DI MBB: Random Thoughts and Observations by David Paul Estes
February 09, 2006
It’s already started at the NCAA Division 1 level, scores of basketball pundits breaking down who’s in and who’s out of the big dance. So with all NAIA conferences at or past the midway point in their conference season, it’s time to take a look at bracketology, NAIA style.
Please note that I’m not forecasting who I think are the best thirty two teams in the nation. If I were doing that half the field would be composed of teams from the Sooner, Golden State and Mid South. I’m predicting what I think will happen.
American Midwest Conference - 1 Automatic
Safely in: Nobody.
On the bubble: University of Illinois Springfield, Missouri Baptist and Columbia.
The AMC race: The AMC deserves only one berth this year, the automatic. I don’t see an AMC team worthy of a Top 25 ranking. The Prairie Stars of UIS have the upper hand currently, but their 17 point loss to McKendree shows the relative weakness of this conference in 2006. UIS still has tough games left vs Missouri Baptist and Columbia plus has to play Brescia and Olivet Nazarene in non conference games. And with eight losses already, the Prairie Stars margin for error is small. Columbia is on the bubble because of a good overall record that was accomplished against a poor schedule. And I just can’t erase the memory of last year’s KC appearance for Columbia. My bet is the raters won’t be able to either. Missouri Baptist has played the toughest schedule, but don’t have many quality wins to show for it. However, in the end Missouri Baptist will likely be in the final ranking. The only way I see the AMC getting two bids is if someone other than Missouri Baptist wins the conference tourney. I don’t think that will happen. Missouri Baptist gets in out of the AMC.
Kansas City bound: Missouri Baptist
Chicagoland Athletic Conference - 1 Automatic
Safely In: Robert Morris. They’ve benefitted from a soft schedule, but no doubt deserve a place in the final thirty two in KC.
On the Bubble: St Xavier and Olivet Nazarene University
The CAC race: Olivet Nazarene always seems to play their best basketball of the year down the stretch. If they could have started better this year, they’d have been a no brainier tournament selection. The Tigers played a brutal non conference schedule including Georgetown, Hawaii Pacific, BYU Hawaii, Huntington, and Grace. But at some point you have to beat those teams. The Tigers haven’t. Their lone quality win of the year is a conference victory against an untested Robert Morris team. They’ll have to split their remaining two games vs Robert Morris and St X to get in position for an at large bid. St Xavier appeared to be on the fast track to the national tournament in December after a big win over NCAA Division 1 Illinois Chicago. But since they’ve had some troubling losses. Still the Cougars are on track to make it to KC. As with ONU, they must split their two remaining games with Robert Morris and Olivet Nazarene.
Kansas City Bound: Robert Morris, Olivet Nazarene and St Xavier
Golden State Athletic Conference - 2 Automatics
Safely in: Azusa Pacific. The Cougars are well on their way to another Golden State regular season Championship.
On the Bubble: San Diego Christian, Westmont, Vanguard, Point Loma, and Biola.
The Golden State Race: Biola and Point Loma have little margin for error. Both would have to win multiple games that they will be underdogs in to get close to the top twenty five. Vanguard will likely finish high enough in the conference to get at large consideration, but their overall losses could catch up with them. Their game with Azusa on February 27th could be their make or break game. San Diego Christian and Westmont only have to avoid a total collapse to get to Kansas City. The race in the GSAC is a tough call. But this league definitely deserves four bids. The only way this league get’s a fifth bid is for Point Loma or Biola to get the league’s second automatic bid in the conference tourney.
Kansas City Bound: Azusa Pacific, San Diego Christian, Westmont, and Vanguard.
Gulf Coast Athletic Conference - 2 Automatics
Safely in: LSU Shreveport. The Pilots performance against a good non league schedule gets them to Kansas City.
On the Bubble: Spring Hill and Mobile.
The Gulf Coast Race: Spring Hill sits in the best position of any bubble team in the nation. With wins already against Mobile and LSUS, the Badgers should make it to the big tourney baring a complete collapse. The case for Mobile isn’t so clear. Recent large margin losses to both Auburn Montgomery and LSUS have harmed the Rams national standing. They also were handled easily earlier this year by another top twenty foe Lindsey Wilson. They do benefit, however, from the easiest remaining league schedule but still have a non conference date left with Auburn Montgomery. If they lose to both Spring Hill and Auburn Montgomery, they must sweep their remaining conference contests to feel comfortable.
