Friday, December 4, 2015

A Far-Too-Early Look at Calvin's NCAA Tournament Chances

I just started to crunch some of the NCAA strength of schedule (SOS) and RPI data that I run every year. It's way, way too early for any of this stuff, but the MIAA is off to a strong start with Hope and Trine particularly having good number. Again, very early and too soon to take anything seriously.

Calvin's last three teams were better than the current version, but this squad could have a better shot at an at-large NCAA bid than any of the previous due to the schedule. Only seven of the Knights' 22 Division III regular season games will be played at home this season, so they'll benefit from the 'away' SOS modifier more than they'll be hurt by the 'home' one. (It's also a genuinely difficult schedule with few cupcakes).

It's important to note that last weekend's disappointing performances versus Cornerstone and Aquinas (NAIA programs) won't play into a potential NCAA Tournament bid hardly at all. The NCAA only looks results outside of Division III as a last resort if they can't break a tie between two teams.

Calvin isn't NCAA Tournament quality right now -- they'll have to improve significantly as a team as the season goes -- but if the MIAA continues to do well in the non-conference and Calvin can manage to win 17 or 18 games against D3 opponents, they could find themselves in the conversation come February.

They almost need to come out of this weekend 2-0 versus Carthage and Wheaton to make those numbers work out, however. The MIAA-CCIW games are generally a good measuring stick for how the teams would stack up nationally with other strong programs. Calvin is going to need to win

This year will be interesting with Wheaton and Carthage appearing to be weaker than they have been in years (Calvin too, mostly) and with Hope looking like a national title contender.

Calvin had to win the MIAA Tournament in order to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years (they didn't have the SOS to warrant selection as an at-large team), so they couldn't afford many losses in the regular season. They probably can afford some of those losses given this year's schedule but that's still going to also mean improving along the way, picking up nearly every "winnable" game in the non-conference, and finishing 10-4 or 9-5 in league play with an MIAA Tournament win.

That's no small ask.

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