The NCAA Selection Committee released its top 10 teams today. If the season ended right now, this is how the Committee would rank the top 10:
Compare that to the NCAA’s RPI rankings which look like this:
- Syracuse Orange
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Penn State Nittany Lions
- Denver Pioneers
- Maryland Terrapins
- Hofstra Pride
- Johns Hopkins Blue Jays
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Albany Great Danes
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
First off, let’s get a reminder of the selection process the Committee, chaired by Fairfield AD Gene Doris, will use. Nine bids are awarded to the automatic qualifiers which are the conference winners from the America East, Big East, Big Ten, CAA, Ivy, MAAC, Northeast, Patriot, and SoCon. Remember, the ACC does not have an automatic bid. Conferences must have at least six teams in order to qualify for the AQ. The ACC had an AQ the last two years even though it had just five teams after the loss of Maryland because the NCAA awarded the Conference a waiver which was not granted for 2017. What this also means is that the Tournament field has been shrunk down from 18 teams to 17 and we will only have one play-in game this year.
Next we can eliminate all teams which are not .500 or better; those programs are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Finally, the Committee will pick the remaining seven at-large teams based on the following criteria: RPI results, average RPI win, average RPI loss, record versus ranked teams, head-to-head matchups, strength of schedule, record, results versus common opponents, locations of games, and the eligibility and availability of student athletes for the Tournament. The Committee is not allowed to use the “eye test.”
Pretty much a no-brainer to put SU first. Personally, I would switch Denver and Maryland. Notre Dame lost to Denver and Duke and beat Maryland and Ohio State and I think the Irish are slotted about right. Penn State has the head-to-head win over Ohio State, the third best RPI, and a 10-1 overall record. The Nittany Lions are playing Johns Hopkins right now and a win over the Jays could push PSU above Notre Dame.
Duke is an interesting selection. The Blue Devils are 15th in the RPI, 9-3 overall, and have losses to Denver, Air Force, and Syracuse but wins over Richmond, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. I think in most years, Duke would not be ranked by the Committee as high as it is, but with so much parody this season there may not be a better pick for the seventh spot.
Johns Hopkins is a 6-4 team with wins over UNC, Virginia, Rutgers, and Loyola. I think the Jays could play its way out of an at-large bid, but a win over Penn State today would nearly solidify Hop for an at-large bid, assuming it beats Michigan next week.
It would be crazy to leave a 10-0 team out of the top 10, but even still, Hofstra’s best wins are against North Carolina, Princeton, and Delaware and the Pride has not played a team in the Committee’s top 10. Yet, it is hard to argue that any other program should supplant the Pride. The only quality game left on the schedule is against Towson.
Albany is the last team in the top 10. The Great Danes’ two losses came in one-goal games against Maryland and Syracuse, so it’s hard to fault them for that. Albany has beaten everyone else but does not have a quality win in my mind. The Danes play Yale next week and I think that may be a must win in order for Albany to get an at large bid.
Rutgers is leaning hard on that win against Army and a 9-2 overall record. The Scarlett Knights have three Big Ten games remaining in the regular season, all of which are against teams that found their way into the Committee’s top 10. Rutgers could definitely end up on the inside if they win two of those.
Speaking of Army, the Black Knights have a huge, one-goal win over Syracuse early in the season. The loss to Rutgers hurt as did today’s loss to Navy, but Army has another chance to get a major win when it faces off against Notre Dame.
Princeton is 11th in RPI and smoked Hopkins earlier in the year but three of its four losses have come against teams outside of the Committee’s top 10, including a brutal fall against Lehigh. Given the losses and the lack of quality wins, I think Princeton may have to win the IVY to get in.
The Tar Heels are 14th in RPI with wins over Denver and Virginia and have a real shot to snag an at-large bid. Ultimately, I believe UNC is in control of its own destiny. The Heels have two regular season games left against Syracuse (today) and Notre Dame so there is at least three quality opponents remaining if you include the first game of the ACC Tournament. Win both remaining regular season games and the Heels should make it in, no matter what happens in the ACC Tournament. If UNC loses both, then it would sit 6-7 and would need to win the ACC Tournament in order to get a .500 record or better and even be eligible. Splitting the remaining regular season games and winning at least one ACC Tournament game could also be enough.
If Richmond were to win out its regular season, the Spiders would be at 12-2. That would be a record which would be tough to ignore, but currently Richmond has just two wins against teams with winning records. Richmond is 18th in the RPI and holds a win over North Carolina. The Spiders’ two losses came in one-goal games versus Duke and Virginia. With no quality teams left on the regular season schedule and a weak SoCon, I think it is win the AQ or be left out for this squad.