Kansas City Bound: LSUS, Spring Hill, and Mobile
Frontier Conference - 1 Automatic
Safely in: Carroll. The Saints run to the Fab Four last season, coupled with a strong season thus far have Carroll safely in the final thirty two.
On the Bubble: Lewis and Clark, Westminster, and Montana State Northern.
The Frontier race: Westminster sits in the best shape of the three. They’ve already split with Carroll which will be the league champ. Lewis and Clark isn’t in bad shape either, but a victory and the season sweep against Westminster on February 11th would get them in for sure. The real question mark about LCSU comes from their cream puff non conference schedule, if they stumble in some late Frontier games, the raters could hold that against them. It also remains to be seen how the raters will deal with LCSU’s forfeit losses which have tarnished what was a good record. If in the end they vote based solely on current record, the Warriors will be in trouble. Montana State Northern only path to KC is to win out or win the league’s post season tournament.
Kansas City Bound: Carroll, Westminster, and Lewis and Clark
Independents - 1 Automatic
Safely in: Mountain State. In fact, I’d say they are safely in the Elite Eight as well.
On the Bubble: Voorhees and Brescia.
The Indy race: These are two teams with totally different situations. Brescia has played a demanding schedule against good competition. They’ve beaten three current top twenty five teams and also own victories over Olivet Nazarene, IU Southeast, and McKendree. Their record is less than sterling, but if they can win out, they deserve consideration. Voorhees is at the other end of the spectrum. They’ve played the weakest national schedule of any team in the Coaches’ Top 25. They only have one win against an NAIA or NCAA team with a winning record and were blown out in losses to Mountain State and LSUS. They have struggled to win games this year against Allen, Pensacola Christian, Methodist, Southern Virginia, and Knoxville College. But with an 18-3 record they currently sit comfortably inside the coaches top twenty five poll, and their weak schedule the rest of the way will likely keep them there.
Kansas City Bound: Mountain State and Voorhees
Mid South Conference - 1 Automatic
Safely in: Georgetown. The Tigers have separated themselves from the rest of the Mid South pack with four straight wins.
On the Bubble: Campbellsville, Cumberlands, Lambuth, and Lindsey Wilson.
The MSC Race: If there is any league in the nation that deserves five teams this year, it’s the Mid South. Campbellsville has big wins over Trevecca, Lambuth and Georgetown. Cumberlands has beaten both Lindsey Wilson and Campbellsville and should have beaten Mountain State. Lindsey Wilson has quality wins over Mobile, Lambuth, and Campbellsville. Lambuth has big wins over Union University and Cumberlands. So how do you separate them? Right now you can’t. With five conference games left to play the Mid South still has much to decide. Lambuth has the most difficult road left including away games at both Georgetown and Cumberlands. While Georgetown clearly has the inside track on the MSC Title, the rest of the race won’t be sorted out until the final weekend of conference play.
Kansas City Bound: Georgetown, Campbellsville, Cumberlands, and Lindsey Wilson
Red River Conference - 2 Automatics
Safely in: Houston Baptist
On the Bubble: Texas Wesleyan and U.T. Permian Basin
The Red River Race: This conference gets two automatic bids, but could potentially get three teams to Kansas City. If the Regular Season champ makes it to the Red River Tournament Title game, than the other tournament finalist gets an automatic bid, even if they lose. That could happen. Houston Baptist has been a top 25 team all year long, but they don’t have a victory as impressive as Texas Wesleyans win over LSUS. Not to worry Texas Wesleyan fans, you should hit the Coaches Top 25 this week, and I don’t expect you to drop out the rest of the way. Currently on a 10 game win stream, Texas Wesleyan will play for the conference title at home against Houston Baptist on February 11th. For U.T. Permian Basin to get into the thirty two team field, they’ll have to get one of the Red River’s automatic bids, because I don’t see them finishing in the top two in the league and being ranked at year’s end.
