Our projected 2017 playoff field


Case Western Reserve could be the beneficiary of the NCAA's math. But not in a strength-of-schedule sort of way.
Case Western Reserve athletics photo

 

The last of the automatic bids was handed out on Sunday afternoon and the NCAA committee met and made its deliberations as to who the two Pool B and 13 Pool C teams would be.

Wait, what? Two Pool B and 13 Pool C?

The Bears were the easiest decision of this process.
Washington U. athletics photo by Scott Margolin

See, here's the thing. There are only 17 teams eligible for the NCAA postseason in Pool B -- five members of the UAA who play baseball, plus U. of Chicago as an indepdendent; five CUNYAC schools plus two teams aligned with them but not playing a CUNYAC schedule; then Clarks Summit, Valley Forge, Maranatha Baptist and Rust. That's one team short of what the math says is required for a second Pool B bid.

When this sort of error has been raised with the NCAA and various sports committes in the past, they've rechecked and made corrections, sometimes as late as a few days before selection. However, they've not made the change this time around. 

Often in Division III baseball, this would be a moot point. Typically there have been Pool B teams that qualify as true at-large teams regardless. But with the Empire 8 now having an automatic bid, there aren't as many of those teams to go around, and it shows this year.

If we had just one Pool B bid, we'd give it to Washington U., hands-down. Easiest decision of the night. But if the NCAA insists on adding a second team, then it will also give Case Western Reserve a bid. (Emory makes this decision interesting. We'll hear more later.)

Meanwhile, our own mock NCAA committee was doing the same thing. We took all of the same data the NCAA looks at and went through the same process. Our group, made up of D3baseball.com writers, contributors and people with knowledge of the selection process, sat down on the phone to do the same thing.

That is, namely, the impossible: Construct the perfect bracket.

The results of the NCAA’s official selection committee discussions generally are released overnight, sometime between midnight and dawn. Here’s what we think they should do. What we think the committee will do, in some cases, is a completely different result.

Our Field of 56 has 41 automatic bids, which you can see on our Playoff Central page. What's left is the at-large teams. 

Which of these bubble teams is least likely to get in?
Alvernia
Augustana
Bethel
Brockport
DePauw
Rowan
St. Joseph (Maine)
Washington & Lee

Projected Pool C bids (13 bids)
The first four teams we put in on general consensus by our panel. We all knew these would get in the field eventually and it would have been a poor use of our time to discuss which order. Those four are Birmingham-Southern, Shenandoah, Southern Maine and Cortland.

Easy ones out of the way, we set up our "board" -- which consists of the top at-large candidate from each of the eight regions of Division III baseball. We compare all of these teams head-to-head, then come up with one team to put into the field. We started with a board that looked like this:

Wheaton (Mass.), St. John Fisher, Alvernia, DePauw, UW-La Crosse, Webster, Concordia (Texas) and Emory.

Before we got to this point, we went through each region to determine what the regional rankings would likely be through Sunday's games. That is key because getting the pecking order right in each region will determine who is discussed at which time. With St. Thomas going two-and-out in the MIAC tournament, we suspected they would drop below UW-La Crosse in the Midwest. Ramapo would likely jump Widener in the Mid-Atlantic because of this week's head-to-head result (thanks for playing a non-conference game this week!). DePauw would jump Denison in the Mideast because DePauw went 2-2 in the NCAC tournament while Denison was 0-2. (And DePauw took three of four from Denison in the regular season.) We also felt Chapman would jump East Texas Baptist in the West. 

From this group, we put St. John Fisher in the field next, as the fifth of 13 at-large teams. They are replaced on the board by Brockport.

Caleb Boushley went 8-2 with a save and a 1.42 ERA over 89 innings for UW-La Crosse, which we think was enough to help pitch the Eagles back into the NCAA postseason.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com

UW-La Crosse and St. Thomas were still fairly similar in terms of their resumes. UW-La Crosse enters the selection process at 28-17 in Division III and with a .584 strength of schedule, plus 17 games against regionally ranked opponents, seven of them wins. (Also 1-5 vs. UW-Whitewater, but lots of teams lost games to UWW.) We put UW-La Crosse in as the sixth team.

St. Thomas replaces UWL on the board. St. Thomas was 8-10 against regionally ranked opponents this season and presents a classic low-winning percentage (.619), high-SOS (.587) resume. They'll be waiting. Wheaton (Mass.) split two games with St. Thomas, split two with Southern Maine and was 8-12 overall against regionally ranked opponents, including a win vs. Central No. 1 Wash U, and another vs. New England No. 1 Mass-Boston. That helps us put Wheaton (Mass.) in the field as the seventh at-large.

St. Joseph (Maine) joins the board. Great record, but an SOS of .509, which is really hard to do in New England. Meanwhile, Concordia (Texas) jumps out at us with a .683 winning percentage, a .564 strength of schedule (which, in the West, is higher than one would traditionally see). We put Concordia (Texas) in as the eighth at-large.

Chapman gets on the board. Now we are in a position where Chapman (26-14, SOS of .538) doesn't have the resume to really get in, and neither does Brockport (21-16, .557) and the process will really be focused on the six remaining regions. Of the remaining teams, we have Webster (29-13), which has one head-to-head win vs. Wheaton (Mass.) and another vs. UW-La Crosse and probably could have gotten in the field already, but Webster's SOS of .537 was close to 50 points behind those two. However, Webster has waited long enough and gets in as the ninth at-large.

Augustana joins the board from the Central. Emory, St. Thomas, Augustana, DePauw and Alvernia are the top candidates at this point. Emory stands out with a win vs. South No. 1 Birmingham-Southern. Emory is 27-12, with a .561 SOS and is our 10th team in the field.

