The conference playoffs are in full swing, which can mean only one thing: It’s time to play Bracketology.
As was the case last year, we know the criteria used by the NCAA Division III Men’s Committee to select and seed the teams, but not the weighting used in their evaluation.
Starting last week, the NCAA has produced rankings based on the process it will use to select the Division III field. Using those rankings, let’s look at each eligible team’s chances of making the tournament.
Eleven teams will get their tickets punched: 7 Pool A teams, 1 Pool B Team, and 3 Pool C teams. Pool A consists of the seven teams that will win playoff championships in leagues with an automatic qualifier: ECAC East, ECAC Northeast, NCHA, NESCAC, MCHA, MIAC, and SUNYAC. One Pool B slot is reserved for an independent team or team from a conference that does not have an AQ: ECAC West and MASCAC. Pool C bids will be handed out to the highest remaining teams according to the NCAA rankings.
The rub here is that there are East and West rankings, but not a combined one. So when the rubber hits the road, the committee will be combining the separate rankings on Selection Sunday.
Here’s my guess as to where the teams still in the running stand:
A lock: Oswego, Norwich, St. Norbert .These teams can at most lose one more game, and are comfortably ahead in the key criteria. They’re in no matter what happens from here on out. They can also claim autobids if they win their respective conference tournaments.
Bet On It: Plattsburgh, Middlebury. These teams fare well in most head-to-head matchups with other contenders.
Good Chance: Elmira, Gustavus Adolphus, St. Scholastica: Elmira is in the lead for the Pool B slot right now, but that could change – Manhattanville could jump over Elmira based on the results of the ECAC West playoffs. Right now, Gustavus is ahead of St. Scholastica in the West NCAA Rankings, but it’s very close.
On the Bubble: Bowdoin, Amherst, Manhattanville: If neither wins the NESCAC, they need Middlebury to do so, as well as Gustavus to win the MIAC, Norwich the ECAC East, etc. Manhattanville needs to win the ECAC West.
Probably Not: Neumann, Hamline. The ECAC West champ as never been left out of the tournament. Case in point: Neumann who won its way in last year, grabbing the last at-large bid. Maybe the committee will smile on Neumann again. If Hamline makes it to the MIAC finals and a lot of other things break its way, there’s a slim chance.
Must Win Their AQ: Colby, Trinity, Tufts, Hamilton, Salve Regina, Wentworth, W. New England, Curry, Brockport, Morrisville, UW-Stevens Point, UW-River Falls, Mass-Boston, Babson New England, Castleton, U of New England, Skidmore, S. Maine. St. Olaf, Augsburg, St. Thomas, Northland, Lawrence, Lake Forest, MSOE, Johnson & Wales. Suffolk, Nichols, Becker,
Playing Out the String: 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: Hobart ( see Neumann, but much less of a chance) and the MASCAC: Fitchburg State, Salem State, Plymouth State, Westfield State, Mass-Dartmouth, Worcester State, Framingham State.
Thank you Seniors: These teams have already concluded their seasons: Utica, Lebabon Valley (forever?), Bethel, Concordia (MN), St. John’s, St. Mary’s, Finlandia, Concordia (WI), UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Superior, Conn College, Wesleyan, Geneseo, Potsdam, Cortland, Buffalo State.
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: Wentworth
MIAC: Gustavus Adolphus
NCHA: St. Norbert
Going into the ECAC West semifinals, Elmira gets pool B. Who gets the three Pool C bids? Right now I think it’s Plattsburgh, Middlebury, and St. Scholastica, which would mean a 7-4 East-West split.
That would give us:
W1: St. Norbert
W2: Gustavus Adolphus
W3: St. Scholastica
Wentworth at Oswego
Elmira at Middlebury
Bowdoin at Plattsburgh
Bowdoin/Plattsburgh at Norwich
Elmira/Middlebury at Oswego/Wentworth
Adrian at St. Norbert
St. Scholastica at Gustavus Adolphus
Adrian is 400+ miles away from every other school in the projected field, with St. Norbert and ElmiraOswego being its closest opponents.