SR4/GLIAC Playoff Musings
by, 11-07-2012 at 09:51 PM (2381 Views)
OK...I promised everybody ONE post about this, so here it is! Just like every year, I stick to only writing about this the week before the final Saturday of the season. SO much changes from week to week that trying to keep up with this for the last month of the year just isn't worth the energy. Now things are much more finite, so let's take a look:
SuperRegion 4 - Released November 5, 2012
3. Chadron State
4. Midwestern State
6. West Texas A&M
7. Missouri S&T
8. Grand Valley
9. New Mexico Highlands
10. Saginaw Valley
OK...the top end of this is easy and obvious. Pueblo and Ashland are both 10-0. While both have a high liklihood of winning Saturday and finishing unbeaten, it's hard to see any scenarios where they would NOT be in the field, even if they should lose. I'll readily admit that I don't dig as deep as the committee would into the various strength of schedule components, but the biggest one is usually a team's "opponent's win percentage". Based on that, I see why Pueblo and Ashland switched spots this past week, and with a win I would expect Pueblo to stay on the one-line. Ashland's only shot at moving up to the one is to beat Notre Dame and hope that Pueblo loses to 1-9 Western State (uh, not gonna happen). Shouldn't be a source of angst for Ashland fans in reality, as the two-seed still gets a first round bye and a home game in round two.
As for the next group, my guess is that three through five will stay relatively static. 8-1 Chadron does have a bit of a test against a solid Colorado Mines club, but even if they lose the SOS numbers I see for them likely would keep them in the bracket. 8-1 Midwestern State gets a 2-6 West Georgia team and 8-1 Indianapolis faces an Urbana outfit with a decent record...but the Greyhounds should be favored. Again, my hunch would be that these three win and will jostle for spots three through five. I suppose it's not inconceivable for any/all of them to lose and then things could get interesting, but at this point they're all 8-1 so the presumption they are favored to win Saturday isn't outlandish.
So, for GLIAC fans the only real spot to get a second team into the field comes here. West Texas A&M is currently on the six-line, with Missouri S&T and Grand Valley trailing. For Laker fans, my concern here would be why GV isn't already ahead of S&T. Sure, S&T is 9-1 to GV's 8-2, but the (admittedly limited) numbers I see sure would be compelling to put GV ahead of S&T already...WT is 8-2 and already there, why isn't GV? The Lakers will get a big SOS boost from playing Saginaw Valley. If GV wins and gets to 9-2, their case should get some help in that S&T's opponent (South Dakota Mines) is winless and WTAMU's last foe (Commerce) has a 1-7 D2 record. At least in term's of "opponent's win percentage", Grand Valley's is actually projecting to be higher than any of the seven teams currently listed ahead of them. Winning against Saginaw Valley is a must (no gimme, by the way), but if they can do that I have to admit that I'd be rather perplexed if they weren't able to find their way into the bracket. Again, I'm not applying all of the criteria the commitee can/would but at face value their resume would sure look favorable in comparison to WT or any other two-loss clubs (should any of the one-loss teams lose), and certainly solid against S&T (despite the Miners having one less loss). So, is it "win and in" for GV? In my mind it should be, but that doesn't mean that the criteria is shaking out as such. GV has to handl the "win" part, and we'd then know about the "in" Sunday.
By the way, as for Saginaw Valley despite their projected final OWP being the highest of any of the ten teams currently listed in the seedings, that third loss will likely prove too much to overcome. If they beat Grand Valley, the Cards would likely need WT and S&T losses along with at least one of the one-loss teams losing to even have a shot. That's an awful lot of things that would have to go right. Stranger things have happened, but at this point that sure appears rather unlikely.
I'm guessing I didn't clear much up for anyone. What can I say...I'm not on the committee so I can't know exactly how they are applying the criteria. What I can tell you is that in my conversations with committee members over the years I've come to the conclusion that this process is a bit more vanilla than some would like to think. Of course, we have many who assume that any sort of "conference title" would earn a team a spot. That's not a criteria and has no bearing on things so while winning your league will certainly help you in the record department that trophy has no bearing on the playoff selection process. I've also had folks insinuate that "big wins" and/or "bad losses" can impact a team's resume. That sort of item is not listed by the NCAA as something that can be considered and isn't part of the deal. I also see posts on our message boards about conference reps "not going to bat" for teams. It's been my conclusion that the committee members are (for the most part) doing all they can to make this a viable, "by the numbers" process. Again, I'm not on the calls so I can't possibly know that for sure but the sources I have polled haven't given me any reason to believe that sort of stuff is rampant or prevalent.
As for my opinion of the process, I would submit that it could be better. Most things can, of course, and I'm thrilled we have this instead of the nonsense that is the BCS. With that said, I start with the the basic premise that no system is ever going to be perfect...and from there, I'd love to see a few alterations in how D2 selects its teams. For starters, any selections and the process that arrived at them should be released once the bracket is out. I think the notion that it should be some sort of secret is silly. If everything is fair and equitable, why would the results be anything to be hidden? I would also get rid of the regions. I understand why they are used today, but think that in total their usefulness has expired. Travel has expanded so much in the playoffs due to how the regions are aligned that the notion that travel is being "saved" seems unlikely. Next, I think conference champs SHOULD get an auto-bid. Most of the time, if a team wins its conference it's done enough in total to warrant a spot in the field so start with the conference champs and add in how many other at-large bids needed to get to 24 teams (currently ten). Seed them up, and let'er rip. Again, it won't be perfect but I think it would be better than the regional alignment we have today. I'd also change how the at-large teams are selected. The attempt at driving it toward the math that is used today creates situations that don't make much sense. For example, if the playoffs started today S&T would be in over Grand Valley (and Saginaw Valley, for that matter). With all due respect to S&T and the GLVC, the caliber of ball played in that league is no where near what it is in the GLIAC. The notion that an 8-2 Grand Valley or a 7-3 Saginaw Valley isn't better than a 9-1 Missouri S&T is one that most knowledgable D2 fans would find hard to buy. Maybe they are, but running over a GLVC schedule is hardly as difficult as a GLIAC North slate and I'd take my chances with just about any North club (and much of the South) against S&T or any other GLVC club. So, if the caliber of ball is that much better from one league to the next (anyone who submits it isn't is either lying or lacks football acumen), why should the same "math" be applied to every league? That's how you end up with teams in the bracket that, frankly, don't belong there.
OK...rant over. My thoughts won't change anything and I'm sure you're all tired of reading about this. I guess the short answer for GLIAC fans is that Ashland is in no matter what, and GV probably needs a bit of help (losses or numbers-wise) should they win on Saturday.