The dust has settled after Centex, where many of the nation’s top teams went toe to toe, with lots of bids on the line. There are no major tournaments on the Women’s side before the Series, so while there may be a little movement, this is essentially the final bid picture. In the last rankings, which I didn’t do a write up for, Stanford moved up from the SW and took a bid out of the hands of Iowa State. Iowa State won Centex, so you can bet they are moving up. Who else went where? Let’s look at the Top 25.
The big mover here is Iowa State, and rightfully so. I understand how their previous record pushed them lower, but it was clear they were way better than that number. Their (second consecutive) Centex Championship included wins over the #2, #3, and #4 team in the country and only one loss, to that same #4 team. They move up 12 spots to #8. UNC-Wilmington moves up 10 spots, scoring their second marquee win of the season by beating Ohio State in round one. Their Michigan win also looks a little better now. They’d add wins over Santa Barbara and Northeastern and good, close losses to Iowa State and Wisconsin in their 3-4 weekend. That leaves them just two spots outside of the bid picture (Bowdoin only has 6 games, would need 10 to qualify) behind Florida State. Tufts, North Carolina, and Michigan also move up.
Colorado takes an important fall out of the top 20, after going 2-5 at Centex. Their blowout losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota and solid loss to North Carolina didn’t help. Wisconsin only lost 98 points, but move down 4 spots to #12, after a 3-4 weekend in Austin. Whitman takes an 11 spot drop out of the Top 20, despite going 4-2. They could have used a marquee win, but their loss to Texas took away some of their opportunity. Florida State loses just 12 points, but moves three spots down (two if you don’t count Bowdoin), the difference between a strength bid and not.
I’ll list the total number of bids, list every team that is holding a bid, and italicize the autobid team, to give you a more complete picture:
- AC (1): #13 Virginia
- GL (1): #23 Michigan
- ME (1): #48 Ottawa
- NE (2): #4 Tufts, #17 Northeastern
- NC (5): #2 Carleton, #6 Iowa, #8 Iowa State, #11 Minnesota, #12 Wisconsin
- NW (4): #1 Oregon, #5 British Columbia, #7 Washington, #9 Victoria
- OV (1): #3 Ohio State
- SC (1): #24 Colorado
- SE (2): #1 Georgia, #15 Central Florida
- SW (2): #14 UC-Santa Barbara, #16 Stanford
The North Central takes back its fifth bid, the Northwest gives up its fifth bid. The Southeast gives up a bid while New England takes one. As noted earlier, the Southwest took a bid in last week’s rankings, which I didn’t write about. This gives us 3 two bid regions, 1 four bid region, and 1 five bid region. Man, the results are really close. #17 Northeastern is sitting on the final strength bid with 1824 points. Florida State is next eligible in line, with 1817 points. UNC-Wilmington has 1814. Those are all very close numbers, and scoring an extra couple of points in a game could have been all the difference for any of these three teams.
Iowa State’s big jump doesn’t help many teams, as they had only lost three games all year (to Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota). Tufts’s only losses are to UNC, Iowa, and Iowa State, which did help UNC stay close in the rankings (just behind UNC-W). Basically, with no major moves, few teams really helped or hurt each other. Colorado’s fall didn’t help North Carolina, I guess.
All in all, it came down to who was winning games. Around this time, each year, conversation begins about what should merit a bid, and it often comes down to which is more important: Strength of Schedule or Wins/Losses. The USAU dictates who gets the bids, so the teams have to find the best balance they can. The USAU’s math should also seek to create a good balance between these two, but there will also be some who disagree. Teams also have to worry about getting experience so their team is best prepared for the Series. Sometimes, you have to play good teams and take lumps to do it. It is very hard to discover where the line is that you want to walk, let alone to walk on it by getting the results you want.
Take a look at five teams who show the differences in these ideas. Victoria and Northeastern have weaker schedules, but better winning percentages. UNC-Wilmington and North Carolina have stronger schedules but lower winning percentages. Florida State falls somewhere in between on these concepts. Victoria, for example, has 10 games total, including: 13-8 vs. UCSB, 11-3 vs. Stanford, and 7-6 vs. Sonoma. They have blowout wins over lesser teams and a single loss, by one point, to Western Washington. That huge margin of victory against Stanford is a significant buoy for them, but they have only a few games vs. high level competition, yet sit at #9 in USAU’s rankings. UNC is 9-12 on the year, including: 11-10 vs. Virginia, 15-13 vs. Ohio State, 13-10 vs. Northeastern, 9-6 vs. UCSB, and 12-10 vs. Michigan. They do have two losses to Pittsburgh, albeit close, and one bad loss to Michigan. Their resume has a lot of red in it, but most of it close games against strong competition. The story is the same for Northeastern and UNC-Wilmington. Florida State is 18-8, attending Florida Winter Classic, QCTU, their hometown Tally Classic, and Centex’s D-II. Their losses to lower tier teams at Centex in UCLA and Colorado College really make a big difference for them, as does a 6-10 loss to Northeastern at QCTU.
With so little left on the docket, this is mostly how the bid picture will be shaped. The Series is going to be very exciting. The Atlantic Coast has three strong teams fighting for one bid. The Southeast has three fighting for two bids. The North Central got all five bids they need, or else it would have gotten very crazy. Pittsburgh in the Ohio Valley, California and Sonoma State in the Southwest, Northwestern and Texas in the South Central, and Dartmouth in New England can all challenge current bidholders for the ticket to the Championships. Will anybody step back up to Michigan in the Great Lakes? Will it be Ottawa or NYU or someone else in the ME? It’ll be interesting to watch, no matter how you slice it.