Who's in? Our projected women's bracket

On Sunday WPI was on the wrong side of its battle with Babson for the NEWMAC's automatic qualifying bid. We project they'll be on the right side of the scrum for at-large bids into the 2017 NCAA tournament.

As usual our mock selections are a team effort. Dave McHugh, James Wagner, BJ Spigelmeyer and Gordon Mann did the heavy lfiting on Sunday's Hoopsville Selection Special. Pat Coleman handled the bracketing because we can never let him retire fully.

Remember that these picks do not influence the NCAA tournament selection committee's picks, nor does our Top 25 poll. Those are the two most common misconceptions for people who don't like our picks. 

That said, here are our projections.

We start by projecting the regional rankings for each of the eight regions in Division III basketball because that's how the process actually starts. The regional committees that have been producing regional rankings do it one more time and then send them to the national tournament selection committee. That committee may make adjustments to the regional committees' selections, which can alter which teams are regionally ranked, which then changes some teams' records against regionally ranked opponents (one of the primary criteria for selecting at-large teams).

Eventually the national committee ends up with a final set of regional rankings, which we'll get to see after the projections are released this year. The rankings include teams that have clinched automatic bids, which are set aside for the bracketing stage. Then the highest ranked team without an AQ within each region comes to the table for consideration as an at-large candidate. There are eight teams up for consideration at any point, one from each region. When a team is picked, the next highest ranked team within that region comes to the table.

If you've already looked at our men's projection, the wrinkle on the women's side is we have to start with the one Pool B bid reserved for teams that are not members of one of the 43 conferences with an automatic bid. We have a Pool B bid again this year because the GSAC's loose alliance of geographically dispersed teams dissolved after last season. That left enough Independent teams to warrant one Pool B bid.

We gave that bid to UC Santa Cruz and honestly there aren't a lot of options. Here's the list of Independent teams and Berea and Alfred State aren't eligible because they are still provisional members of NCAA Division III. Valley Forge (19-5) is participating in the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament, so we assumed the Patriots aren't eligible to join the fun.

With that decided, here's the order of our at-large selections, with the lucky winner noted in bold. The candidates are listed in the following order for each round -- Northeast, East, Atlantic, Middle Atlantic, South, Great Lakes, Central and West.

1st pick: Tufts; SUNY Geneseo; DeSales; Catholic; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Puget Sound
2nd pick: Bowdoin; SUNY Geneseo; DeSales; Catholic; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Puget Sound
3rd pick: Bowdoin; SUNY Geneseo; DeSales; Catholic; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Gustavus Adolphus
4th pick: Eastern Connecticut; SUNY Geneseo; DeSales; Catholic; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Gustavus Adolphus
5th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Catholic; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Gustavus Adolphus
6th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Albright; Lynchburg; Hope; UW-Oshkosh; Gustavus Adolphus
7th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Albright; Lynchburg; Hope; Chicago; Gustavus Adolphus

Chicago gives us two UAA teams at the table simultaneously. This is the only conference where that's possible because it's only one that straddles the regional borders. Chicago beat Rochester twice so the Maroons should at least have the advantage over one of the other seven teams at the table.

8th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Mary Washington; Lynchburg; Hope; Chicago; Gustavus Adolphus

It's possible that Bethel hops George Fox and comes to the table instead of the Bruins, but we didn't think Bethel's win over Augsburg this week was enough to vault the Royals ahead of George Fox.

9th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Mary Washington; Lynchburg; Hope; Chicago; George Fox
10th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Marymount; Lynchburg; Hope; Chicago; George Fox

The two CAC teams come off the board back-to-back. The resumes for those teams are very close to each other, separated mostly by Mary Washington's two-point overtime victory at home in the CAC semifinals.

11th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Moravian; Lynchburg; Hope; Chicago; George Fox
12th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; DeSales; Moravian; Lynchburg; Hope; Illinois Wesleyan; George Fox
13th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; Misericordia; Moravian; Lynchburg; Hope; Illinois Wesleyan; George Fox
14th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; Misericordia; Moravian; Lynchburg; Carnegie Mellon; Illinois Wesleyan; George Fox
15th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Carnegie Mellon; Illinois Wesleyan; George Fox 

Chicago, DeSales and Hope came off the board in a clump. We think Misericordia stays in front of Rowan in the Atlantic and Illinois Wesleyan stays in front of Concordia (Wis.) in the Central. Carnegie Mellon takes Hope's place as the Great Lakes region candidate.

