|Mass-Dartmouth probably wasn't expecting to be so far out on the bubble. But it is, in our opinion.
Mass-Dartmouth athletics file photo
As usual our mock selections are a team effort. Dave McHugh, James Wagner and BJ Spigelmeyer did the heavy lfiting on Sunday's Hoopsville Selection Special. Gordon Mann played scribe and contributed behind the scenes because he couldn't figure out how to use Skype. Ryan Scott and Pat Coleman handled the bracketing.
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.
- NCAA Selection Show broadcast at 2:30 pm ET
- Who's in automatically: 43 conference winners
- NCAA tournament FAQs
- NCAA tournament manual
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 hopefully 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.
If you're a bubble team in a conference with an automatic bid, cover your eyes for a moment. The resumes of the teams competing for this spot aren't pretty.
We have a handful of Independent teams and the members of the newly formed American College Athletic Association. Valley Forge is the only one with a winning record and it won the ACAA tournament this weekend. Last year the Patriots participated in the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament, but they are listed as NCAA Tournament eligible in the NCAA's manual. So we give Valley Forge the Pool B bid and a map with directions to Amherst College.
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, Rochester, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, DePauw, Washington U., St. Benedict
2nd pick: Bowdoin, Rochester, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, DePauw, Washington U., St. Benedict
3rd pick: Roger Williams, Rochester, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, DePauw, Washington U., St. Benedict
4th pick: Roger Williams, Rochester Tech, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, DePauw, Washington U., St. Benedict
5th pick: Roger Williams, Ithaca, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, DePauw, Washington U., St. Benedict
6th pick: Roger Williams, Ithaca, TCNJ, Juniata, Texas-Dallas, Trine, Washington U., St. Benedict
7th pick: Roger Williams, Ithaca, TCNJ, Christopher Newport, Texas-Dallas, Trine, Washington U., St. Benedict
8th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, TCNJ, Christopher Newport, Texas-Dallas, Trine, Washington U., St. Benedict
9th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, TCNJ, Christopher Newport, Texas-Dallas, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), St. Benedict
10th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, TCNJ, Christopher Newport, Emory and Henry, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), St. Benedict
The order of these teams could certainly be different than we project but we're still pretty far away from the end of the bubble. These teams are really strong in at least two of the criteria. They all have good in-division winning percentages, except St. Lawrence. We moved Gustavus Adolphus up in the mock West Region rankings, jumping Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Whitman. We view these teams as safely in.
11th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, TCNJ, Christopher Newport, Emory and Henry, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), Gustavus Adolphus
12th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Christopher Newport, Emory and Henry, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), Gustavus Adolphus
13th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Albright, Emory and Henry, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), Gustavus Adolphus
14th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Emory and Henry, Trine, Wheaton (Ill.), Gustavus Adolphus
We get a run of Middle Atlantic and Atlantic region teams which have a bunch of games against regionally ranked opponents (often each other) elevating their strength-of-schedule. Trine comes off the board later than its national ranking suggests, but remember that our poll has no bearing on these selections. If the Committee gets into the guts of Trine's results against regionally ranked teams, they'll see three close losses to the top teams in the Great Lakes (Hope) and Northeast (Amherst) and maybe take the Thunder earlier.
15th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Emory and Henry, Ohio Northern, Wheaton (Ill.), Gustavus Adolphus
16th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Emory and Henry, Ohio Northern, Wheaton (Ill.), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
17th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Emory and Henry, Ohio Northern, UW-Oshkosh, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
18th pick: Roger Williams, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Lynchburg, Ohio Northern, UW-Oshkosh, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Gustavus Adolphus gets the nod next because of the Gusties' large number of games against regionally ranked opponents. We think Claremont-Mudd-Scripps moves in front of Whitman in the West Region rankings. So the Athenas take the Gusties' place at the table. Then Wheaton (Ill.) and Emory and Henry follow with UW-Oshkosh and Lynchburg taking their place. We have Oshkosh hopping over UW-Eau Claire in the last Central region rankings.
