Bracketology 2023 – Part I

It’s that time of year again! The first regional rankings were published yesterday meaning we have our first glimpse of the at-large picture from the NCAA’s perspective. In case you didn’t know, the first regional rankings are published alphabetically, not numerically. Regardless, we now have a definitive list of schools we can start constructing a possible post-season around, which is very exciting. This leads us to our first bracketology segment of the 2023 season.

Why are the regional rankings important?

Simply put, all the mainstream rankings for D3VB men’s volleyball (AVCA Coaches Poll, FrogJump Top 20, D3VB Top 100) are meaningless measurements used for bragging rights between programs. These rankings have no intrinsic value when it comes to your post season chances, but the ones released by the NCAA yesterday do! Being regionally ranked by the NCAA is the first hurdle programs must clear if they are playing for extra chances at the post season.

This year’s tournament will feature 10 Pool A bids (Conference Champions), 2 Pool B bid (Independent schools not associated with a conference), and 4 Pool C bids (at-large bids comprising the pool of remaining teams from Pool A and B). Most schools have the opportunity to play for two chances to enter the NCAA tournament, but only the schools who are regionally ranked are considered for any of the coveted Pool C/B bids; that’s why being ranked is a big deal.

State of Play

The rankings released yesterday were listed alphabetically as opposed to numerically; meaning the landscape is still in the dark in terms of the regional pecking order. Since the ranking criteria and some of the match data is public knowledge, I’ve taken advantage of my lack of a social life to demystify yesterday’s release by attempting to rank the regional selections according to NCAA criteria.

Fair warning, I’m not an expert when it comes to the ranking process, and I’ve never been involved in one. Further, the below snapshots are where I think the regions stand based on the publicly available information we have, they are essentially my opinions.

Just for emphasis… These are not official NCAA rankings by any means and shouldn’t be used as such, they are the predictions of one fan who runs a D3VB website. I do think I’ve done a decent enough job in capturing where things stand regionally to provide value to the landscape until the 2nd rankings come out.

For reference, the primary NCAA ranking criteria are as follows…

  1. D3 Win/Loss %
  2. Strength of Schedule
  3. Win/Loss versus Regionally Ranked teams
    1.  It’s worth mentioning that no team could have a record versus regionally ranked teams yet, because no teams were regionally ranked up till yesterday. This is one of the reasons why initial rankings are released alphabetically. This criterion will be captured in future releases now that we have a pool of regionally ranked teams; the second rankings being based on the teams from week 1 and the 3rd ranking based on the teams ranked in weeks 2 and 3.
  4. Record versus Common Opponents
  5. Head-to-Head Result

Below is where I think things stand currently in the respective regions. I’ve included some of the available criteria alongside each team; only match data up to 3/29 is utilized.  

Region IDIII Win/Loss RecordSOS
St. Joseph – LI16-7.568
Eastern Nazarene12-11.582

Region IIDIII Win/Loss RecordSOS
Southern Virginia13-2.628
St. John Fisher19-5.618

Region IIIDIII Win/Loss RecordSOS
North Central18-3.603
Mount Union16-5.570
California Lutheran15-8.583

One more time, and with emphasis, THESE ARE SIMPLY MY GUESSTIMATIONS OF THE CURRENT REGIONAL LANDSCAPE. They are not official rankings. While I’m confident in their accuracy, these rankings intrinsically mean nothing. Likewise, the predictions I have below likewise mean nothing and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, given the data made available by the NCAA I’m fairly confident the Pool-C bids will be largely dominated by Region II again this year.

Possible Tournament Field

We can begin constructing a Tournament field with the information above and the playing trends we’ve seen throughout the season so far. Below you’ll find a list of the likely Pool A candidates, if the #1 seeds in Conferences win their Conference Tournaments (sorry to everyone who played yesterday, your wins/losses don’t exist yet in this scenario yet).  

UVC: Vassar
CVC: Southern Virginia
MAC: Stevens
GNAC: Wentworth
CCIW: North Central
NACC: Benedictine
Skyline: St. Joseph’s – Long Island
MCVL: Mount Union
CUNYAC: Hunter
AMCC: Geneva

Given the field above, I believe the teams below are the front runners for the remaining bids as of 3/29.

Pool B: Springfield, UCSC

Pool C: Juniata
Pool C: Messiah
Pool C: Carthage
Pool C: NYU (I’m aware they lost to New Paltz yesterday, but that loss didn’t exist the morning of 3/29).

This is my regional snapshot as of today, but it doesn’t end here. New Paltz defeating NYU will most assuredly have an effect in region II to the benefit of teams like Rutgers-Newark, Marymount, Nazareth, and New Paltz. I’ve included a few matches below which will have similar impacts on the regional rankings moving forward, and they all happen this week.

Loras vs UCSC
New Paltz vs St. Joseph-Long Island
St. John Fisher vs Nazareth
UCSC vs Aurora
Rutgers-Newark vs Juniata
Stevens vs Messiah (the result of this is inconsequential from an at-large standpoint, as I believe both teams have locked bids regardless of where they finish in conference now)

We’re in the end game of 2023, may you all hit the court with the intent of earning the privilege to play in April!

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