Kansas City Bound: Houston Baptist and Texas Wesleyan
Sooner Athletic Conference
Safely in: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Baptist and Wayland Baptist.
On the Bubble: Oklahoma Christian and John Brown
The Sooner Race: As always the Sooner Conference is tough. The question is can defending NAIA National Champion John Brown finish above Oklahoma Christian in the SAC race. If they can, they’ll be in a position to get an at large berth. Whoever finishes fifth is going to be either one of the last teams in or the last teams out of the at large picture. With four of their final seven games at home and one of the three away games at St Gregory, John Brown’s schedule is set up favorably for another Kansas City trip. Oklahoma Christian’s Kansas City chances don’t seem so bright. With only two home games remaining and one of those against Oklahoma City with road trips remaining to John Brown, USAO, and the Texas swing, the road will be difficult for Christian.
Kansas City Bound: Oklahoma City, Wayland Baptist, Oklahoma Baptist, John Brown and Oklahoma Christian.
Southern States Athletic Conference - 2 Automatics
Safely in: None
On the bubble: Lee University, Southern Wesleyan, and Auburn Montgomery
The SSAC Race: Believe it or not the SSAC, which is experiencing a down year, has a legitimate chance at three bids. The scenario would work much the same as in the Red River, with two teams being ranked in at large position and a third getting to the conference tournament championship game and getting the league’s second automatic. This race is still wide open with Lee, Southern Wesleyan, and Auburn Montgomery all within one game of the conference lead. Of the three Southern Wesleyan has the toughest schedule remaining with games against both Lee and Auburn Montgomery as well as a non conference game against Mountain State. Lee has the easiest of the schedules remaining and currently sits in first place. Auburn Montgomery’s recent loss to Reinhardt hurt the Senators’ SSAC title chances. The league winner has a distinct advantage because they’ll be in the opposite side of the SSAC tournament bracket than the other two.
Kansas City Bound: Lee University and Auburn Montgomery
Trans South Conference - 1 Automatic
Safely in: Union University
On the bubble: Trevecca University and Crichton College
The TSAC Race: Trevecca lost their foothold on an automatic bid with a 20 point loss to Crichton. If the Trojans are swept by Crichton, the conference rater will have no choice but to rank Trevecca third in the conference, which will put them squarely on the at large bubble, but that’s the Trans South’s best chance for three bids. For Crichton to get in at large position, they must do no worse than split their remaining games with Union University and Trevecca and win the rest. Double figure losses will make it difficult to get Crichton to Kansas City if they finish third in the Trans South.
Kansas City Bound: Union University, Crichton and Trevecca Nazarene
** So that’s my thirty two team field. Here are a handful of bracket busting teams that you need to watch for in the post season conference tournaments that could make up for disappointing regular seasons and win their way to Kansas City. Science and Arts in the Sooner, Georgia Southwestern in the Southern States, and Lyon in the Trans South are all good enough to put together conference tournament runs to get them to the big dance.
** Below is the Top Twenty Five rating for this week. Please note, it includes all games played through Monday night. For the first time this year, there are no new teams entering the poll from last week. But the bottom five are getting much harder to rate. As teams like St Xavier, John Brown, and Olivet Nazarene continue to win they push toward a top twenty five ranking.
1. Mountain State 20-1
2. Union University 19-3
3. Robert Morris 21-2
4. Azusa Pacific 20-3
5. Oklahoma City 16-6
6. Georgetown College 21-4
7. LSU Shreveport 21-3
8. Carroll 20-3
9. Oklahoma Baptist 20-3
10. Spring Hill 16-5
11. Cumberlands 17-5
12. Wayland Baptist 15-6
13. Texas Wesleyan 14-6
14. Campbellsville 19-3
15. Westminster 17-5
16. Trevecca Nazarene 18-4
17. San Diego Christian 14-5
18. Auburn Montgomery 12-6
19. Oklahoma Christian 17-6
20. Houston Baptist 18-4
21. Lindsey Wilson 18-6
22. Lambuth 19-4
23. Westmont 16-7
24. Vanguard 15-8
25. Lee University 18-6
As always email your own thoughts and observations to me at firstname.lastname@example.org