts with the smaller regional Chairs fighting the current selection system from within.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. To be honest I have no idea all that is involved in these selections and the mechanisms that are in place. Obviously the RAC Chair has more influence than I understand. That is the only way I can explain last year’s selection, to be fair, in the West of Whittier over Cal Lu. I will forever be confused on that one. Now Whittier is a fine team with great people and I am sure they were ecstatic, but to make that pick over Cal Lu? What was them message there? Don’t finish top 4 and make the conference tournament……no worries. You showed well in the right match and that was remembered by somebody……or someone.


  3. If you want to credit Long with pulling a Jedi mind trick on her RAC to get Springfield overrated, that is at least possible. But when Springfield goes up on the board, she has to hang up. And once Springfield is in, anything which impacts Springfield she hangs up. Which means she had a sub on the call for her when they decided to put two regionals in New England, and when they decided who went to which regional, and when they seeded each regional. So in other words, you really want to find out who this sub was, because that’s the only way your conspiracy theory holds any water. Oh, and the proposal to break into 10 regions and split NE in 2 is for all sports, which means they care not one bit what any volleyball coach says about the plan.

    Still, thanks for a fun read.


    1. Your welcome!

      I think we can agree that Long is a very effective RAC Chair. We may or may not agree that New England has benefited from some questionable NCAA volleyball selections. I’ve attempted to document those questionable decisions on this site. I suspect I’ll be documenting more once the rankings and data sheets get released. With that said, did I use Long as a microcosm for the region as a whole; sure.

      With respect to the RACs, these groups create relationships that do benefit the group. Whether they “hang up”, mute or walk out of the room (only when their specific team is up for discussion) these relationships still exist. If you believe the RAC wants to risk relationships that have formed when a close decision is at hand that’s fine. I don’t. That’s not a criticism, that’s a basic human tendency.

      Bottom line, each year the New England Region has one of the weaker regionals in volleyball (and this year they get two). We’ve now had multiple instances where the selection committee had the opportunity to strengthen them without increasing flights but they refuse to do it. I believe the New England Region fights this. Why wouldn’t they? We can disagree on who the puppet master is but maybe we can agree that the problem lays with those that are allowing their own regions to be harmed?


  4. The Long Factor is alive and well displayed thru her track record of bias AVCA Top 25 poll voting as well. Good on her, if she’s not held accountable and kicked off the committees then what does it really matter. NCAA and AVCA could care less about one coach, in their big business machines while the athletes continue to suffer. Anytime there’s a meeting of two Top 10 teams in the NCAA tournament’s 1st or 2nd round it’s an embarrassment! For the West this happens every year. Yes I understand AVCA has nothing to do with NCAA. Hence the regional rankings are a joke without balancing them out when it comes to tournament time.


  5. Hi RR,
    I talked to a few people, while there is no rule, there is a definite preference to not fly 3 time zones. I like others would disagree with that. I do not believe there is any agenda in the northeast to not have west coast teams fly in. It could have been done this year (see my example on Rick’y site).
    The big problem is as usual, money. There is no way the NCAA is paying for the travel to make 8 balanced sub regions. There is no official limit on flights, but the typical year as you know is 6. Just to get started the west needs most of those, and this year would have needed all 6. Since the south geography was bad, it was easier to just fly the whole west out (and make Emory happy). Again, they should have flown different places.

    On the 43 automatics I will paraphrase a good answer I read years ago. The goal of the NCAA championship is to do just that, determine the champion. They are not by any stretch trying to get the best 64 teams into the tournament, nor does the NCAA care that the regions are not balanced. The best couple dozen schools are in, and the team that wins any given year is never some kind of shock, it is a worthy champion, so the NCAA is satisfied.


    1. I use to get upset with the New England Region because they do a great job protecting their teams and getting them selected. Now, I blame the victims because they have the same power to stop it but don’t.

      From an NCAA Championship standpoint I don’t like “easy” brackets. If at all possible, each bracket should have at least one highly ranked team (defined how ever you want), when possible. It was possible this year and for that the NCAA deserves criticism. (I worry these ideas/options aren’t even discussed and that would just be mind numbing.)

      The fact that we have two New England Regionals that combine to have only one “highly ranked” team is just impressive work by New England. It’s the end of a movie, goofy kid starting a slow clap type of moment. It really blows my mind that it was allowed to happen without a CMS, Trinity or Colorado College being the #1 seed. Again, not New England’s fault.


  6. Thanks for putting your thoughts together and taking a deep look into the inner workings of the NCAA Regional Selection. As a former DIII Assistant Coach, rest assured there are too many factors and agendas to comprehensively analyze the decisions of the DIII Regional Committees. I’ll tell you as a West Region team we flew three time zones and played on the East Coast followed the next year by an East Coast team flying to the West Regional. It’s simply dependent on whims of the committee and 100% based on reducing cost at the DIII level.

    I’d love to see more teams in the New England and NY Region rise to the level JWU is establishing. It takes serious commitment and I’ll look forward to the day the DIII regionals equalize with elevated coaching and player talent. Till then:
    1) It will be status quo with regard to one or two regionals rewarding lower level play with unchallenged entry to the Elite 8.
    2) There will be one or two super regionals where 1st round thru finals you’ll find higher level play than a few opening rounds at the Elite 8.
    3) There are five to six times as many schools in the NE and the’ll always have the numbers advantage.

    The only way to mediate the issue with the current selection criteria is for West Region programs to enter tournaments in the NE during season. This will draw out common opponent and significantly boost SOS with easy wins vs beating each other up. There will be plenty of in region play with conference to make up the loss of one out of region tournament.

    Keep up the great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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