Our projected 2019 playoff field

Baruch played its way into the NCAA Tournament by winning a best-of-three series in Maine against Husson.
Baruch athletics photo

By Pat Coleman

The last of the 40 automatic bids was handed out on Sunday afternoon, one of them by default because of weather, and the NCAA committee met and made its deliberations as to who the two Pool B and 16 Pool C teams would be.

The new wrinkle in the 2019 Division III playoff bracket doesn't affect how we select teams, or how many teams we select, but it does adjust how we create the bracket. Instead of eight regionals of either six teams or eight teams, now we have a three-weekend tournament, with 16 regionals. Three of those are two-team regionals, where the teams will play a best-of-five series. The other 13 are double-elimination brackets of four teams.

That means that we no longer have to find eight hosts who are willing to bring six or eight teams to campus, and we no longer have to struggle to find some of those hosts. These games will all be played on campus, with the top seed likely to host. 

Our mock NCAA committee was going through the same process that the NCAA committee does. 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 are slated to be released at noon ET on Monday. 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 58 has 40 automatic bids, which you can see on our Playoff Central page. But before we look at the at-large selections we need to fill the two Pool B slots.

Projected Pool B bids (2 bids)
The first pick was probably the easiest one our group faced all afternoon as Washington U. was selected. The other Pool B bid came down between UW-Whitewater and Case Western Reserve, pitting UW-Whitewater's winning percentage against Case's strength of schedule. Teams not selected in Pool B are eligible to be selected as at-large teams in Pool C as well.

Which of these bubble teams is least likely to get in?
Case Western Reserve
Concordia (Texas)
Salve Regina
St. John Fisher
Virginia Wesleyan

Projected Pool C bids (16 bids)

We put the first six teams of this group of 16 at-larges in the field without detailed discussion, since to debate the order of the obvious would have been a poor use of our team's time. Babson, Concordia-Chicago, Cortland, Rowan, Salisbury and Southern Maine were all easy choices for Pool C bids, even with Concordia-Chicago losing the NACC final on Sunday afternoon, as our committee was meeting.

The selection process involves pulling the top at-large candidate from each region "onto the board" -- into the discussion. Those eight teams are then debated on the terms of their overall results against Division III opponents, their strength of schedule, their head-to-head results, results against common opponents and results against regionally ranked opponents.

Our process started with Trinity (Conn.), Coe, Heidelberg, Texas Lutheran, Kean, Hendrix, St. John Fisher and UW-La Crosse. From this group, Trinity (Conn.), which finished third in its division in the NESCAC and didn't even make the conference tournament, still made our field on the basis of its 31-6 mark and its 9-2 record against regionally ranked opponents. Trinity was replaced by Wheaton (Mass.) and Wheaton was our next team in, replaced on the board by Mitchell.

Heidelberg was chosen next, with the ninth at-large slot, with an 8-4 mark against regionally ranked opponents. Kean was next, our first at-large pick from the Mid-Atlantic. The Cougars were 9-10 against regionally ranked opponents ... not to mention 20-4 against everyone else. Kean was replaced on the board by Penn State-Harrisburg. 

The decisions got more difficult after this point. Texas Lutheran got the nod next, helped along by a head-to-head win against Hendrix, which is also on the board. TLU was replaced on the board by La Verne. Case Western Reserve didn't get a Pool B bid, but did qualify in Pool C, as the Spartans are 22-13 but also have one of the top strength of schedule numbers in Division III. Baldwin Wallace moved onto the board. Hendrix, which has wins against the South No. 1 team (Birmingham-Southern) and the Central No. 1 team (Washington U.), was taken next. Piedmont moved onto the board to represent the South Region.

There are just three bids left. (There would have been four if Concordia-Chicago had beaten Aurora on Sunday.)

Penn State-Harrisburg was taken next, as a third team from the Capital Athletic Conference. PSH has a .572 strength of schedule and went 7-8 against regionally ranked teams. Ramapo came onto the board to replace PSH. UW-La Crosse, which had been on the board since the beginning, finally left it at the 15th slot, with Aurora joining. Ramapo ended up with the final spot, edging out Baldwin Wallace.

Ramapo and Baldwin Wallace have similar records. Ramapo has a .564 strength of schedule, compared to Baldwin Wallace's .561. Ramapo picked up a final win against a regionally ranked opponent this past week against NYU, helping seal the deal for our committee.

This led us to the bracketing process, which is fairly similar to the basketball bracketing. We used the two-team series to help alleviate the travel issues caused by the distances in the West Region. We put Concordia (Texas) at Trinity (Texas), Whitman at Chapman and LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern.

Next, we determined that (in no particular order) Rowan, Southern Maine, Salisbury, Concordia-Chicago, Webster, Cortland, Johns Hopkins, TCNJ, Babson, UW-Whitewater, Ithaca, Denison and Washington U. deserved to host. Also, we created super regional matchups as well that provided for the best combination of balanced bracket and geographic diversity.

The bracket goes as follows:

Rowan regional: 1. Rowan, 2. Christopher Newport, 3. Tufts, 4. Susquehanna
Southern Maine regional: 1. Southern Maine, 2. Trinity (Conn.), 3. Oswego State, 4. New England College

Trinity (Texas) regional: Trinity vs. Concordia (Texas)
Salisbury regional: 1. Salisbury, 2. Kean, 3. Salve Regina, 4. Shenandoah

Concordia-Chicago regional: 1. Concordia-Chicago, 2. Heidelberg, 3. UW-La Crosse, 4. Cornell
Webster regional: 1. Webster, 2. Adrian, 3. Texas Lutheran, 4. Buena Vista

Cortland regional: 1. Cortland, 2. Wheaton (Mass.), 3. Keystone, 4. St. Joseph (Maine)
Johns Hopkins regional: 1. Johns Hopkins, 2. Mass.-Boston, 3. Rochester, 4. Misericordia

TCNJ regional: 1. TCNJ, 2. MIT, 3. Alvernia, 4. Penn State-Abington
Babson regional: 1. Babson, 2. Penn State-Harrisburg, 3. Ramapo, 4. Baruch

Birmingham-Southern regional: Birmingham-Southern vs. LaGrange
UW-Whitewater regional: 1. UW-Whitewater, 2. Case Western Reserve, 3. St. John's, 4. Bethany Lutheran

Chapman regional: Chapman vs. Whitman
Ithaca regional: 1. Ithaca, 2. La Roche, 3. Farmingdale State, 4. Westfield State

Denison regional: 1. Denison, 2. Washington & Jefferson, 3. Aurora, 4. Franklin
Washington U. regional: 1. Washington U., 2. North Central (Ill.), 3. Hendrix, 4. Otterbein