Thursday, March 2, 2017

Evaluating the Top 20 (DI-Men) - Early Rankings

USAU has released their first set of rankings (note - as time passes this link will update with new rankings). The early rankings are fun and exciting for teams but will of course change as the season progresses.

I have coached every single college season since the 2010 regional redraw and the adoption of the rankings system. I have a pretty good sense of the math and the trends we've seen in the past with these rankings. As such, I'm going to breakdown the top 20 ranked teams and how I think they will change (or not change) as the season progresses. This is NOT how I think they will finish at nationals, this is how I think is how the regular season will play out.

As always, this is my opinion. I'm happy to be proved wrong. I'm happy to be corrected when I have mis-information and I love a good debate.

My bid allocation predictions for the end of the regular season are at the bottom.

The Rankings

1) Pittsburgh (OV) - WILL HOLD - In my Warm Up numbers piece I wrote that I would be shocked to see anyone else at number one and here they are. I don't think they're head and shoulders above the next three teams, but I think they're a top four lock and I wouldn't expect them to end the season anywhere lower than 4th. I think they'll finish semis+ at Stanford.

2) North Carolina (AC) - WILL HOLD - They're pretty clearly the top team in their region. It's hard to see where they stack up within the top four, but I think this is a fair ranking that will hold up through the season. Centex will give a clearer sense if they're vying for the top spot.

3) Minnesota (NC) - WILL HOLD - Minnesota is the team I'm most confident in holding a top four spot. Their head-scratching finals loss to Pitt aside, they have thus far had a truly dominant season and I don't expect that to change. I wouldn't be surprised to see them sneak into the top spot by season's end, but a middling competitive field at Huck Finn for their final tournament may hurt their chances to win the math.

4) Colorado (SC) - LIKELY HOLD - It's Mamabird. They're good. They're always good. They have five guys with semis experience from club nationals. I think they stay top four throughout the season, but I can't take too much away from just President's Day results given the funky conditions and weird format. We'll know a lot more after Stanford.

5) UMass (NE) - LIKELY HOLD -  I honestly can't make a good judgment on Umass as I've haven't played or coached against them since 2008. They dominated the non-UNC competition at QCTU. If they did that without relying on their 1-3-3, then I'd say they're legitimate top 5. If their margins of victory were as such because of the nature of zone early in the season, I'd say they'll drop. This  is largely speculative, I haven't watched the film, so I'd say this is my least confident prediction; we'll see at Centex.

6) Georgia (SE) - LIKELY DROP - I think Georgia is a solid team, but I don't believe they're a top six team. Their wins against Wilmington and a solid NC State team were great, but I think they'll slide a bit back into may the 10-11 range by seasons end. I'm very curious to see how they match up with Washington and Carleton at Stanford. If they win both those games, I'm wrong about the drop.

7) Carleton (NC) - LIKELY RISE -  I think Carleton could end the season in the top five, perhaps supplanting Colorado or UMass. They quietly had one of the best Warm Up performances and I tend to buy into the "north central teams only getting better as the season progresses and the weather at home improves."

8) UNCW (AC) - LIKELY DROP - This seems like a case of a high-ceiling team that struggles to get out of their own way. I don't doubt the talent they can put on the field, I don't think anyone does, but I never feel surprised if they get upset. Their talent will certainly carry the AC to another bid, but I don't think they'll hold top 10. This might be an unfair narrative based largely on a reputation, but until they prove otherwise I'll stick with it.

9) STANFORD (SW) - WILL HOLD - I think Stanford will hold pat right around this ranking. They're solid, deep and unless something crazy happens to SLO and the Southwest's second bid, should return to nationals for the first time since 2011.

10) WASHINGTON (NW) - WILL HOLD - I think Washington could creep up and wouldn't be surprised to see them finish top 8 as El-Salaam gets healthier, but I think 10th best team in the country is a pretty good spot for them. I don't foresee them dropping significantly.

11) Caly Poly-SLO (SW) - WILL HOLD - I love my boys from SLO but I think they're going to hold firm right around 11 throughout the season. They certainly have the raw talent to win any game, but they need to figure out how to more consisently beat teams, like Mamabird, that won't let SLO's big play ability phase them. They will certainly have their opportunities to showcase their growth at Stanford and Easterns.