Washington & Lee joins the board, with a 28-14 record, a .538 SOS and comes in 4-9 vs. regionally ranked opponents. No wins against anyone in the top two in any region.

And it gets tight here. Remember we mentioned St. Thomas was hanging out, with a very similar resume to UW-La Crosse -- they are still here. The Tommies have played nine different regionally ranked teams, compiling an 8-10 mark. They've played seven games vs. teams ranked in the top three in their region. DePauw has played three, and lost all of them. Alvernia has played one team in the top eight of any region (Arcadia, vs. which Alvernia went 2-3). Augustana has one such game, a win vs. Wartburg. 

If "results vs. regionally ranked opponents" means anything, St. Thomas will get in the field. We took them as our 11th pick of 13.

Bethel gets on the board, with a record of 33-10 (.767 winning percentage) and a .523 SOS. Augustana has a head-to-head win vs. Bethel, and that's pretty important at this stage, as the committee is looking for any reasonable differentiator. We took Augustana over Bethel (and others) at the 12th spot.

Wheaton (Ill.) joins the board, and that's a team that Bethel defeated. But it's time to really look again at Alvernia. 

We mentioned Alvernia played just one team in the top eight of any regional ranking. Alvernia went 6-4-1 against regionally ranked opponents, but they only played three such teams. (That's 2-3 vs. Mid-Atlantic No. 2 Arcadia, 3-1 vs. Mid-Atlantic No. 9 Widener and 1-0-1 vs. Mid-Atlantic No. 12 Rutgers-Newark.) While only playing three such teams isn't itself part of the criteria, what this does is it costs Alvernia the opportunity to compile results against other teams on the board. There hasn't been a big common opponent throughout this process.

In fact, if the Mid-Atlantic committee were to, say, rank Rowan ahead of Alvernia, this process might go differently. Rowan looks a lot like the teams we've already put in the field. They've played New England No. 1 Mass-Boston, South No. 2 Salisbury, and No. 3 teams from three different regions (1-2 vs. TCNJ, 1-0 vs. Salve Regina, 1-1 vs. St. Scholastica). 

Rowan would have gotten in our projection, if the Mid-Atlantic region committee would have brought them to the table. But they did not, and in the end, Bethel is our best candidate at No. 13. The Royals have a better winning percentage than six of the other seven teams on the board, and a better SOS than St. Joseph (Maine). 

The committee will release the field while we (most of us, anyway) are asleep tonight.

Here's how we set them out and paired them up:

New England

1. Mass-Boston vs 8. Lesley
2. Southern Maine vs 7. Suffolk
3. Salve Regina vs 6. Elizabethtown
4. Babson vs 5. Tufts

We could have filled an entire regional with New England teams, but the NCAA committee has shown a willingness to move teams around.

New York

1. Oswego State vs 6. Worcester State
2. Cortland vs 5. Case Western Reserve
3. TCNJ vs 4. Ithaca

Lots of discussion about moving Cortland out, but generally the committee keeps these sorts of teams close to home. The SUNYAC is the host, not Cortland, however.

Mid-Atlantic

1. Johns Hopkins vs 8. SUNY-Maritime
2. Arcadia vs 7. Castleton
3. St. John Fisher vs 6. Wheaton (Mass.)
4. Misericordia vs 5. Keystone

Castleton has played in the New England and New York regionals in the past, and York (Pa.) is within 500 miles as well.

South

1. Birmingham-Southern vs 6. Roanoke
2. Salisbury vs 5. Emory
3. Shenandoah vs 4. LaGrange

Fairly locked in but it would sure be nice to move, say, Shenandoah out into the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Swap them with Misericordia? We'd consider it.

West

1. Texas-Tyler vs 6. Bethel
2. Cal Lutheran vs 5. Concordia (Texas)
3. Centenary (La.) vs 4. Linfield

More explainer on this below.

Central

1. Washington U. vs 6. Rhodes
2. Wartburg vs 5. Augustana
3. Webster vs 4. UW-La Crosse

We needed another couple W's here to complete the set. But we're easily able to split the two CCIW and two WIAC teams from each other, since the Central and Midwest overlap each other. 

Midwest

1. UW-Whitewater vs 8. Macalester
2. Concordia-Chicago vs 7. St. Norbert
3. St Scholastica vs 6. Greenville
4. St. Thomas vs. 5. North Central (Ill.)

The No. 6 and No. 7 teams here might seem weak to you, and traditionally that could be true, but we believe both were regionally ranked during the selection process.

Mideast
1. Wooster vs 8. Penn State-Berks
2. La Roche vs 7. Earlham
3. Adrian vs 6. Rochester Tech
4. Washington & Jefferson vs 5. Otterbein

This is a pretty wide-spread bracket, geographically, with Earlham from eastern Indiana and Berks from eastern Pennsylvania meeting in the middle.

There are only two flights in the bracket as a minimum, and there have been years that the NCAA has been forced to fly five teams to regionals. This is an inexpensive one. As such, we elected to spend one extra flight -- otherwise, we would have had three MIAC teams in the same bracket, as all three teams in the St. Paul area are unable to drive to the Central Regional. We took the middle of the three, Bethel, and made them the team to fly. 

We could have gotten away with flying them to the Central Regional, but that's pretty ordinary. The committee lately has been doing different and interesting things, so we flew them to the West Regional, in Tyler, Texas. Rhodes is able to bus to the West or the Central, so we have Rhodes in the Central.

The official bracket will come out overnight. How many Pool B teams will it have? Will Rowan be in the field? Alvernia? Who will be ahead in the final regional rankings? We'll know all this by the time the sun sets on Monday.