At-Large Snubs & Surprises; Must-See Matches & Upset Alerts
NCAA Field – At-Large Selection Review & Snubs
Selection Monday lived up to its billing as one of the most exciting—and controversial—days on the Division III soccer calendar. Without further ado, let’s dive into a recap on what went down:
The real question going into Monday was who would snag the coveted 19 at-large bids (18 Pool C and 1 Pool B) into the tournament. If you read D3soccer.com’s At-Large Analysis and Predictions article, I correctly picked UW-Whitewater as the Pool B team and also narrowed the Pool C teams down to 25 squads with legitimate chances at an NCAA bid. I’m happy to say that all 18 teams came from that list of 25. Here’s a comparison of this year’s at-large teams with previous seasons, which shows a high level of consistency from the committee:
But, within that list, things did not go exactly the way I pictured. I went 12/14 on surefire picks, missing Middlebury and Brockport State, and I had RPI and UW-Oshkosh on the outside looking in. And within my “Pick ‘Em,” Chicago and Thomas More got in before Colorado College and Elizabethtown. So what happened? Let’s look at some snubs and surprises.
Snubs: Record (Winning %), Strength-of-Schedule (SOS), Record-versus-Ranked (RvR)
(1) Middlebury: 13-2-2 (0.824), 0.574 SOS, 1-2-1 RvR
I had Middlebury as the 9th of 18 at-large teams, and frankly this was a shocker. I can come up with only two explanations. First, Middlebury was well below average with only one ranked win, and that ranked win (over Connecticut College) was not overly impressive. Second, defending champion Tufts jumped Middlebury in the final regional rankings despite not playing during the week. Did Middlebury’s draw with Wesleyan really hurt that much? Perhaps, but there’s one other possibility, and that is that the committee felt that Tufts’ SOS (a Pool C high 0.623) and ranked wins (4) stacked up better nationally. Add in Tufts’ head-to-head win over Middlebury, and suddenly the defending champs are in and Middlebury is out. Regardless, I feel for the Panthers and hope this motivates them over the offseason.
(2) Brockport State: 12-4-2 (0.722), 0.570 SOS, 3-3-0 RvR
Brockport State is less surprising overall, but more surprising considering two other teams from the East Region, Plattsburgh State and RPI, got in. Brockport had a similar SOS (0.571 to Plattsburgh’s 0.577) and winning percentage (0.722 to Plattsburgh’s 0.738), but Brockport had three wins to Plattsburgh’s one and beat Plattsburgh head to head. And Brockport topped RPI on all criteria (see more below). What gives? Once again it could be the quality of wins, as Plattsburgh and RPI beat Oneonta State while Brockport only beat Plattsburgh and Cortland State twice. In any event, Brockport was unlucky to miss out.
(3) Elizabethtown: 17-2-1 (0.875), 0.520 SOS, 2-1-0 RvR
As I noted on Sunday, every year we usually see at least one team get in with a very low SOS, and I expected that team to be Elizabethtown despite the Blue Jays having the lowest SOS in the realistic Pool C field. The other squad to watch was Thomas More (0.525 SOS), but Elizabethtown had two ranked wins to Thomas More’s one. Elizabethtown would also have been the third Mid-Atlantic Region team into the field, while I (correctly) predicted Thomas More would only get in if the Great Lakes got four bids. Again, the strength of TMC’s ranked win (5-1 at Ohio Wesleyan) could be one explanation, and the committee obviously gave more credit to the Great Lakes than in years’ past. Still, I feel for the Blue Jays, who had a spectacular season cut too short.
(4) Colorado College: 14-2-3 (0.816), 0.538 SOS, 1-2-0 RvR
Given the numbers, I suppose it’s not that surprising for Colorado to miss out. But I just couldn’t convince myself that the committee would shut out any region completely, even the West, and Colorado’s profile was just good enough that I expected the committee to put them in. It wasn’t to be, and the exclusion of Middlebury, Brockport, and Colorado College really showed that the committee is willing to change up how it allocates bids among the regions depending on the strength of Pool C. Check out the Pool C bids from the last five seasons, split by region:
Colorado College beat Trinity (Texas) before losing two very close games to the Tigers down the stretch. Still, I feel for Colorado, as it’s only out of the tournament because it went 1-2-0 in three tight games with a top-five team. That’s a bad beat. This is a team that was good enough to be in the tournament and was unfortunate to miss out, even if the profile wasn’t quite up to snuff.
This list is not to say that these are not good teams or that they cannot make a run in the tournament. These are just teams that I did not expect to make the tournament. And remember, doing well in the tournament and being worthy of making it in the first place are two very different things. Also, if your team is on this list, enjoy the new lease on life and take advantage of it—prove me and the other doubters wrong on the field.
(1) RPI: 11-4-3 (0.694), 0.564 SOS, 2-1-0 RvR.