Next we went with Lynchburg because of the Hornets' 22 wins, though IWU has a much better strength-of-schedule. The Titans don't have to wait long, though, because we took them 15th. That's their reward for putting together a killer non-conference schedule. Maryville takes Lynchburg's place and Concordia (Wis.) moves into the Central slot.

16th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Rochester; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Carnegie Mellon; Concordia (Wis.); George Fox
17th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Skidmore; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Carnegie Mellon; Concordia (Wis.); George Fox
18th pick: Eastern Connecticut; Skidmore; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Calvin; Concordia (Wis.); George Fox

The two UAA teams come off the table next by virtue of their strength of schedule. Rochester goes first because it has a win vs. Wash U, which swept Carnegie Mellon. Skidmore takes the East region seat and Calvin takes the Great Lakes region seat. Then Eastern Connecticut comes off the board after a long, painful wait with Mass-Dartmouth next in line in the Northeast.

19th pick: Mass-Dartmouth; Skidmore; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Calvin; Concordia (Wis.); George Fox
20th pick: WPI; Skidmore; Misericordia; Moravian; Maryville; Calvin; Concordia (Wis.); George Fox

Remember the selections here are based on objective criteria -- the numbers -- not subjective critiera. We'd take George Fox over all these teams on a neutral court in a heartbeat, though the Bruins-Calvin game would be fun.

But that's not how the process works. The Corsairs have the better numbers so we get a third Little East team instead of a third NWC team. And WPI's numbers are pretty close to Mass-Dartmouth with one more win and a little worse strength-of-schedule, so we take them to be consistent.

So there you go. The one Pool B bid goes to UC Santa Cruz and the projected 20 at-large bids go to Albright, Bowdoin, Carnegie Mellon, Catholic, Chicago, DeSales, Eastern Connecticut, Gustavus Adolphus, Hope, Illinois Wesleyan, Lynchburg, Marymount, Mary Washington, Mass-Dartmouth, Puget Sound, Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, Tufts, UW-Oskhosh and WPI.

Here's how we would pair them up: 

Hosts are awarded for the most deserving teams wherever possible. But with travel distances being a priority, Texas-Dallas hosts a pod that otherwise should belong at Trinity (Texas). (This is important because we can drive Hendrix there, but not to San Antonio.) Hope could well get a hosting nod from the committee, but we couldn't find enough teams we could actually get to Holland, Mich. 

at Amherst: Amherst vs. SUNY-New Paltz; Mass-Dartmouth vs. University of New England
at FDU-Florham: FDU-Florham vs. Regis (Mass.); Keene State vs. Christopher Newport 
at Ithaca: Ithaca vs. St. Joseph's (Maine); Bowdoin vs. Muhlenberg
at Geneseo: SUNY-Geneseo vs. Sage; Mary Washington vs. WPI 

at Thomas More: Thomas More vs. La Roche; Hope vs Guilford
at Scranton: Scranton vs. Staten Island; Rochester vs. Eastern Connecticut
at Catholic: Catholic vs. SUNYIT; Messiah vs. Lynchburg
at Montclair: Montclair State vs. Westfield State; DeSales vs. Husson

at Washington U.: Washington U. vs. St. Norbert; DePauw vs Trine
at Puget Sound: Puget Sound vs. UC Santa Cruz; Whitman vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 
at Tufts: Tufts vs. Gwynedd Mercy; Albright vs Babson
at Ohio Northern: Ohio Northern vs. Rochester Tech; Marymount vs. Carnegie Mellon 

at Texas-Dallas: Trinity (Texas) vs. Hendrix; Texas-Dallas vs. Piedmont
at Gustavus Adolphus: Gustavus Adolphus vs. Lakeland; Wartburg vs. Wheaton (Ill.)
at UW-Oshkosh: UW-Oshkosh vs. UW-Superior; Chicago vs. Rose-Hulman
at St. Thomas: St. Thomas vs. Eureka; Illinois Wesleyan vs. UW-Whitewater