I’m a fan of The Daily Show. During the writer’s strike, when Jon Stewart went back on the air with essentially no material except his own, he refused to call his program “The Daily Show”. Instead, he changed the name to “A Daily Show”. That’s how I feel trying to do the D-III Bracketology this season. The selection process has never been transparent the way the D-I process is, but in the past the criteria for selecting and seeding the teams, and the weighting given the criteria was published or in some cases, leaked. Not so this season. Instead, we have the Smoke Filled Room approach where we can only guess as to the results. Hence, A Bracketology – one of possibly many since you can all do your own.
We’re trying to make the best possible guesses we can, and we invite you to play along at home. We have produced A Pairwise Ranking, not The Pairwise Rankings. We’re calling them. “Pairwise Comparisons”. Use them at your own risk. There’s the national PWC, the East Region PWC, and the West Region PWC. Thanks to Ed Trefzger for putting these together. They are sorted by winning percentage because we arbitrarily decided to do it that way.
The rankings that matter, of course, are the ones coming out of the Smoke Filled Room. They are published every Tuesday – you can find the latest here.
I usually count down the number of teams that have finished their seasons, but I see my friends the weekly columnists are already doing that. So let’s look at who still is playing, and what their chances are of making the nationals. The main guessing that needs to be done is how, say, the third ranked team in the NCAA East Region compares to the third ranked team in the NCAA West Region poll and so on. Of course, a truly national ranking would make sense, which is probably why it’s not being done. After all, it IS done to select the actual field, where these teams must be compared with each other. Why not do it now instead of waiting until March 9? But enough tilting at windmills. We’re stuck with this stupid system. Here’s my guess as to where the teams still in the running stand:
A lock: St. Norbert, Plattbsurgh, Elmira. These teams can at most lose one more game. They’re in no matter what happens from here on out. Plattsburgh and St. Norbert can claim autobids if they win their respective conference tournaments. Elmira has the Pool B bid locked up.
Bet On It: Norwich. Norwich has played the toughest schedule in the country to date, so even if they don’t win their league championship, I think they’re the top choice for a Pool C bid, and there should still be one open even if both Plattsburgh and St. Norbert were to lose in their respective league championships.
Good Chance: Oswego, Manhattanville, St. Thomas, Hobart. While Oswego is behind Manhattanville in the Eastern Rankings, they hold more of an advantage over St. Thomas in the Criteria. Hobart also beats St. Thomas in the criteria. For Manhattanville and St. Thomas, which are tied in the criteria, I think it comes down to who winds up with the better winning percentage. St. Thomas can of course win the MIAC AQ, but I think Manhattanville will at least have to make it to the ECAC West finals and hope for not many upsets elsewhere.
Close, But Not Close Enough: Babson, UW-Stout, Adrian. Even with no upsets, there’s just three Pool C slots, and I think Oswego, Manhattanville and St. Thomas will have those. St. Thomas is the most vulnerable, and I can see Hobart getting in if the Tommies lose this weekend. Adrian is in a tough spot. Best winning percentage in D-III, and one of the weakest schedules. The fact that they are fourth in the West Region Rankings does not bode well, as I can’t see more than three Western teams getting in. Stout must win the NCHA – I just can’t seem the Blue Devils beating out the above Eastern Teams based on any way you slice and dice the criteria.
Must Win their AQ: Castleton, New England, Salem State, Southern Maine, Mass-Boston, Skidmore, Curry, Mass-Dartmouth, Nichols, Wentworth, Suffolk, Becker, Fitchburg State, Salve Regina, Hamline, Bethel, St. John’s, UW-Eau Claire, St. Scholastica, Colby, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Amherst, Conn College, Trinity, Williams, Wesleyan. This list will be significantly shorter come Sunday.
Playing out the String: Utica, Marian, Finlandia, MSOE. These teams are from conferences that don’t have an AQ, so even if they win their league championship, it won’t raise them high enough in the criteria to get an at-large bid.
OK, so let’s take a shot at a possible bracket, assuming the team in first wins its respective league:
ECAC East: Norwich
ECAC Northeast: Curry
NCHA: St. Norbert
Elmira gets pool B. Now here’s where the guesswork comes in. I think Oswego. Manhattanville and either St. Thomas or Hobart get the Pool C bids if they were handed out today.
If it’s Hobart:
Curry at Oswego
Colby at Hobart
Curry/Oswego at Elmira
Colby/Hobart at Plattsburgh
Manhattanville at Norwich
Hamline at St. Norbert
If it’s St. Thomas:
Curry at Colby
St. Thomas at Hamline
Curry/Colby at Elmira
Oswego at Plattsburgh
Manhattanville at Norwich
St/ Thomas/Hamline at St. Norbert
The picture will become clearer next week as the playoffs continue. Check back for “A Bracketology” volume II.