RPI should not have been selected for the 2015 NCAA tournament. RPI finished seventh—seventh—in its own conference. Don’t get me wrong, the Liberty League is pretty good, but no team that finishes seventh in any conference should be part of the NCAA tournament. I guess it might be more understandable if RPI’s numbers were great, but they aren’t. Of the 25 realistic Pool C teams, RPI had the 22nd-lowest winning percentage, the 18th-lowest SOS, and RPI’s two ranked wins put it in the bottom half on that metric as well. If you’re Middlebury, you are far above RPI on winning percentage and SOS, had only one fewer ranked win, and you finished second in the powerful NESCAC, yet you missed out. If you’re Brockport State, how do you rationalize being snubbed for a team in your own region with a lower winning percentage, lower SOS, and fewer ranked wins? I don’t get it.
(2) UW-Oshkosh: 11-3-3 (0.735), 0.565 SOS, 2-3-2 RvR.
I’ll preface this by saying I am thrilled that UW-Oshkosh gets to participate in the NCAA tournament before the school cuts its soccer program next year. But I was still surprised to see the Titans selected, considering they were down in sixth in the North Region and did not play last week.
(3) Thomas More: 16-2-1 (0.868), 0.525, 1-1-1 RvR
Thomas More is another team I was pleasantly surprised to see selected. The Saints are easily worthy of selection on talent—I witnessed their offensive firepower, particularly on the counter, as they dismantled my alma mater 5-1—but I thought they would miss out due to the weak SOS and lone ranked win.
(4) Chicago: 11-5-2 (0.667), 0.599 SOS, 3-4-0 RvR.
I was less surprised to see the Maroons selected, as the SOS and three ranked wins were very, very good. The problem for Chicago, in my mind, was that they weren’t going to jump Wheaton (Ill.), and Wheaton’s at-large profile was actually quite weak on paper. But Chicago is battle-tested having played seven ranked teams, and Saturday’s matchup, with none other than Thomas More, should make for great viewing.
Weekend Viewing Guide and Upset Alerts
Check out D3soccer.com for a full schedule of games this weekend, including links to all streaming video and live stats. Technology is a wonderful thing, as a majority of games have video available. For those of you with free time, here’s a quick viewing guide of the best games and potential matchups that should have video feeds, all times Eastern.
Friday, November 13:
Why it’s worth watching: Expect goals. Lots of goals. Each team is averaging about three goals a game and conceding about once a game. OWU is missing both of its starting centerbacks, while MSOE brings the Andryk brothers (combined 41 goals and 26 assists) to Roy Rike Field. On the flip side, MSOE has only posted four shutouts all season, and OWU has only been shut out once.
Upset Alert: In the last decade, OWU has been knocked out at home in the opening weekend four times, and I’d argue that MSOE is stronger than all four of those teams. OWU is shorthanded and might have a hangover from losing the NCAC championship in heartbreaking fashion to Kenyon, while MSOE won’t be overawed after its NCAA experience last season and will come in expecting to win.
Why it’s worth watching: Rose-Hulman played Chicago to a narrow 1-0 loss, drew 2-2 at Wheaton (Ill.), and beat DePauw 3-2 on the road. After those games, the Engineers won’t be intimidated by a Warhawks team that went 0-1-1 in their last two games. Whitewater also hasn’t played in over two weeks, but this has all the makings of a fascinating tactical matchup with UW-Whitewater controlling the ball and Rose-Hulman defending and countering.
Saturday, November 14:
1:30 PM ET – Thomas More (16-2-1) vs. Chicago (11-5-2)
Why it’s worth watching: Both teams were firmly on the bubble and should play with the freedom that barely making the NCAA tournament can afford. Chicago is as battle-tested as they come, while Thomas More boasts a wicked attack centered around forward Austin Juniet (16 goals, 23 assists). Chicago is part of the UAA contingent attempting to prove they can win in the postseason, while Thomas More desperately wants another shot at Kenyon after last year’s second-round penalty loss.
Why it’s worth watching: Once again, goals. Rowan has played nine ranked opponents, and those nine games have had 35 total goals. That includes big wins (4-2 at Messiah, 7-1 over Rutgers-Newark) as well as big losses (1-5 to Montclair State). Regardless, the Profs will show up looking to score. They’ll be facing a Dickinson team that got hot at the right time, as back-to-back wins over Franklin and Marshall secured an NCAA berth for the Red Devils. Dickinson just played Haverford—probably the hottest team in the country—nearly even for 90 minutes, so they’ll come into this game confident as well.
Upset Alert: Franklin and Marshall plays an attractive style of soccer, and aside from losing two close games to a streaking Dickinson and one entertaining match to Haverford, F&M has been perfect all year long. The problem, of course, is that F&M has lost three out of four, and hasn’t scored in over three hours of play. Babson, on the other hand, is peaking at the right time and has won five straight, including victories over tournament teams Bridgewater State and MIT. F&M has made it through the opening weekend the last two seasons, but keep an eye on this one if the Diplomats start slow.
