Our projected 2015 NCAA field


Will Wooster, with its gaudy winning percentage and excessively poor schedule, get into the regionals?
Wooster 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 14 Pool C teams would be.

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.

In Pool B, we selected Emory and Washington U.

There was practically no discussion of this whatsoever. The brief discussion involved whether Stevens belonged in the conversation and it was very brief.

The automatic bid for the Southern Athletic Association took a couple teams out of this conversation. Bringing the CUNYAC back into Pool B this year did not.

Which bubble team is most likely to make the playoffs?
Amherst
Bethel
Clarkson
Millsaps
Ohio Northern
Wartburg
Wooster

Projected Pool C bids (14 bids)
The first five teams we put in just on general consensus by our five-person panel. We all knew these five would get in the field eventually and it would have been a poor use of our time to discuss which order. So we list these six teams for you alphabetically: Baldwin Wallace, Heidelberg, Pacific Lutheran, UW-Whitewater, Webster.

That left us with nine teams to select. Immediately one has to question why Salisbury was so low in the regional rankings coming into this week. Thankfully, the Sea Gulls defeated Rutgers-Camden and Johns Hopkins this past week, and their resume looks a little better than it used to. If Salisbury enters the selection call stuck behind Millsaps, that makes it questionable as to whether Salisbury gets in the field. (And don't get us started on Mary Washington.)

But our board looks like this: Wartburg, Rutgers-Camden, Ohio Northern (passing Wooster despite not even getting into the OAC tournament), UW-La Crosse, Amherst, Oswego State, Birmingham-Southern and Linfield.

We note right away that we have a head-to-head result of Rutgers-Camden over Amherst, which is helpful, but not the be-all and end-all. Oswego State also has a 3-1 series win vs. Rowan early in the season (literally, Oswego's first four games), and since that helps in a couple of categories, we put Oswego State in the field.

With a .700 winning percentage vs. D-III teams and a .574 strength of schedule, we weren't going to keep UW-La Crosse out for very long. Birmingham-Southern has been sitting here blocking Salisbury for a while but gets in, thanks in part to a head-to-head win vs. Rutgers-Camden. And having been freed from South Region purgatory, Salisbury goes in next. And Rutgers-Camden followed, signaling the last easy pick. One note about Rutgers-Camden: their winning percentage is low but their schedule was truly fantastic. They have a .580 strength of schedule by our count, and a 9-9 record vs. regionally ranked opponents. 

From here on, we are pulling teeth. 

Now we're getting down to deciding which team with a winning percentage in the .700s and a decent strength of schedule we're getting into the field. We start with Linfield, which presented a fairly similar playoff resume to UW-La Crosse. The Wildcats have kind of a mixed bag vs. regionally ranked opponents: 1-0 vs. Wesleyan, 1-4 vs. Pacific Lutheran, 1-0 vs. Cal Lutheran and 3-1 vs. Whitworth. Linfield is replaced on the board by Cal Lutheran, which doesn't have nearly as good an SOS. Ramapo had gotten on the board when Rutgers-Camden went in, and they have a better record and not as strong a SOS. But it's enough to edge out the other teams on the board. Clarkson has no results against regionally ranked opponents, so they are basically never in this discussion. Millsaps and Wartburg are so similar it's hard to distinguish the two and Amherst has a polarizing resume: nice SOS, bad record. (And they have that head-to-head loss to Rutgers-Camden, so the Jeffs weren't beating the Roadrunners to the finish.)

Down to the final two spots. The Ohio Northern Polar Bears have been keeping another polarizing team off the board in Wooster. ONU presents very similarly to Bethel, which is also on the board at this point, so the Royals could find their way into the field. But for us, splitting against the top team in the Mideast Region puts Ohio Northern over the top. Wooster joins the board, and we have one spot left.

All along, we have been taking the eight teams on the board at any one time and trying to find a team that is clearly better. When that stopped working, we then tried to at least eliminate a couple of teams, so we could get the conversation down to four or five teams and work from there. Our eight teams at this point are Wartburg and Amherst, who have been on the board the whole time, as well as Franklin and Marshall, Wooster, Cal Lutheran, Millsaps, Clarkson and Bethel. We whittle it down to Amherst, Wartburg, Wooster and Millsaps.

What's left? Some committees try to separate the OWP and OOWP (major D-III geek talk there, sorry) and see if that helps. When doing so we are really reminded about how bad the Wooster schedule is and we eliminate them. Amherst has a 2-7 mark vs. regionally ranked opponents, while Wartburg has a 5-2 mark, but remember that the published critieria lists “results vs. regionally ranked opponents” – this is not the same as “record vs. regionally ranked opponents.” Sometimes, having a large number of games vs. regionally ranked opponents is helpful. Sometimes, it’s who you beat. So if two teams are both 5-5 vs. regionally ranked opponents, look at who those games are against. If one of those teams has a couple of wins against a No. 1 or No. 2 team in a region and the other doesn’t, that is a significant piece of data to consider and the committee does do so.

Wartburg's 5-2 is really soft, all coming against teams near the bottom of their region. But so is Amherst's. The wins are against Wheaton (Mass.) and Wesleyan, and the one Wesleyan win comes against five losses. 

So, of the two teams sitting there forever, we took Wartburg (32-12 vs. D-III) over Amherst (25-13 vs. D-III). 

Our committee marveled at the thought that we could have a committee not take an at-large New England team, not take a NESCAC team at all, when they were on the board the entire time. But the Amherst resume is a little tough to swallow. The fact that the NESCAC final went 12 innings isn't a factor, really. The commitees in Division III generally look at things very black and white.

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

Here's how we would seed this group, including the 40 automatic bids:

New England

1. Southern Maine vs 8. Suffolk
2. Wesleyan vs 7. Curry
3. Rutgers-Camden vs 6. Castleton State
4. Salem State vs 5. MIT

New York

1. Cortland vs 8. Penn State Berks
2. Oswego State vs 7. RPI
3. Ohio Northern vs 6. Old Westbury
4. Ramapo vs 5. Keystone

Mid-Atlantic

1. Kean vs 8. Mitchell
2. Johns Hopkins vs 7. Catholic
3. Alvernia vs 6. Misericordia
4. Salisbury vs 5. Marietta

South

1. Frostburg State vs 6. Methodist
2. Rhodes vs 5. Shenandoah
3. Birmingham-Southern vs 4. Emory 

West

1. Pacific Lutheran vs 6. La Verne
2. Texas-Tyler vs 5. Concordia-Chicago
3. Trinity (Texas) vs 4. Whitworth

Central

1. Webster vs 6. Wartburg
2. UW-Stevens Point vs 5. Greenville
3. Washington U. vs 4. Coe

Midwest

1. UW-Whitewater vs 6. Ripon 
2. UW-La Crosse vs 5. Carthage
3. St John's vs 4. St. Scholastica 

Mideast
1. Heidelberg vs 8. Oberlin
2. Baldwin Wallace vs 7. Washington and Jefferson
3. Adrian vs 6. Anderson
4. Linfield vs 5. La Roche 

Would the committee move one of those three NWC teams, even if it caused an extra flight? Perhaps not, in this economic situation that Division III is in, but if so, Linfield could go any of several places. The committee tries to keep its top two seeds in region as much as it can.