Instant Reaction: Nationals 2016 Seedings & Pools

First impressions of the D-I College Championships pools for both divisions, hot off the presses!

After USAU released their postseason rankings, most of the mystery of the Nationals seeding was gone. No longer beholden to Regional finish, teams were seeded nearly identically to their standing in USAU’s ranking system.

In the men’s division, a lot of the questions came down to how Carleton would be seeded and how head-to-head matchups would be valued. There was a good chance USAU would stick to the rankings, supported by the algorithm’s inclusion of Carleton’s Regionals results and various head-to-head matchups within the field. The tournament’s top nine seeds match their placement in the rankings, with a few moved up due to #6 Stanford’s failure to qualify.

The first surprise was Harvard, who leap-frogged the South Central teams, Colorado and Texas A&M. There are no head-to-head results between Harvard and either of the SC duo, so why this happened is not really clear. Other than that, the only other real change was the arrangement of Cal Poly SLO, Case Western, and Auburn, whowere basically identically ranked. Auburn has one more win against the field, so perhaps that was the tiebreaker; Case was unsurprisingly put third, with no marquee wins on the season.

2016 seedings are pretty clean cut in the women’s division. The only teams to move significantly in either direction from our predictions were Michigan and Texas. The former, who we predicted at #7 before the rankings came out, wound up landing in the 10th spot, in line with their algorithmic location. Texas moved up from our predicted #10 spot, falling between that and their USAU #7 rank to get the 9th spot; this helped push Washington up two spots and Colorado up one.

Men’s Pool Impressions

UMass’s #1 seed has earned them quite a nice position in Pool A. #8 Georgia might have been a scary matchup since they have been playing so well recently, but the ‘dawgs lost a lot of bite when Parker Bray went down. After that, who knows? These teams have very few results against each other this season — UMass squashed Georgia once and #17 Cal Poly beat #12 Texas A&M at Stanford Invite — and all of these teams have some flaws. The athletes in this pool are exceptional, and the battle for prequarters should be high flying. If you’re looking for reason to knock UMass, the #1 overall seed has lost a pool play game in three of the past five years and failed to win the pool twice.

Pool B is a a reunion of last year’s dramatic Pool C, with #2 Oregon, #7 North Carolina, and #14 Florida State all back for another round. Mixing things up is the presence of a stalwart Colorado program — who surprised many by coming through at South Central Regionals — and a Case Western team enjoying their first taste of College Nationals. Oregon has been mostly untested this season, so the question is how they handle a team like UNC, who probably will have the best defense Ego has played against this season, in a 2015 National Championship rematch. FSU narrowly lost to the reigning champion in their Tally Classic meeting, but couldn’t keep up with Colorado in their lone meeting.

Perhaps the most likely pool to go to seed (by whatever small margin) is Pool C. That isn’t the fault of #3 UNC-Wilmington and #6 Wisconsin, who provide one of pool play’s best games and will likely turn the field into a war zone. How will #10 Harvard stack up against teams with elite one-on-one defenders for their dynamic duo of John Stubbs and Mark Vandenberg? That’s the question Red Line has to answer. Fortunately for them, #15 Michigan has done nothing yet to prove they can take out a top team, with an 0-5 record against the Nationals field. Meanwhile, #19 Connecticut hasn’t registered a notable victory since mid-February.

As always, there’s plenty in Pool D to draw your attention. Want your clash of titans? Pool D has #4 Minnesota and #5 Pittsburgh, featuring two of the division’s best offenses and two of it’s best individual talents in Ben Jagt and Trent Dillon. Plus, Minnesota started the spring off by making a big splash, defeating Pitt 13-11 in both team’s first game of the season. Want some Regional rivals? #9 Carleton just took the North Central, ahead of Minnesota, despite the two not playing; Minnesota handily won their matchup at their Conference Championships a few weeks before. Looking for a dark horse prequarters candidate? Explosive #16 Auburn fits the bill, an emotional team whose big playmakers make them a streaky, but competitive team. And why not add in cinderella, #20 Utah, the most shocking Nationals attendee. Pool D has it all.

