Case Study – 2018 Selections

Last year I did a number of case studies into the NCAA selection process and I’ve already done one deep dive into the West RAC’s decision to rank La Verne over UT-Dallas. I want to use this post to look at the other decisions that raised an eyebrow from me. As I went through the final rankings and then the teams selected, the only areas where I had potential issues were the New England Region and the selections of Franklin & Marshall and Carthage.

The New England Region saw MIT drop from 4th to 7th after going 1-1 in their conference tournament losing to the eventual winner in Babson. Babson also beat Springfield (in the conference final) and the region saw them rise from 8th to 6th. Not saying anything is wrong but it’s interesting. What I want to do here is look at Wesleyan (4), Wellesley (5), Springfield (6), MIT (7), Amherst (8), Tufts (9) and Middlebury (10) and just double-check their ordering. Now I remember doing this a number of times on Selection Eve and getting confused each time. Maybe some extra time and this rum punch next to me will help matters. Here are the teams with their criteria (record, SOS, ranked wins) followed by their ranked wins and losses (with those team’s rankings):

  • Wesleyan 17-5 (0.773) / 0.619 / 6-5
    • Susquehanna (MA8), Geneseo (NY9), Amherst (NE8), Middlebury (NE10), F&M (MA4), Tufts (NE9)
    • Ithaca (NY1), Endicott (NE11), Susquehanna (MA8), Bowdoin (NE2), Amherst (NE8)
  • Wellesley 20-6 (0.769) / 0.617 / 6-5
    • Endicott (NE11), Tufts (NE9), Coast Guard (NE12), Geneseo (NY9), Amherst (NE8), Babson (NE3)
    • Springfield (NE6) *twice*, JWU (NE1), MIT (NE7), Bowdoin (NE2)
    • Unranked loss was to Wheaton
  • Springfield 23-7 (0.767) / 0.591 / 5-6
    • Endicott (NE11), MIT (NE7), Coast Guard (NE12), Wellesley (NE5) *twice*
    • Stockton (NY5), Endicott (NE11), Babson (NE3) *twice*, Tufts (NE9), Middlebury (NE 10)
    • Unranked loss was to Cabrini.
  • MIT 25-5 (0.833) / 0.589 / 5-5
    • Endicott (NE 11), Coast Guard (NE12), Babson (NE3), Hunter (NY7), Wellesley (NE5)
    • Springfield (NE6), JWU (NE1), Middlebury (NE10), Tufts (NE9), Babson (NE3)
  • Amherst 22-5 (0.815) / 0.552 / 4-5
    • Middlebury (NE10), Tufts (NE9), Coast Guard (NE12), Wesleyan (NE4)
    • Wesleyan (NE4), Endicott (NE11), Bowdoin (NE2) *twice*, Wellesley (NE5)
  • Tufts 16-10 (0.615) / 0.656 / 5-10
    • Otterbein (GL8), Springfield (NE6), Babson (NE3), MIT (NE7), Middlebury (NE10)
    • Berry (S1), Emory (S2), Endicott (NE11), Bowdoin (NE2) *twice*, JWU (NE1), Wellesley (NE5), Amherst (NE8), Middlebury (NE10), Wesleyan (NE4)
  • Middlebury 16-6 (0.727) / 0.601 / 3-5
    • Tufts (NE9), MIT (NE7), Springfield (NE6)
    • Amherst (NE8), Wesleyan (NE4), Bowdoin (NE2), Babson (NE3), Tufts (NE9)
    • Unranked loss was to Wheaton.

That’s a lot of data and it’s all a mass of teams that really didn’t play anyone good. This is really a poster child of why allowing the New England Region to rank 12 is so unfair. Sigh. Moving on and from the top…

Wesleyan has razor thin advantages in record and SOS but I personally would be hesitant to give them an advantage in either criterion. The ranked wins are also close with Wellesley getting a slight advantage in common opponent (Endicott and Amherst). This is really a toss-up so a smart RAC would put the team that has the best chance at selection first and that is probably Wesleyan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Springfield is better than Wellesley. They did beat them twice after all. As far as the criteria, their records are a wash with an advantage to Wellesley on SOS. Ranked wins is probably a tie and each has some advantages in common opponent. Taken in a vacuum, I put Springfield ahead of Wellesley but there is enough here to rank Wellesley higher. It’s also the right decision if you look at who has the best chance at an at-large selection.

