I was beginning to prepare for Bracketology this upcoming Sunday and I stumbled upon the NCAA Handbook for 2009. I noticed something very interesting concerning the selection process.
Most of you are familiar with the Pool A, B and C System. Pool A is comprised of teams who win their conference. In 2008, there were 26 Auto Qualifiers (Pool A). This year, a bunch of formerly Independent schools formed the Northern Athletics Conference. They now receive an AQ along with the other 26 spots. So therefore, 27 teams qualify through Pool A.
Last Year, 8 teams qualified through Pool B. These are teams who are Independents or teams who play in conferences that don't have Auto Bids to the tournament. This is typically a pretty weak pool with the exception of a few teams, most notably Santa Cruz.
Here is the bad part...Instead of making the field 42 or taking a spot away from Pool B, the NCAA committee decided to take away a spot from Pool C. Instead of 7 teams qualifying through Pool C, there are now only 6 spots for At-Large teams. Pool C is for teams from AQ conferences who don't win their conference. Last year, because of this selection process, Amherst who was ranked #15 in the country, did not qualify for the 41-team tournament. I understand that giving everyone a fair chance is important and ratios must be maintained, but how about getting the best teams in the tournament. The way things are lined up right now, the #17 team is not making the tournament.
I'm going to say publicly that I believe Pool B and Pool C should be combined. Good Pool B teams can qualify as well as deserving Pool C teams. Give this entire Pool 14 spots. Whether or not this issue will be addressed for the current year is unknown. Very good teams like Trinity (CT), DePauw, Chicago and Cal Lutheran could miss the tournament, whereas teams like Wisconsin-Whitewater, Chapman and Vassar could make the tournament simply because they are Pool B teams. I'd like to get as much support as possible on this issue because I think it's very important and our NCAA tournament should be comprised of the best teams in the country.
Right now the AL pool is as follows...
#1 Wash U (UAA #2)
#2 Midd (NESCAC #2)
#3 Amherst (NESCAC #3)
#4 Redlands (SCIAC #2)
#5 Bowdoin (NESCAC #4)
#6 Carnegie Mellon (UAA #3)
#7 Trinity (CT) (NESCAC #5)
#8 DePauw (SCAC #2)
#9 Denison (NCAC #2)
#10 Chicago (UAA #4)
I think the top 5 pretty much have their spots locked up barring some very unforeseen circumstances. I also would consider Chicago pretty much out of it after losing to DePauw today unless they pull off a miracle victory against Wash U or Emory. Trinity (CT) is in a tough spot because they have so many hard matches. They will need to upset someone above them to get in. If they beat Williams, Amherst or Midd, they could take over the #6 spot. DePauw and CMU will most likely play each other in GLCA semis and the loser is probably out of the AL pool unless CMU beats Kenyon this weekend. If DePauw beats Trinity (TX) in SCAC Finals, Trinity (TX) probably won't make it due to their lack of wins from a weak schedule. Still a lot of tennis to be played before anything is determined. Too hard to call right now.