Now it gets tough because every team has one glaring problem with its resume. Mass-Dartmouth, which just got to the table, was 0-3 against regionally ranked opponents if we use Wednesday's rankings. But if Mass-Boston enters the bottom of the regional rankings, then the Corsairs are 2-4 against regionally ranked teams. So Mass-Dartmouth's NCAA Tournament hopes rests on whether the team they just lost to gets ranked. Weird, huh?
19th pick: Mass-Dartmouth, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Lynchburg, Ohio Northern, UW-Oshkosh, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
We're down to our last pick. Staten Island and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps fall out because of their low strength-of-schedule. NWC runner-up Whitman never gets to the table in this scenario. St. Lawrence can't overcome its .654 winning percentage. That leaves us with the other five.
UW-Oshkosh matches Smith in winning percentage and has the SOS and RRO advantage. Haverford and Lynchburg have a little better winning percentage than the Titans, but fewer games against regionally ranked opponents. So the last spot comes down to UW-Oshkosh and Ohio Northern. Which will the committee favor -- the Polar Bears' higher winning percentage or the Titans' tougher schedule?
We went with the latter and made UW-Oshkosh our last at-large choice.
20th pick: Smith, St. Lawrence, Staten Island, Haverford, Lynchburg, Ohio Northern, UW-Oshkosh, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
UW-Eau Claire comes to the Committee's table as they are turning out the nights. Note that we projected a couple changes in the regional rankings -- Gustavus moves up in the West, Oshkosh in the Central, Mass-Boston moves into the rankings in the Northeast -- that in turn shape the national committee's selections.
And there you have it. The one Pool B bid goes to Valley Forge and the projected 20 at-large bids go to Albright, Bowdoin, Christopher Newport, DePauw, Emory and Henry, Gustavus Adolphus, Ithaca, Juniata, Mass-Dartmouth, Tufts, Rochester, RIT, Roger Williams, St. Benedict, Texas-Dallas, TCNJ, Trine, UW-Oshkosh, Washington U., Wheaton (Ill.).
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, sometimes it's difficult to balance teams out. However, in each of these pods, we seed the teams 1-4. The host is the No. 1 seed of the four and plays the fourth seed. The second seed is listed first in that second matchup.
Amherst pod: Valley Forge at Amherst; Juniata vs. Brooklyn
Montclair State pod: University of New England at Montclair State; Marymount vs. Mass-Boston
Tufts pod: Husson at Tufts; Albright vs. Cabrini
Randolph-Macon pod: SUNY-Old Westbury at Randolph-Macon; Piedmont vs. FDU-Florham
Thomas More pod: Oglethorpe at Thomas More; Emory & Henry vs. SUNY Geneseo
Illinois Wesleyan pod: Oberlin at Illinois Wesleyan; DePauw vs. Wisconsin Lutheran
Messiah pod: Keuka at Messiah; Skidmore vs. Mass-Dartmouth
TCNJ pod: MIT at TCNJ; Bowdoin vs. St. Joseph's (Maine)
Hope pod: Hilbert at Hope; Washington U. vs. Marietta
Scranton pod: Stevens at Scranton; Christopher Newport vs. Ithaca
Rochester pod: Becker at Rochester; Trine vs. Gettysburg
Rochester Tech pod: Westfield State at Rochester Tech; George Fox vs. Roger Williams
Wartburg pod: Webster at Wartburg; Rose-Hulman vs. Gustavus Adolphus
UW-Whitewater pod: UW-Superior at UW-Whitewater; St. Benedict vs. Wheaton (Ill.)
Texas-Dallas pod: Chapman at Texas-Dallas; Trinity (Texas) vs. East Texas Baptist
St. Thomas pod: Cornell at St. Thomas; Chicago vs UW-Oshkosh
This bracket is set up to enable a Final Four matchup of Amherst and Wartburg. Or Amherst and Hope. Or Thomas More and ... well, you get the picture.
George Fox, as the only team from the Northwest, was essentially a free agent and could fly anywhere. We envisioned them as a No. 2 seed in a pod and flew them somewhere that needed a No. 2. That ended up being RIT. Although this bracket doesn't lend itself to as many of the cross-sectional matchups that the men's bracket projection has (since no Ohio teams were qualified to host), we still do have Emory & Henry playing SUNY Geneseo, and Rogert Williams playing George Fox, as well as Piedmont playing FDU-Florham.