Women’s Pool Impressions

In a season when matchups may matter the most we’ve ever seen, the looming questions were: who would get saddled with a high-ceiling and seemingly peaking Dartmouth team as the fifth seed in their pool and who would land in the 9-spot for the dreaded, top heavy 4-5-9 Pool D. Dartmouth fell into Pool B at #18, while Texas drew the short straw with the third spot in Pool D.

Pool A, as has been the trend, looks like a lock for Oregon and a pit fight for everyone else. The women’s #1 seed hasn’t lost in pool play since 2012; in that same span, the #8 seed has not finished in the top two in the pool. If you’re #8 Colorado, who is 3-1 against the teams in the pool but hasn’t seen Oregon or #13 Virginia, you have to be at least a little nervous. Speaking of Hydra, they could be dangerous from the fourth spot in the pool. They’ve made quarters for four straight years and are peaking at the right time. #12 Cal is vulnerable in the third slot, just 3-6 against the Nationals field if you remove the almost meaningless Centex1 results.

While #2 overall UBC cannot be happy about drawing #18 Dartmouth as their five seed, they are probably pretty well equipped to matchup. Still, Pool B has drama everywhere. British Columbia, #7 UCLA, and #11 Pitt were all in Pool C last year; you have to imagine UCLA will be up for a game against the same UBC team that knocked them out of contention at Nationals last year and who embarrassed them 13-3 on Ultiworld’s Stanford livestream earlier this year. Pitt pulled out some nice tricks to nearly upset UBC at the Northwest Challenge this year and they had an incredible game against the artist formerly known as Western Washington, who is now #14 Chaos, too. An immensely talented if unproven Dartmouth looms for each of these teams, ensuring that no one will get an easy round off. Plus, how can you not be excited for the following players to matchup in that pool: Mira Donaldson (UBC), Kristen Pojunis (UCLA), Linda Morse (Pitt), Maddie Gilbert (Chaos), and Jaclyn Verzuh (Dartmouth)? All of them are big, strong, and skilled. And that’s just barely dipping your toe into the talent pool of these five teams. Just to sweeten the pot, the second finisher puts themselves on a collision course to meet the #1 overall seed, probably Oregon, in the quarterfinals. British Columbia and UCLA have each beaten Oregon this year and Dartmouth had their season ended by Oregon in quarters last year. Sign me up!

Probably the happiest top seed is #3 Stanford. They get #6 Washington, a team they are 3-0 against this year, as the next team in Pool C. #10 Michigan is a good matchup for them, lacking the size to deal with Courtney Gegg and with the defensive capabilities to hassle Flywheel’s strong handlers. Both #15 Ohio State and #19 Southern California have tangled with Stanford and come up short earlier this spring. And while OSU is 0-2 against Michigan, they’ve played well early in tournaments, before fatigue has gotten the better of them, and have lots of Nationals experience to manage both playing time and downtime. But, like the men’s division, this is the most likely pool to go to seed.

Your opinion on Pool D rests heavily on how you view #4 Central Florida. At Stanford Invite, they beat three of the other top five seeds at Nationals, making them look like a real title threat. But they’ve also dropped games to Whitman and Texas2 and have tended to play worse against teams that have seen them before. On paper, it’s easy to write off #16 Wisconsin and #20 Ottawa, but Wisconsin’s top end is very good, and the fourth team in Pool D has gone 2-2 or better every year since 2011. At #9, it feels a bit like Texas is underseeded here. Melee is obviously getting punished for losing to Colorado in the South Central Regional final, but they are 4-2 against the three teams seeded ahead of them3. UCLA, who was 1-4 against this clump of teams, seems like a more logical team to bump down; even though they have one-point wins over the #1 and #3 overall seeds, they subsequently lost to both of those teams in more recent matchups. My preference would have seeded these teams in this order: Texas, Washington, Colorado, UCLA — which would have a pretty dramatic shift on the pools.

  1. Otherwise known as “Windtex.” 

  2. Albeit at Centex, with its aforementioned wind caveats. 

  3. Washington, UCLA, and Colorado 

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