Valdosta Daily Times

November 16, 2010

Like it or not, committee got playoffs right

Adam MacDonald
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When the Division II playoff bracket was revealed on Sunday, there was plenty of confusion in Valdosta as it related to Super Region 2.

If you haven’t heard by now, Albany State and Delta State received the top two spots and first-round byes. VSU is No. 3, and will host No. 6 North Alabama on Saturday. In the other first round game, No. 5 Morehouse will play at No. 4 Wingate.

That’s not the way many, if any, had the Super Region 2 field shaking out.

There are plenty of questions. Why did North Alabama make the playoffs after losing the day before? How did Delta State jump all the way from No. 5 to No. 2? Why did Wingate get bumped from No. 3 to No. 4 after winning? Why didn’t VSU stay at No. 2? Why did Fort Valley get left out?

All are legitimate questions, and all were answered in a conference call with the chairman of the playoff selection committee, Shawn Jones, after the playoff seedings were released.

After Jones’ explanations and reviewing the rankings’ criteria, the playoff committee appeared to get it right, despite the perceived wackiness.

First, let’s look at the main criteria for selecting and seeding playoff teams. The main criteria are won-loss record against Division II opponents, strength of schedule and head-to-head results.

In that case, Albany State is a clear No. 1. The Golden Rams went 9-0 against Division II competition, and they were the only team in the region to go undefeated. No other team even finished with one loss.

That’s why Albany State is No. 1.

It gets tricky at No. 2 with Delta State, but it makes sense. Delta State was 8-2 against Division II competition, which is tied with Wingate, Valdosta State and Morehouse for the second-best record in the region. Delta State also has the highest strength of schedule of all the playoff teams in Super Region 2 (12th hardest in the nation). Since the Statesmen beat VSU head-to-head and have a higher strength of schedule than VSU, they jumped the Blazers. Since the Statesmen have a better strength of schedule than Wingate and Morehouse, they jumped Wingate and stayed ahead of Morehouse.

That’s why Delta State is No. 2

VSU lost its final game, while Wingate won its final game, but the Blazers stayed ahead of Wingate based on their head-to-head win in the season opener.

That’s why VSU is No. 3 and Wingate is No. 4.

Morehouse moved from No. 6 to No. 5. The Maroon Tigers have the lowest strength of schedule of the four 8-2 teams, so they come in behind Delta State, VSU and Wingate. Morehouse made it in over fellow SIAC team Fort Valley State because Morehouse beat Fort Valley head-to-head in the second week of the season.

That’s why Morehouse is No. 5.

If you’re following along, that’s Albany State No. 1, Delta State No. 2, VSU No. 3, Wingate No. 4 and Morehouse No. 5. It makes sense.

North Alabama was the last team to make the playoffs from Super Region 2, with an 8-3 record against Division II opponents. The Lions couldn’t be ranked ahead of VSU because VSU had a better record, better strength of schedule and the head-to-head win. The Lions have the head-to-head win over Delta State, but the Statesmen have one fewer losses and a tougher strength of schedule. The same can be said for why UNA is behind Wingate. Morehouse is ahead of UNA because it has one less loss.

The question with UNA becomes why did it stay in the top six after losing on the last day of the regular season, while Fort Valley was left out with one less loss? Jones pointed to UNA’s better overall body of work. UNA might have one more loss than Fort Valley, but it has one more Division II win than Fort Valley. UNA’s schedule is also tougher.

The only other team outside of Fort Valley that could make a legitimate argument to be in the playoffs is Henderson State. However, UNA beat Henderson State head-to-head, and UNA has one more Division II win.

So, if you look at the main criteria of Division II wins and losses, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition, the selection committee looks right on point.

The confusion comes because we’ve all been looking at last week’s rankings, which had Albany State No. 1, VSU No. 2, Wingate No. 3, UNA No. 4, Delta State No. 5, Morehouse No.6 and Fort Valley No. 7.

The first two questions when the playoff bracket was revealed were how could UNA not fall out of the top six with a late loss, and how could Delta State jump all the way to No. 2 by beating Lambuth while at the same time Wingate dropped after beating Newberry?

Jones had a simple explanation for both.

Jones said, starting last year, the playoff committe no longer takes into account when a team loses. In that case, it didn’t matter that UNA lost on the last day of the season. A loss in the first week of the season is treated the same as a loss on the last day.

As for why Delta State made the leap from No. 5 to No. 2, Jones said the selection committee does not look at the previous week’s rankings. The slate is wiped clean from week to week. The committee didn’t take into account the fact that Delta State was previously No. 5.

While the final rankings seem head-scratching on the surface, I now understand. What I don’t understand is why bother ranking the teams prior to the final rankings if the previous rankings don’t matter?

All that does is frustrate a team like Fort Valley State that thought it was a shoe-in after UNA’s loss. It befuddles a team like VSU, which didn’t think there was any way it would see UNA in the first round and then face a trip to Delta State in the second round. It raises eyebrows in Wingate, N.C. on how the Bulldogs could drop after a win.

The committee needs to take a look at that.

It’s a lot to think about and digest, but what’s done is done. Blazers fans might not like the way the final rankings turned out, but the selection committee went strictly by the book. It’s time to get ready for UNA.