Bracketology: At-Large Bids (Maybe)


Fair warning, I’m not an expert when it comes to the selection process, and I’ve never been involved in one personally. But I’ve done enough homework to feel confident in my ability to project certain decisions based on the available data released by the NCAA. This article is a general well-informed guess as to how things might play out given the outcomes of the Conference Tournaments and the remaining teams eligible for Pool B/C bids. Simply put, my thoughts don’t matter in the grand scheme of things so take them for what you will. But I might be able to walk you through the decisions most likely being discussed by the committee at this very moment.

*** Remember**** The committee has data I do not, like up to date SOS, Common Opponent Numbers, and the final regional rankings, the data I use is based on everything we have up till last regional rankings plus a few conference tournaments. My information in incomplete.

We can make some educated guesses based off the results we’ve had this season and the criteria the NCAA selection committee uses to determine at-large selections. The NCAA DIII manual has all the criteria publicly available for those interested in their decision making, but for reference the primary selection criteria are going to be as follows.

  1. D3 Win/Loss %
  2. Strength of Schedule
  3. Win/Loss versus Regionally Ranked teams
  4. Record versus Common Opponents
  5. Head-to-Head Result

Pool A consists all the teams aligned with an athletic conference which sponsors a Men’s Volleyball Championship. Pool A bids are reserved for the winners of these championships. They are listed below.

CCIW: Carthage
NACC: Dominican
MCVL: Mount Union
UVC: St. John Fisher
CVC: Rutgers-Newark
MAC: Stevens
GNAC: Wentworth
NECC: Endicott
AMCC: PSU – Behrend
SKYLINE: St. Joseph’s College – Long Island
CUNYAC: Baruch

Alongside these teams, five programs from the D3VB landscape will be chosen by the selection committee to enter the NCAA tournament. One is a Pool B bid and the remaining four will be Pool C bids. Pool B is composed of independent institutions and institutions that are members of conferences that don’t meet the requirements for automatic qualification. Pool C is composed of the remaining institutions from both Pool A and Pool B.

At-Large Bid: Easy Choices

Based on the conference results, last weeks regional rankings, and the expected ranking shuffle from this weeks results… I believe these will be the first teams selected for the following bids tomorrow morning.

Pool B: Springfield (yawn)

Pool C: North Central College
Pool C: Southern Virginia
Pool C: New Paltz

The Committee’s Dilemma

The above teams were the easy(ish) choices. Now we get to the committees problem, as I believe this may be one of the toughest At-Large selections in years. There are three teams on the bubble fighting to be the last team in. It’s one crazy problem I’m happy not to be involved in solving. The teams are as follows (in no particular order).

  1. Stevenson
  2. Vassar
  3. Marymount

Each one of these teams has been regionally ranked in Region II throughout the year, each one of these teams have the resumes of NCAA worthy teams, and each team has their own argument to be the last team chosen for to the 16 team field. I don’t have the final data available to me be in order to to create a graph to compare each resume, but I can walk you through some of the arguments the committee will be dealing with.

Stevenson (20-9): Stevenson had one of the toughest schedules of any team this year, proving time and again they could hang with some of the best programs in D3VB. They went 5-5 against regionally ranked opponents (as of last week), with their wins coming against Cal Lutheran, New Paltz, Rutgers, Southern Virginia, and Vassar. Their losses came against Marymount (2x), Southern Virginia, Stevens, and Dominican. The biggest problem with their resume is three losses to unranked Messiah alongside the two losses to Marymount who is also in the bubble.

Vassar (18-6): The Brewers were shocked by the surging Cardinals in the UVC Semifinals and are now waiting the decision of the committee. As of last week, they were 3-4 against regionally ranked opponents. Their wins were against Stevens, MSOE, and Marymount, while their losses came against Springfield (2x), New Paltz, and Stevenson. Currently, their two losses to St. John Fisher might be the biggest blemish on their record, alongside their head-to-head loss with Stevenson who is also in contention. I say might simply because St. John Fisher’s run at the end of the year MIGHT propel them into the last regional rankings, which is bad for Vassar and good for Marymount.

Marymount (23-7): The Saints were one of the hottest teams to start the season before cooling off at the seasons end, settling in as the 7th team in Region II. The Saints went 4-5 against ranked teams (as of last week), with wins coming against Stevenson (2x), Ramapo, and Cal Lutheran. Their five losses came against Southern Virginia, Rutgers, Vassar, Cal Lutheran, and Aurora. Normally I’d say the saints were likely the first team eliminated here, but Stevenson’s third unranked loss to Messiah alongside Vassar’s second unranked loss to St. John Fisher changes the calculus and keeps their chances alive. If St. John Fisher becomes regionally ranked…. Marymount is in a good spot.

I’m going to be very clear everyone. I have absolutely no clue who the committee will pick out of these three teams. Absolutely none. They all have head to heads over each other, and they all have common opponents over each other. From all the information I have available the committee would have loved for St. John Fisher and Messiah to both win their tournaments because then the last two spots would have been easy picks instead of this mess of a triangle. If I had to wager based on what I know from the data I have available (which is limited) my guess from most to least likely is below.

  1. Stevenson
  2. Marymount
  3. Vassar

Long story short, feel free to sleep in tomorrow unless you play for Vassar, Stevenson, or Marymount. But like I said before, I could be completely wrong and my opinion is intrinsically meaningless.