It’s getting to be that time of year: with Spring Breaks winding down we are getting deep into the heart of the season. On the field, the wheat has started to separate from the chaff, and it’s beginning to create a picture of who could be heading to Greenville in just 6 weeks. Getting closer to the time where automatic bids will be earned and teams on the bubble nervously await word if they have received an at-large berth to the national tournament, we should attempt to create a discussion and a methodology to limit surprises.
So without further ado: MCLA Fan is proud to introduce its first stab at MCLA Bracketology!
It isn’t lost on us that this entire process is bound to create controversy, and I invite your feedback and input into how we can more conclusively determine which teams deserve to be in Greenville, and which teams just haven’t proved enough. We aren’t diving into this to hurt feelings or question the manhood of any individual or team, but it’s likely that those who we project to be on the outside looking in, or seeded lower than they feel is just, will have their share of criticisms. We expect that, and to be honest we want that. Without passion and feedback then why are we playing, coaching, or officiating in this league to begin with?
OK, let’s jump in head first and look at the goals that should be considered when selecting teams and creating a bracket, our methodology in quantitatively and qualitatively ranking teams, and how this applies to the teams in the two MCLA divisions in 2013.
Goals of the Selection Committees
The National Tournament Selection Committee for either division has two main goals when creating the National Tournament brackets:
- Reward the best teams with the top seeds, and seed coherently throughout
- Select the most deserving non-automatic qualifier teams to receive an at-large invite
Certainly no one can argue against those two goals, but I’m going to argue for a third goal that should be just as important though third in line for priority:
3. Prevent first round repeat matchups from the regular season
The reason I am passionate about this point is that with increasing level of competition, the separation between teams has grown closer and closer. Games that are decided by a goal or two in the regular season can easily swing the other way in a repeat matchup. While everyone knows a playoff win is more valuable, the psychological impact of a repeat matchup puts both teams in an unfair position in addition to distracting from the purpose of a national tournament: a shootout between ALL teams. Avoiding repeat matchups, and encouraging new matchups increases the excitement and overall value of the product being put on the field. Repeat matchups will happen in later rounds, when bad blood and rivalries get born and renewed. But that first round should prove a team’s worthiness to move on by beating a team they haven’t seen before.
It’s easy to assume that a simple poll would suffice here, but just jump into some of the poll forum threads and you’ll see that each week there is vocal opposition to any given team’s position. A human poll encompasses a qualitative feel for ranking, but it doesn’t necessarily capture strength of schedule, home/away/neutral, weather, or any variety of other small variables that can affect a team’s win/loss record. So just a single poll isn’t enough. We need more.
Thankfully, through discussions with past National Tournament Selection Committee members, we know some of the criteria that have been used in the past to choose at-large teams and in ranking teams for seeding purposes. A few of these include:
- Wins over Top 25 teams (points awarded for higher ranking of a defeated team)
- Total OOC games
- Road OOC games
Committee members sought to reward teams for Top 25 victories, scheduling out-of-conference games, and in addition traveling out-of-conference to play those games. (It is important to note these criteria were used in the past and may not necessarily be used this season, but we will use elements of these ideas as we will outline ahead.) These things are all valuable and may not be adequately accounted for in human polls, and some of these pieces may be missed in computer polling as well. We can quickly see though that applying these to the two divisions may not have the same, or intended, results.
When looking at Division 1 teams, it’s quick to see that everyone schedules aggressively and travels around the country on at least one large road trip. Further, there really is no such phenomenon in Division 1 of a team that can be arguably in the mix for an At-Large berth that does not schedule Top 25 OOC opponents. In Division 2, it’s a different story. While the best teams schedule quite aggressively, there are still several teams that do not schedule beyond the minimum 2 OOC games for at-large consideration. Because of this, in our methodology we will apply quantitative values differently when dealing with Division 1 and Division 2 teams.
Here’s a breakdown of how we will create a quantitive ranking value for each team:
Division 1 Quantitative Numbers:
- AVG of (Laxpower/Massey/MCLA poll)
- One point rewarded for each Top 25 win
For D1, it’s pretty simple. We include two computer polls that each use slightly different methodology to account for strength, then we add in the human poll. We average all three so that we get a more indicative value of overall ranking relative to the rest of Division 1. Next we add in one point for each Top 25 win. I toyed with the idea of using a strength value for wins (i.e. higher points awarded for a higher ranked team defeated), but in general the top 10 teams beat each other, and no one outside that group cracks in. A Top 25 win is a Top 25 win in Division 1. Feel free to disagree.
Division 2 Quantitative Numbers:
- AVG of (Laxpower/Massey/MCLA poll)
- One point for Road OOC game
- Half point for Home OOC game
- 5 Points for win over Top 5, 4 Points win over ranked 6-10, etc.
Same logic around computer and human polls for D2. But a shift in terms of OOC games. In Division 2, as I mentioned, there are teams that still need to be coaxed into scheduling OOC games. While it is true, the best of the best play each other, several teams competing for an at-large berth in 2013 have only scheduled the bare minimum. And finally, some upsets and turnover among “traditional powers” and new teams on the scene in 2013 lead to a graduated approach in awarding points for strength of win.
Applying it to Division 1 and 2
Later today we’ll unleash our methodology and show you just how the brackets should break down if created today. Granted, I know, I know. It’s still early. But I wanted to introduce the system, get feedback on the methodology, and practice creating matchups.
At the very least, we can begin to debate who is on the bubble, who is in barring disaster, and who has lots and lots of work to do to get a ticket to Greenville.
Here are the links to Week 1 for each Division: