Last year, it was the D3 selections that had everybody worked up. This year, D2 decided to hop in on the party too. I’m going to be more open with my opinions than usual below, but as always, if you’re angry or disagree, don’t feel the need to hold back in the comments or on twitter. First, I’ll walk through what I think was the committee’s reasoning, then I’ll offer some thoughts on it. Shall we?
The Committee’s Reasoning
Heading into Sunday evening’s D2 selection show, the committee’s job had partially been done for it. The three conference autobids went to tournament champions Southern New Hampshire (NE-10), Felician (CACC), and Dowling (ECC). And 45-6 Franklin Pierce was a stone-old lock for an at-large. The kind of lock an MLB team is to beat some D2 they scrimmage in spring training.
Well, maybe that’s a bad example.
That left three spots to be decided. Our biggest guide to the committee’s thinking was the final regional rankings, released May 11 (and thus, I’ll assume, incorporating games up to May 10). See below:
So we’ve already got #1, #2, #4, and unranked Dowling in there, and for the sake of simplicity, let’s put St. Thomas Aquinas in there as a fifth. Despite going two-and-cue at the ECCs, they had a markedly better overall record than the rest of the pack. With two spots left now, things start to get interesting.
Teams #5 through #9, besides generally similar records, strengths of schedule, and ISRs (see Boyd Nation’s site for his RPI-style ranking, where he also keeps SOS handy), had one important thing in common– poor conference tournament showings. Molloy went 1-2 in the ECCs, Merrimack lost to SNHU in the NE-10 quarters, Le Moyne suffered the same fate at the hands of Pace, Chestnut Hill went 0-2 in the CACCs, and Stonehill failed to qualify in the NE-10.
That seems to have opened the door for Bridgeport to make a big leap. The Purple Knights sat on the outside of the final regional rankings, probably in the mix for the hypothetical #10 spot with the likes of Adelphi and Pace. They went 3-2 at the ECC Tournament, coming back from a loss in the 1-0 game to take them all the way to a decisive game seven.
So Bridgeport leapt over Merrimack at #6 and Molloy at #5 to take the fifth seed in the bracket. With Merrimack and Molloy left in contention for the final spot, it went to Molloy, ranked above the Warriors in the final regional rankings and owners of a three-game sweep of MC in early March. The Warriors, I’ll assume below, were the first team out, since no one else in the rankings put in the final week showing to move past them in the committee’s eyes.
The final order of business was to decide who’d host. Franklin Pierce and SNHU have been a cut above all year, and between them, the committee opted for FPU, taking their regular-season series win over the Penmen’s NE-10 Tourney Title.
That’s the committee’s reasoning, as best as I can tell. Now for mine.
Questions I’m Left With
Why the big jump for Bridgeport? Don’t get me wrong, I think UB is a good team, and I can easily see them making noise next weekend, but that was one gigantic leap. Even with their 3-2 second-place run at the ECCs, they finished just five games above .500 (27-22-1), a cut below Merrimack’s 11 or Molloy’s 10. Their RPI number (#149) was lower than Merrimack’s (#133), and their SOS number was just 10 better than MC’s.
The committee’s own reasoning in the regional rankings doesn’t seem to lead to this conclusion either. Stonehill, after getting swept at home by Merrimack, was still considered more worthy than Bridgeport of the 9th and final spot in the final regional rankings. The Warriors, despite losing their NE-10 quarter to SNHU, still checked in at #6 in the regional rankings released the following day. If Bridgeport’s .541 regular-season conference winning percentage wasn’t enough for them to even surpass Stonehill, why was one 3-2 (.600) weekend against precisely the same teams enough for them to leap five spots up the regional rankings?
And in the end, the fact the Merrimack put together the best winning percentage of the group despite playing in the NE-10 Northeast should count for quite a lot. If you add three-game series against FPU and SNHU to the schedule for Molloy or Bridgeport, they’re sub-.500 teams. Merrimack managed to finish 11 games over .500 despite taking seven losses against those two, who combined to go *89-4* against the rest of the region this year. Control for that, and they were 18 games over .500 against the type of schedule that Molloy and Bridgeport could only combine to go 15 over against. Yes, I know Merrimack got swept at Molloy, and yes, I know that unlike Bridgeport, they were one-and-done in their conference tournament, but looking at their full body of work, they put together an as-good-or-better resume against a much tougher schedule. There’s simply no doubt in my mind: Merrimack should be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
If a 3-2 final weekend was enough to propel Bridgeport five spots (at minimum) up the regional rankings, why isn’t SNHU hosting?
If you want to place a huge amount of emphasis on the final weekend, okay, but for goodness’ sake, be consistent about it. If Bridgeport’s 3-2 conference tournament showing is enough for them to leap from (at best) 10th to 5th, why isn’t SNHU’s conference tournament run enough to see them rise one spot past FPU, who two-and-cued? If you want to privilege the Ravens’ regular-season series win, that’s fine by me. And if you must put so much stock in Bridgeport’s tournament run, I guess I can live with that. But you can’t have it both ways.
Why the disparity in ECC vs. NE-10 bids?
The Northeast-10 went 35-28-1 against the ECC this year. As I said on Twitter, that’s not an overwhelming gap, but it should be enough to give you pause when you’re about to pick a 4th team from the seven-team ECC rather than a 3rd team from the 15-team Northeast-10. If you’re going to give four bids to Conference A and only two to Conference B, then you should have good reason to think that Conference A is some distance better than B. Here, that’s simply not the case.
In the end, I don’t think the committee had any bias towards one conference or program over another. And I don’t think they were completely misguided in their reasoning. They simply took important, but incomplete parts of each team’s resume and blew them way, way out of proportion. For Molloy, sweeping Merrimack at home early in the season is obviously a plus, but does it make up for winning only two series in conference play, neither of them against playoff teams? For Bridgeport, making a run to the conference tournament finals is awesome, but does it really take all the warts off of a 27-22 record? For Merrimack, getting swept at Molloy wasn’t good, and neither was going one-and-done in the NE-10 tournament, but it doesn’t change the fact that they had a better record against a much tougher schedule. There’s no way around it: the committee got this one dead wrong.