Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Friday, November 06, 2009's Tony Nicolette: Weekly Gliac Column Columnists Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

November 3rd, 2009
Amazingly, the 2009 season that we all anticipated so eagerly is now about to draw to a close. For some within the GLIAC, the results of the campaign will leave a bad taste in their mouths. For others, a vast improvement over what they've done in previous years provides a feeling of hope and promise for 2010 and the autumns of the future. And for a select few, the opportunity to continue this season for at least one more week is a very real possibility. I promised I'd take a stab at the playoff picture heading into this weekend, so here goes.
Here's how the Regional Seedings look heading into the play of November 7:
1 - Minnesota State - (10-0)
2 - Minnesota-Duluth - (9-1)
3 - Grand Valley - (9-1)
4 - Nebraska-Kearney - (9-1)
5 - Saginaw Valley - (8-2)
6 - Hillsdale - (8-2)
7 - Bemidji State - (6-3)
8 - Wayne State (NE) - (7-3)
9 - Findlay - (7-3)
10 - Winona State - (7-3)

For those who are unaware, the Top Six from these seedings make it into the playoff field. So, just being on the above list "isn't quite enough". With that said, the only list that truly matters is the one that comes out on Sunday afternoon. Here's what my gut tells me as to who'll be on it and in the Top Six.

Who's In
Even with losses, Minnesota State, UMD and Grand Valley are likely all safe. Obviously, no one wants to chance it and where teams get seeded is important when it comes to byes, home games, and the like. Winning is still a priority for each so they can have at least one home game during the playoffs, not to mention the week off for the top two seeds is always a coveted plus. All three of these clubs play teams with winning records on Saturday, with both of the Minnesota teams having to take to the road to do so. With that in mind, each will see their strength of schedule (SOS) improve so a loss would not likely hurt any of them far enough to be left out of the field.

Who's Looking Good
At this point, I'd say Saginaw Valley is pretty safe. Their SOS is helped by having played/defeated Cal back in Week One. They do play a Ferris club this weekend that has been struggling mightily, so SV's SOS will take a hit. Nevertheless, I think it's simple for the Cards: Win and you're in.
Another club I feel is pretty safe is Nebraska-Kearney. They play at a .500 Mesa State on Saturday, which will actually improve their SOS slightly as their rating in that category isn't especially favorable. With that said, a loss likely won't hurt them enough to fall out of the Top Six. If it does, as long as they don't drop out of the Top Eight they can still enter the field via Earned Access. In short, Earned Access will place a team in the playoff field if they are ranked seventh or eighth in the seedings and no other members of their conference are in the seedings above them. They would essentially "bump" whoever is the lowest-seeded team in the Top Six that is not their own conference's lone representative in the Top Six (it was as painful to write that stuff as I'm sure it is for you to read and try to interpret it). I hope this is something that DOES NOT happen, and if UNK simply handles their business the point is moot. If they should lose, the question then becomes whether or not they finish above eighth in the final seedings. Their SOS is one of the weaker ones in the region, so it's not inconceivable. With all of that said, the Lopers are just like SV in my opinion: Win and they're in.

Who's on the Edge
Another team with a "weakish" SOS rating is Hillsdale. They play Tiffin this weekend, so that rating isn't going to get any better. With that said, the Chargers are on the verge of posting a 9-2 finish, which would include winning five straight to close out the season. Among the umpteen criteria the committee can use is what a team does over their last four games, and few have been as hot or impressive as the Chargers in that stretch. While it's not inconceivable that Hillsdale could wind up on the outside looking in, my gut tells me that if they win Saturday their chances are solid. Only six teams in the region can finish 9-2 or better at this point and Hillsdale is one of them.

Who Needs Help
There are seven teams that have an opportunity to finish with only three losses: Bemidji State, Wayne State (NE), Findlay, Winona State, Northwood, Colorado School of Mines, and Augustana. In all honesty, while Bemidji, Findlay, Wayne, and Winona all have SOS ratings in the Top 35 nationally, my gut tells me that only Wayne and Winona have legitimate shots at making the field. Each has a top flight SOS, and Winona's will jump a good amount as they host UMD this Saturday - and there's no telling what a marquis win like that in the last week of the season would do for them in the minds of the committee. Much like everyone else, the best/only thing that each of these clubs can do for their case is to win. Additionally, each of these outfits will also have to hope that every one else presently along side them loses, along with someone above them on the list.

What Will Happen
If the Top Six all win, I'm pretty confident that the Top Five teams as they stand today will all make the field. Their seeds may or may not shift a bit, but each of those clubs will make the bracket. The only question mark I have is Hillsdale. Even with a victory, their SOS rating will be one of the lower ones in the region. At that point, it will be up to the committee to figure out whether the resume of one of the 8-3 clubs is impressive enough to overcome the fact that they lost one more game than the Chargers did. Whether or not that might happen is beyond me.
If one or more of the Top Six lose, then all bets are off. Of the teams I mentioned, only UMD and Winona (playing each other) have tilts against another team in the playoff mix so it's more than plausible that nine of the Top Ten could win and keep things in line with what I've described.

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