2018 Playoff Primer

Cal Lutheran was Kingsmen of the D-III
baseball world in 2017.

d3photography.com photo by Larry Radloff

The NCAA playoffs are just around the corner and two bids have already been awarded to LaGrange (USA South) and Willamette (NWC). Everyone else is looking for that conference nod or an at-large bid.

The most important thing to remember as you look to see if your team will make the playoffs is not to worry about the number of bids, one will be there for your team if they perform on the field, but to to study the NCAA Pre-Championship Manual as it is all there, the number of bids available, when to expect the regional rankings and all the criteria on how they are selected. A lot of this information is available just a few clicks away at D3baseball.com.

58 teams will make the 2018 NCAA
playoffs with 40 bids going to the
conference winners, 2 to those in
Pool B, and 16 at-large bids open
to every team.

The NCAA wants to see a standard proportion of teams playing baseball sport make the playoffs and with the growth in baseball at the D-III ranks, the number of teams in the playoffs also rises, one spot for every 6.5 schools which sponsor the sport, capped at 64. Two more teams will make the playoffs this year for a total of 58 in the following proportions. 40 automatic bids will be earned (Pool A), 2 bids for schools that not have access to an automatic bid (Pool B), and 16 at-large bids open to all D-III teams (Pool C).

The conference gets to decide who earns their bid and all gives it to the winner of the conference tournament. The first bid was awarded to LaGrange, the winner of the USA South tournament on April 14 and the last will be earned on May 13.

Primary Selection Criteria

● Win-loss percentage against Division III opponents.
● Division III head-to-head competition.
● Results versus common Division III opponents.
● Results versus ranked Division III opponents as 
     established by the rankings at the time of selection.
● Division III strength of schedule.
● Win-loss percentage — last 25% of the season.

The criteria for selecting the Pool B bids are in the box to the left. If a decision cannot be made using the primary criteria, secondary criteria are used. All teams are evaluated against each other.

The CUNYAC, UAA, WIAC, and independents do not have an automatic bid. You need a minimum of seven teams in a conference to get an automatic bid. It is true that the current line-up in the WIAC has seven teams but this is just a primer, not the advanced class so accept that when the NCAA met last fall, they had every reason to strip the automatic bid from the WIAC. With the recent notice that the WIAC season-ending tournament was canceled, it works in the favor of every WIAC team that would have qualified for the tournament (Trust us. As for why? It is covered in the advanced class).

2018 Regional Sites

New England: Harwich, Mass.
New York: Auburn, N.Y.
Mid-Atlantic: York, Pa.
South: Holly Springs, N.C.
Mideast: Adrian, Mich.
Central: Sauget, Ill.
Midwest: Duluth, Minn.
West: Spokane, Wash.

Once the pool A and B bids are passed out, the Pool C or at-large bids are awarded. The process is almost the same as the Pool B bids but at each step only the top team without a bid in each region, based on the regional rankings, are evaluated. Regional rankings are determined and released every Thursday starting on April 26, with the final regional rankings determined at the end of the D-III regular season, just before awarding the Pool C bids, on May 13.

After all bids are determined, then the regionals are filled out. In the past, the regionals were filled to minimize the travel costs but these days, an effort to maintain competitiveness and a sense of the region. If your team fails to win their confernce bid but has earned one of the at-large bids, expect them to be shipped outside the region they competed in all spring.

Of course this all changes in 2019 with the introduction of super-regionals and the sixth location for the D-III World Series. But we leave all this for next year.