Our projected 2018 playoff field

St. John's (Minn.) dropped the ball on their playoff chances by not winning their conference tournament.
d3photography.com photo by Caleb Williams

 

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

Wait are these bid numbers different from last year?

Selecting No. 1 UW-Whitewater was the easiest decision of this process.
UW-Whitewater athletics photo

Last when D3baseball.com sat down to make our predictions, there were only 56 playoff spots but growth in the number of baseball teams suiting up gives us a larger field. This year we will have to predict a field of 58.

There has been changes in the number of bids distributed as well. For a conference to get an automatic bid, they need a minimum of seven members in the conference. The WIAC had been going along with six, being grandfathered ever since UW-Superior left for the UMAC. Well the automatic bid was taken away last fall despite the recruitment of Illinois Tech as an associate member.  The WIAC will soon be back to six teams when Illinois Tech finds a home in the NACC next year.

Last year the math supported a single Pool B bid but with the WIAC members now swimming in Pool B, the numbers justify two bids.

This leave 16 at-large or Pool C bids to be awarded. This is the task of the NCAA following the end of the regular season.

While the NCAA makes their selections, 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.

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 No. 1 UW-Whitewater came off the board.

The final Pool B bid came down between UW-Oshkosh and Case Western Reserve, pitting UWO's regional record against Case's superior strength of schedule (SOS).  UWO was above .500 against ranked opponents while Case was south of the .500 mark. Our final Pool B selection went to UW-Oshkosh.

Which of these bubble teams is least likely to get in?
Avernia
Case Western Resetve
Concordia-Texas
UMass Dartmouth
Salve Regina
Stevens
St. John Fisher
Virginia Wesleyan

Projected Pool C bids (16 bids)
The first six teams we put in on general consensus by our panel. We all knew these would get in the field eventually and it would have been a poor use of our time to discuss which order. Those six are Christopher Newport, Concordia-Chicago, Denison, Randolph-Macon, TCNJ, Wooster. What these teams have are stellar records against D-III competition and decent to very good SOS.

Easy ones out of the way, we set up our "board" -- which consists of the top at-large candidate from each of the eight regions of Division III baseball. We compare all of these teams head-to-head, then come up with one team to put into the field. We started with a board that looked like this:

Southern Maine, Cortland, Ramapo, Otterbein, Virginia Wesleyan, Wartburg, St. John's (Minn.) and Redlands.

Before we got to this point, we went through each region to determine what the regional rankings would likely be through Sunday's games. That is key because getting the pecking order right in each region will determine who is discussed at which time. We added Texas-Dallas to the West rankings and Shenadoah to the South ranking and this would become important when considering Concordia-Texas and Virginia Wesleyan. With a 2-2 record, UMass Dartmouth jumped Salve Regina in the ranking, ultimately blocking Salve Regina from a playoff spot. We also moved St. John Fisher ahead of Stevens with the same result.

From this group, it was obvous that Otterbein, Southern Maine, and Ramapo were also headed to the playoffs and instead of quibbling which was pick #7 or #9, we added the trio in.  Our decision board now was UMass Dartmouth, Cortland, Alvenia, Virginia Wesleyan, Marietta, Wartburg, St. John's (Minn.), and Redlands.

Rutgers-Camden tried to add to their resume with a doubleheader at St. Joseph's (L.I.)  and the trip almost backfired for the Raptors.
Rutgers-Camden athletics photo

The choices became more difficult from this point but Redlands with a plus .500 record stood out for out tenth pick. After adding Concordia Texas to the board it was time to reward the team with the best SOS. Despite a 1-2 record in the OAC tournament, Marietta became the 11th team for our selection committee.

Case Western got on the board but our attention turned eastward. Cortland was a top regional selection for a reason and despite a lackluster SOS. it was time to reward the Red Dragons with a nod for the playoffs. St. John Fisher joined the board with Cortland in the pool of 58.

Our 13th selection was Wartburg. They played the majority of their games against regionally ranked opponents, ending the season 11-11 against the best of the division. Once the Wartburg pick was made, Carthage was added to the the slection grid.

And it gets tight here. Every team has a flaw. Was it a sub-par SOS, was it a poor record against regional opponents, Was it just not enough wins against D-III opposition.

Big wins against Redlands and Webster on the road caught our eye with Concordia Texas's record. The inclusion of Texas-Dallas to the regional rankings brought the Tornados record below .500 but a 51st SOS was enough for them to be out 14th at-large selection.

The same rational followed with Alvernia. A 61st SOS, a .682 winning percentage and a 7-7 record with ranked opponents made them out next pick.

This gave us one more selection before seeding the regionals and surprising enough it went pretty quick. In past years, this final pick generated the longest debate but once Rutgers-Camden was added to the mix, they stood heads and shoulders above the other teams on the board. A 28th SOS, 10-8 regional record made them our final pick of the day.

The irony is that Rutgers-Camden was looking to pad their resume with a quality outing this weekend. They found it with St. Joseph's (L.I.) but a 1-1 record dropped their resume in the eys of our committee. We admired the incentive and as things turned out in our deliberations, no harm, no foul.

Salve Regina and Stevens were playoff ready but they were blocked by teams ahead of them in the regional rankings as we evaluated them. It would not surprise us to see the NCAA to make a different ruling on the updated regional rankings, letting these teams be evaluated.

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

Here's how we set them out and paired them up:

New England

1. Mass-Boston vs 8. Westfield State
2. Babson vs 7. Amherst
3. Ramapo vs 6. Mitchell
4. Western New England vs 5. Suffolk

We could have filled an entire regional with New England teams, but wanted to move teams in the same conference lut of region.

New York

1. Cortland vs 8. Castleton
2. Oswego State vs 7. St. Joseph's (L.I.)
3. Southern Maine vs 6. Union
4. Baldwin Wallace vs 5. Ithaca

Keep Cortland and Oswego as the two top seeds in region but a couple out of region teams strengthens the competition

Mid-Atlantic

1. Rowan vs 8. Penn State Berks
2. TCNJ vs 7. Swarthmore
3. Keystone vs 6. Alvernia
4. Arcadia vs 5. Misericordia

An all-Mid-Atlantic Regional for the first time in years.

South

1. Randolph-Macon vs 8. La Grange
2. Salisbury vs 7. Catholic
3. Christopher Newport vs. 6. Shenadoah
4. Marietta vs. Rutgers-Camden

If the number of bids remained at 56, this would have been a 6-team regional.

West

1. Chapman vs 6. Willamette
2. Redlands vs 5.Texas-Dallas
3. Concordia Texas vs 4. Texas Lutheran

The NCAA might have wanted to put this one in Texas to save a little cash.

Central

1. Webster. vs 8. Wabash
2. North Central vs 7. Aurora
3. Denison vs 6. Dubuque
4. Wartburg vs Rhodes

The best of the Cental plus teams from three other regions

Midwest

1. Concordia-Chicago vs 6. Bethany Lutheran
2. UW-Whitewater vs 7. Monmouth
3. UW-Oshkosh vs 4. Bethel (Minn.)

For the first time this century, St. Scholastica is not in the regional.

Mideast
1. Wooster vs 6. Thomas More
2. La Roche vs 5. Franklin
3. Otterbein vs 4. Adrian

One of three regionals where the host school is in the playoff field.

For the first time, the number of flights never became a question. With six west region teams in the predicted field, there was no reason to send a team cross country to fill a bracket.

The official bracket will come out overnight. Did Case Western come in as a Pool B bid instead of UW-Oshkosh? Did we put in too many teams from the west? Who will be ahead in the final regional rankings? We'll know all this by the time the sun sets on Monday.