May 12, 2013

Our playoff projection

Will Pomona-Pitzer make the field? We think they will, and here's why.
Pomona-Pitzer athletics photo

Tonight, after the last handful of conference titles was handed out, the NCAA committee meets and determines who gets the at-large bids and who will go where in the 2013 Division III NCAA baseball playoffs.

All 38 teams with automatic bids were in, and with that, our in-house D3baseball.com committee met for nearly three hours by phone to do the difficult stuff: select the 18 at-large teams, four Pool B and 14 Pool C, and place all 56 teams into eight regionals.

The results of NCAA's official selection committee discussions should be known by about 10 a.m. ET Monday morning. These are our projections:

Projected Pool B Bids (4 Bids)
Ithaca
Huntingdon
Case Western Reserve
Millsaps

Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of discussion to name teams, and Ithaca was certainly one of those. With a 2-1 mark against the top team in its region, Huntingdon was a quick addition to the field as well. When looking at some of the other teams on our board, including St. John Fisher, common opponents definitely came into play, as they went 2-2 vs. Rochester and Case while Wash U. went 1-3 vs. Rochester and Case. But in the end, we don't select either St. John Fisher or Washington University here. We end up with Case and Millsaps. Just based on overall D-III record alone, which is part of the secondary selection criteria and should come into play at the end of the Pool B discussion, Millsaps is eight games ahead of Fisher.

Which bubble team will make the NCAA playoffs?
Christopher Newport
Neumann
Oswego State
Pomona-Pitzer
Ramapo
Texas Lutheran
Washington U.

Pool C Bids (14 Bids)
In order of selection: Kean, Marietta, UW-Whitewater, Illinois Wesleyan, Benedictine, Western New England, Bridgewater (Va.), St. John Fisher, Washington U., Johns Hopkins, Ramapo, Pomona-Pitzer, Neumann, Eastern Connecticut.

The first seven teams were put in by general acclamation. The next four teams were fairly easy decisions before it became difficult. Ramapo, in fact, was the last easy decision, with an 8-7 mark against regionally ranked opponents. Pomona-Pitzer had been on the board a long time, primarily because of its 1-6 mark against regionally ranked opponents. A .667 in-region winning percentage didn't particularly overcome a .526 strength of schedule. But what Pomona-Pitzer has is a win against Ithaca, which was a common opponent with Eastern Connecticut. That got the Sagehens in the field over Eastern Connecticut. When we got to Neumann, we had a team with a 3-9 record against regionally ranked opponents, but also a 2-0 mark against out-of-region teams in the regional rankings: Salem State. That was enough to get them in the field, setting up our final decision.

The seven teams left on the board when Eastern Connecticut was put in were Coe, William Paterson, Hope, Aurora, Oswego State, Christopher Newport and Texas Lutheran.

We had some head-to-head results among this group. We could eliminate Hope for the final spots because Oswego State had beaten them. Similarly, we could eliminate Coe because Aurora had a head-to-head win. Texas Lutheran has the worst strength of schedule of the group, under .500. Christopher Newport had no other Division III opponents besides its in-region teams. Eastern Connecticut and William Paterson played a slew of common opponents, with Eastern Connecticut going 11-2 against the group and William Paterson 9-6.

Now, unfortunately, because of where regionals are hosted this year, we have a significant problem. No matter what we did, we couldn't get a bracket put together with fewer than eight teams flying. So we did what we could to cut costs, because we know the NCAA will. We doubled teams up on the same flight, so our eight teams take six flights to the regionals.

Here's how:

Our projected regionals and seedings
New England Regional at Whitehouse Field; Harwich, Mass.
1. Southern Maine
2. Wheaton, Mass.
3. Endicott
4. Western New England
5. Amherst
6. St. Joseph's, Maine
7. Salem State
8. Daniel Webster

New York Regional at Falcon Park; Auburn, N.Y.
1. Ithaca
2. Cortland State
3. St. John Fisher
4. Farmingdale State
5. Ramapo
6. Eastern Connecticut
7. RPI
8. Moravian

Mid-Atlantic Regional at PNC Field; Moosic, Pa.
1. Kean
2. Keystone
3. Misericordia
4. Rowan
5. Bridgewater, Va.
6. Alvernia
7. Johns Hopkins
8. Neumann

Mideast Regional at Art Nehf Field; Terre Haute, Ind.
1. Marietta
2. Manchester
3. Case Western Reserve
4. Wooster
5. Illinois Wesleyan
6. Washington and Jefferson
7. Mount Union
8. Penn State-Behrend

South Regional at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn.
1. Huntingdon
2. Salisbury
3. Millsaps
4. Washington U.
5. Franklin and Marshall
6. Penn State-Harrisburg

Central Regional Swanson Stadium/Brunner Field; Moline, Ill.         
1. Webster
2. Augustana
3. Wartburg
4. Benedictine
5. St. Scholastica
6. Randolph-Macon

Midwest Regional at Prucha Field in Whitewater, Wis.            
1. St. Thomas
2. UW-Whitewater
3. UW-Stevens Point
4. Concordia-Chicago
5. Adrian
6. Ripon

West Regional at Tornado Field; Austin, Texas
1. Linfield
2. Cal Lutheran
3. Texas-Tyler
4. Pomona-Pitzer
5. Trinity (Texas)
6. Methodist

With the Mideast being played in Indiana and the South being played in Tennessee, we are stuck having to fly teams westward. If you see the NCAA selecting someone such as Texas Lutheran or Aurora, it's because they want to limit flights. The way we limit flights is by sending two teams on the same flight to the South Regional and the two SCIAC teams on the same flight to Austin. (But we flop Trinity and Pomona-Pitzer to keep the SCIAC teams from meeting in the first round.)

Now, this tournament features teams from a mixture of different regions in a lot of these regionals, which is how the committee has said it wants to do things this year. There's certainly an old-school way to do it as well. What there isn't is a way to do it with fewer than eight teams flying, not with these selections.

And teams are supposed to be selected without geography being part of the consideration.

Stay tuned on Monday morning for the NCAA's official selections.

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