Why it’s worth watching: Calvin is undefeated, has scored 76 goals while conceding only 4, and has not trailed all season. I highly doubt Mount Aloysius is going to pose any problems, but just how good is Calvin? And what happens if Calvin runs into its postseason nemesis in the second round? Despite going 1-0-1 against OWU last year, Calvin still saw its season end in a shootout in the second round against the Battling Bishops, and the 2011 national championship loss must still sting. Given that the Battling Bishops (or Milwaukee Engineering) will be a big step up in competition, are the Knights ready for it?
Why it’s worth watching: Wheaton seemed to have righted the ship before drawing a complete blank in the CCIW semifinals against a 5-14-1 North Central (Ill.) team. The Thunder have the talent, but are they consistent enough? UW-Whitewater has also been up and down, with impressive over Milwaukee Engineering, Loras, and Carthage offset by disappointing losses to North Park and UW-Platteville. If these two inconsistent teams square up, it will be interesting to see if they can bring the best out in each other.
Why it’s worth watching: We have a fantastic matchup as CMU’s William Webb—the man who notched a hat trick against Messiah to show they were human—takes a shot at Gordon’s stingy defense, which has allowed only 13 goals all season. While Carnegie Mellon has some good wins, there are warning signs that make me think this is an even matchup. In particular, CMU’s goal differential is only +12 (45 GF, 33 GA), and the 33 goals against are worrisome. That leaky defense presents a golden opportunity to Gordon, who is one of the lower-scoring teams in the tournament with only 37 goals scored. While this may not be the most entertaining game, it perhaps offers one of the most even matchups on tap in the opening round.
Sunday, November 15:
Why it’s worth watching: These are two teams with the talent to make the Final Four and even win the title, and we might get to watch them play on the opening weekend. The only thing lacking for Oneonta right now is a title, while Camden also came within an overtime of being top of the DIII world. Both teams expect to take the game to opponents, but do so in different ways. Oneonta State relies on collective goal-scoring (no players above 7 goals) and stellar defense (only 9 GA), while Camden uses the 1-2 punch of Mike Ryan (18 goals, 3 assists) and Connor Hurff (7 goals, 10 assists) to keep the team clicking.
Why it’s worth watching: Kenyon is flying high after knocking off OWU for the second time, and the Lords should ease through the opening round before the degree of difficulty increases substantially. Tune in to check out Tony Amolo (17 goals, 5 assists), whose improved play in big games has taken Kenyon to another level. The winner of the Thomas More-Chicago matchup on Saturday will have no fear coming into this one, and I’d expect a feisty affair that also showcases some great individual talent.
Upset Alert: Thomas More scored one second after the double-overtime buzzer sounded against Kenyon in last year’s NCAA tournament before falling in PKs, and the Saints are even better this year. Chicago survived the UAA and went out of its way to play five other tournament teams in the non-conference. But this Kenyon team’s ability going forward, coupled with a stingy defense and strong midfield pressing game, means Kenyon has a knack for scoring first and dominating the game from there. The worry for Kenyon, in my opinion, is that it has failed to post a shutout in its four toughest games (Carnegie Mellon, DePauw, Ohio Wesleyan twice) and the Lords seem to be a team designed to play from the front. What happens if somebody else scores first?
Why it’s worth watching: I thought Montclair State was in a great position to get a bye on the opening weekend, and instead the Red Hawks might have a second-round date with the defending national champions. On paper, Tufts' season has been relatively unimpressive, but the Jumbos remain the champs until deposed. Montclair State has been consistent and very, very good all season, but Tufts may be one of the few teams that can match Montclair’s athleticism and Coach Shapiro and the Jumbos have the big-game moxie and the confidence to go into Montclair and pull off an upset.
Ryan’s Boxscore Top 10
Good for you if you’ve made it this far, but I won’t take more of your time with lengthy explanations. Here’s my final regular season Top 10, and from here on out the teams will solve any rankings problem on the pitch.
1. Haverford (16-3-0, D3soccer.com No. 8)
2. Kenyon (17-1-0, No. 1)
3. Calvin (20-0-1, No. 3)
4. Oneonta State (15-3-1, No. 7)
5. Trinity (Texas) (19-2-0, No. 2)
6. Brandeis (16-2-1, No. 5)
7. Montclair State (18-2-1, No. 6)
8. Amherst (14-1-1, No. 4)
9. Lycoming (16-1-2, No. 12)
10. St. Lawrence (14-3-2, No. 20)
Trending Up: Rutgers-Camden, Bowdoin, Salisbury, Washington and Lee
Trending Down: Franklin and Marshall, UW-Whitewater, Elizabethtown
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Ryan Harmanis.