12) Northeastern (NE) - WILL DROP - Sorry Northeastern but this ranking is unfortunately the product of a bevy of early season wins against a weaker field.  As those teams settle more accurately into their final placements and the early season results begin to decay, I think is a pretty clear-cut drop.

13) Colorado State (SW) - NO OPINION - I have my thoughts certainly, but personal bias is too strong here to put out any public analysis.

14) Wisconsin (NC) - WILL RISE - The Hodags sit next to Mamabird and Carleton as the most consistent college programs, in my opinion, of the past fifteen years. They had better results at Warm Up than their final placement would suggest and they get my benefit of the doubt as I've watched them succeed for 15+ seasons. I expect them pushing up towards the top 10 by season's end, securing three bids for the north central.  All three of the top teams in the NC tend to have the ability to beat each other at any given time. I wouldn't be shocked to see them win the region.

15) Oregon (NW) - WILL RISE - Oregon is too talented to stay here, it's as simple as that. Props to Santa Barbara for their win at President's day, but Oregon is a top 10 team and I think likely finish the season in the 7-9 range.

16) Michigan (GL) - WILL HOLD - I think Michigan will hold pretty close to this spot, maybe dropping down slightly. Depending on how quality V-Tech and NC State end up, those wins may at QCTU may end up being more and more valuable. However, the big losses to the UNC and UNCW suggest Michigan may not be pushing up into that top 10 status quite yet.

17) Carnegie Mellon (OV) - WILL DROP - Another case of great results at an early tournament against a weaker field of competition. This will correct itself as the season progresses and Carnegie will drop.

18) Northwestern (GL) - LIKELY DROP - I wrote about Northwestern at length in my Warm Up piece. They're right on the bid bubble, but I think they're going to slide down. I don't want to base a ton of analysis on a highlight video, but the hospital pass clinic they appeared to put on at Warm Up doesn't provide an argument that they're a team that just needs the opportunity to play against the big programs. Unfortunately, Midwest Throwdown isn't going to give them a chance to prove this wrong.They need to win that tournament reasonably convincingly to hold onto this bid.

19) Central Florida (SE) - LIKELY HOLD - I think the SE is going to get at least another bid from either UCF or FSU.  UCF has had a solid season thus far. I think their win against Carelton says more than their big loss to Wisconsin. I'd be a little leery of their high usage rates for some of their top players, but teams can have success doing this and they won't run into another tournament as grueling as Warm Up this season.

20) BYU (NW) - LIKELY RISE - I think BYU's Warm Up results are more telling about their quality than their middling Santa Barbara results. I don't know how they set their season goals and motivate the team, but I have a lot of respect for their program and dealing with the issues they face. That being said, I expect them to perform well at Centex and push up into the teens. This won't matter as far as bid allocations, but I do think they will climb.

BID PREDICTIONS (who will earn the bids, not necessarily qualify)
AC         2 bids up to 3 (Virginia or NC State rises)
GL         2 bids down to 1 (Norwestern or Michigan drops)
ME        1 bid stays at 1 (Auto)
NC         3 bids stay at 3 (Wisc/Carleton/Minn)
NE         2 bids down to 1 (Northeastern drops)
NW        2 bids stay at 2 (Wash/Oregon)
OV         2 bids down to 1 (Carnegie Mellon drops)
SC          2 bids stay at 2 (Colorado/Colorado State)
SE          2 bids up to 3 (Florida *edited* or FSU rises)
SW         2 bids stay at 2 (SLO/Stanford)

I'm pretty confident in these 19 bids staying as they are. There's a floater bid somewhere that could go to the AC, GL, SC or SE. I think how this bid shakes out will likely be the biggest intrigue of the rankings season. If my prediction holds true and BYU moves up from 20th there'll be another round of that controversy.

I'll re-examine this stuff routinely and see how my predictions are holding up.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Seems to be a contradiction between your text and the bid numbers. You write "UCF or FSU rises," but if only one rises, that would just be 2 bids for the SE. To get 3, both would have to rise.

    On the other hand, BYU is on the cusp and you predict them to rise. It seems likely that the NW will find a way to get BYU to regionals to capture that 3rd bid, even if they can't finish and make it to nationals.