COMMENTARY — March Madness is here and for the first time, I am following the Division II bracket more closely than the Division I. Let me be honest. I am following the Division II bracket for the first time ever.
The selections will be announced on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. If you believe Dixie State radio man John Potter, the Red Storm’s men’s team is a lock for selection even though it lost in the quarterfinals of the PacWest Tournament. I am not quite as confident as Mr. Potter.
For those fans like me who may have not understood the ins and outs of the NCAA Division II selection process, I will try to break it down for you. Division II is broken down into eight divisions. Each division has automatic bids (conference tournament champions) and at-large bids. Dixie State is in the West Region. The West Region has three automatic bids that go to the tournament champions of three conferences, namely: Pacific West (PacWest), Great Northwest Athletic (GNAC) and the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).
The NCAA also ranks the teams by region. The latest rankings had five teams from the CCAA, three from the PacWest and two from the GNAC. Here is a breakdown on the last rankings before the conference tournament:
1. Cal State San Bernardino (23-4). CCAA season champions. Record against Region top ten: 7-3. Lost in CCAA semifinals to #9 CS-Stanislaus.
2. Cal State Poly Pomona (21-6). CCAA season runner up. Record against Region top ten: 6-3. Lost in CCAA semifinals to #6 Chico State.
3. Cal Baptist (24-3). PacWest season champions. Record against Region top ten: 2-1. Lost in PacWest semifinals to Chaminade.
4. Seattle Pacific (25-5). GNAC season champions. Record against Region top ten: 3-2. Face #7 Western Washington for GNAC tournament championship.
5. Dixie State (21-6). Finished tied for 2nd in PacWest. Record against Region top ten: 2-3. Lost in PacWest quarterfinals to Hawaii Pacific.
6. Chico State (22-6). Finished 3rd in CCAA. Record against Region top ten: 8-4. Face #9 CS-Stanislaus for CCAA tournament championship.
7. Western Washington (20-7). GNAC season runner up. Record against Region top ten: 0-3. Face Seattle Pacific for GNAC tournament championship.
8. Dominican (22-7). Finished tied for 2nd in PacWest. Record against Region top ten: 2-3. Face Chaminade for PacWest tournament championship.
9. Cal State Stanislaus (20-8). Finished 4th in CCAA. Record against Region top ten: 4-5. Face #6 Chico State for CCAA tournament championship.
10. San Francisco State (14-12). Finished tied for 5th in CCAA. Record against Region top ten: 2-9. Lost in CCAA quarterfinals to #6 Chico State.
Unlike Division I, where teams are placed in different regions based on overall national ranking, the West Region bracket will be filled by only teams from the West Region.
I can immediately count out San Francisco State. I am not even sure why they are in the top 10, except for maybe past years’ performances. The only thing they did this year was give conference opponents two wins against a top 10 Region team. You could easily stick in Chaminade or BYU-Hawaii at that spot.
For those who think Dixie State is a lock, imagine this nightmare scenario. Chaminade wins the PacWest. Western Washington wins the GNAC. CS-Stanislaus wins the CCAA. If those three happen I can pretty much guarantee that Dixie is not selected.
Here are my locks for the NCAA. First CS-SB and CS-PP. It is a shame neither of these teams won their semifinal game in the CCAA, but just being ranked in the top two will get them in. SPU and CBU are also locks. They won their season championships convincingly. CBU clearly has the weakest strength of schedule. The non-conference schedule had no one significant. And in the PacWest, they only faced DSU twice out of the top five teams while playing the bottom half twice each. But as DSU coach Jon Judkins has said more than once, “there are no nights off in the PacWest.” So winning the season championship merits an automatic bid.
Those are my only locks. Which leaves only one remaining at-large, two if SPU wins against Western Washington. DSU is ranked fifth, but does that ranking slip with their quarterfinal loss? Dixie’s two wins against the Region top 10 are against season conference champions CBU at home and SPU on the road. But if Chaminade wins the PacWest, doesn’t Dominican have an argument for an at-large bid? They also only have two wins against the top 10, but those two were both DSU. What about Chico State? They were ranked just below DSU but have made it to the finals of the CCAA, beating the No. 2 and No. 10 region teams to get there. They have a pretty good argument as well, even if they lose.
CS-Stanislaus and Western Washington have to win their tournament championships to get in.
The best-case scenario for the Red Storm is that Dominican, SPU and Chico State get automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments. DSU probably still gets in if one of the three loses. Things get very iffy should two of them lose and downright drastic if the nightmare scenario unfolds.
So tonight I am not just a Red Storm fan. I will also be cheering on the Penguins, Falcons and Wildcats.
Darren Cole is a sports columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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