Now, if I throw MIT into that mix, they should be ahead of Wellesley (record and head-to-head versus SOS). So, with that bit of information I probably change the ordering to Springfield, MIT and Wellesley. If I look at national selection, Wellesley still has the best chance of getting in. Notice that to put Wellesley ahead of both Springfield and MIT, you are essentially throwing out three head-to-head losses.

Amherst has an SOS problem in this grouping with no real good wins other than their split with Wesleyan.

Tufts is going to lose the record and ranked wins battles but has the best SOS. Even with some important head-to-head wins, this may be the best place for them.

Middlebury’s wins over MIT and Springfield and their split with Tufts seem like this placement is too low. The problem (and this is the same issue with Tufts) is that they lost to Amherst so by placing Amherst higher they act as a barrier to the rest of the region.

In the end, I think the New England Region technically had the wrong ordering and Wellesley was the beneficiary. With that said, the RAC put the teams in the best order to receive an at-large bid. Was this on purpose? Too many things go right for this region to think that this ordering was a random mistake. Again, a message to all RACs that when the comparisons are close, throw out head-to-head advantages (because they don’t help at the national level) and order the team with the best at-large chance first.

Now let’s look at the selections of Franklin & Marshall and Carthage. I didn’t have either of these teams in my mock and frankly I’m surprised F&M were ranked ahead of Mary Washington. F&M had a record advantage but UMW had SOS and much better ranked wins. This should have been a huge mistake for the Mid-Atlantic RAC but it paid off. What makes F&M’s selection really strange is that it had to be at least a few round prior to the end because the Mid-Atlantic still got Mary Washington in the tournament. I guess they could have gone off 18th and 19th.

Specifically with Franklin & Marshall, here are the teams left on the board that they couldn’t have beaten in a proper criteria battle:

  • Bethel (SOS and better ranked wins)
  • Muskingum (record, SOS and better ranked wins)
  • Carthage (SOS and better ranked wins)
  • MIT (record and SOS)
  • La Verne (SOS and head-to-head)

If F&M was selected even earlier then there were even much better teams they somehow got pushed past. I really just don’t understand it and this seems like a failure on so many levels.

With respect to Carthage, I really tried to get them selected in my mock but failed. Bethel has a better record with everything else being close. Muskingum has a case of being selected over them. I ended up taking La Verne over them but you had to really favor their ranked wins and in hindsight I’m not sure I would do this again. If the selection committee tells me that Carthage was the 19th team in the tournament then I understand it. What this really highlights is the West RAC’s mistake of putting La Verne over UT-Dallas. The Comets should have been selected before either Carthage or F&M but were never considered.

I’m down to the ice on this rum punch so what are the lessons here? The Franklin & Marshall selection is just bizarre. I’ve turned this around numerous times and I can’t get them in. They should have blocked the Mid-Atlantic just like La Verne did to UT-Dallas. The lesson here is that there is no lesson. Coaches look at these selections to get an idea on how to schedule the next year. What is the committee looking for and what do they think is important. The F&M selection is telling the coaches dumb luck is a player, which is just horrible. Carthage I’m good with. They were a true bubble team. If you support Bethel and Muskingum then I feel your pain but that’s the deal with bubbles…sometimes they burst. Your anger shouldn’t be directed at Carthage but at F&M. With the ordering in the New England Region, I think the other RACs need to realize that they are being schooled and it’s time to apply the lessons they are teaching. In-region head-to-head wins are not important if they move a team that can’t get selected over another team that can. When teams are close then favor records, SOS and ranked wins.


2 thoughts on “Case Study – 2018 Selections

  1. I think Muhlenberg screwed up that region and left the door open for F&M. They played a tough schedule pretty well except for a string of injuries that left them shorthanded for ten days against St Thomas, Bethel and Johns Hopkins. But what threw things into the air was F&M beating them straight up early on and the two bad losses to McDaniel down the stretch. That put them at #6 or so in the region with some really inconvenient head to head losses and a bad trajectory heading into the playoffs.

    But I still think you’re on to something with the RACs playing conservative schedules and exploiting regional isolation to pump up their rankings. F&M may not have been a great choice, but at least they flew to CA this fall.

    Liked by 1 person

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