Superlatives from the premier D-III men's tournament
April 21, 2023 by Michael Ball and Chris Cassella in Preview with 0 comments
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It’s the first weekend of Confregionals for D-III Men’s teams! A term first coined on the 7500 Club podcast (RIP), Confregionals is used for Conference tournaments in regions that are small enough to have their Nationals bids decided at these events, rather than the traditional Conferences to Regionals to Nationals pipeline. Almost a third of the Nationals field will be established this weekend, with 5 bids being decided across 3 events. Let’s take a look at each one.
This is the first time the men’s division in the Atlantic Coast has been combined into a Confregionals. Despite the quantity of teams competing in the region decreasing, the quality has remained high, with two teams finishing the season in bid-earning range and two others knocking on the door.
The top seed for the weekend are the #5 Richmond Spidermonkeys. After missing Nationals last spring for the first time since 2015, the Spidermonkeys have roared (screeched? Screamed? What sound do Spidermonkeys make?) back with a vengeance this year, finishing 8th in the algorithm’s rankings and in the top five of our Power Rankings. 2019 D-III COTY Matt Graves is back at the helm for Richmond, and he’s made the most of one of, if not the, largest rosters in the division. The Spidermonkeys are led by Brett Schoppert and Calvin Ciorba on the offensive and defensive sides of the disc, respectively, but the depth on Richmond is what sets them apart, getting big contributions up and down the roster from guys like Sam Gilmore, Jake Seares, Sam Hussey, and others.
While Richmond are the favorites this weekend based on seeding, past results would indicate that no.2 seed #4 Navy Poseidon are more likely to win the region. Dating back to last spring, Navy have won four straight games against Richmond, including a 10-8 win three weeks ago. While Poseidon are more than capable of winning on talent alone, having this mental edge against Richmond in a potential final will be important. Finishing the season at 13th in the algorithm, Navy have been difficult to assess this season. Their algorithmic ranking reflects some games where Poseidon have played down to their competition, but their status in our Power Rankings is a testament to the level we’ve seen from Navy when they play their best. Max Benedetti, Silas Rhodes, and Michael Pyle will be key in getting Poseidon back to Nationals.
Trying to steal one of the bids from Richmond or Navy this weekend will be #25 Elon Big Fat Bomb and Davidson DUFF. Both teams are in similar positions, in that they have a handful of convincing wins over weaker opposition but lack a signature win over a stronger opponent. Elon will lean heavily on Kalen Morrison, Reed Burkert, and Vincent Chen. If everything goes to seed, we should get an exciting matchup between these two teams on Sunday in the game-to-go to the game-to-go.
Another thing to keep an eye on this weekend is the weather. Storms could affect play on Saturday, and we’ve seen adverse weather be the catalyst of upsets in the past. Sunday weather looks perfect, so if the top teams can withstand the conditions on day one, we should be set up for an exciting day two.
- Schedule & Results
- Location: Tacoma, Washington
- Nationals Bids: 2
- Excitement Level:
Perennially, there’s a bit of awkwardness with the Northwest D-III Men’s Confregionals. The Whitman Sweets typically declare D-I, but choose the D-III pathway to get to D-I regionals, creating a situation where the region’s bid to D-III Nationals is awarded to a team that doesn’t have to try in the final. However, there will be no such awkwardness this year. Not only are the Sweets competing in D-III this season, but the region has managed to secure a second bid, opening the door for all kinds of possibilities this weekend.
The top seed in Tacoma is #14 Lewis & Clark Bacchus. Having gone through a tough stretch the last few years, not making Nationals since 2016, Bacchus are young, hungry, and incredibly talented this season. Playing a style that strikes the balance between being loose but disciplined, L&C showed at FCS D-III Tune Up that they can compete at the national level, going 5-2 with their losses being close games to 2022 Nationals attendees Oberlin and Richmond. Leo Farley, Owen Heh, Leo Finley, and the rest of Bacchus are as good as anybody when they get humming on all cylinders. If they can find their rhythm this weekend, expect L&C to secure a trip to Ohio.
The other bid earner and second seed is the aforementioned #8 Whitman Sweets. Nobody can question whether or not Whitman is battle-tested this season; the Sweets had the toughest schedule at FCS (their opponents’ combined record was 31-10 on the weekend), and they followed that up by playing strong D-I competition at Northwest Challenge. Despite this difficult schedule, Whitman went 6-6, and they should be better off for it. Kai Kirsch, Tyler Shanahan, and Leo Dungan-Seaver will be making big plays for the Sweets all weekend, and they should have enough firepower to claim the bid they earned.
For the rest of the field, it looks like an upset of one of the top two is highly unlikely, but you never know in the Northwest. These teams see each other a lot, and familiarity can breed chaos. Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound are the two most likely to pull off an upset, but neither team has shown the ability to beat top end competition. The best win between either team this year is PLU eking out a 16-15 win over 129th ranked Gonzaga, and Puget Sound’s best win is over 197th San Jose State. There’s a reason they play the games, but it would be a major upset to see anybody outside the top two teams take one of the bids.
- Schedule & Results
- Location: Decatur, AL
- Nationals Bids: 1
- Excitement Level:
The Southeast is our third region competing in Confregionals this weekend. The main reason for the second emoji is that there are too many unknowns to give a definitive answer as to who will take the single bid to Nationals.
Berry Bucks are the bid-earners for the Southeast, but they enter this tournament as the no.3 overall seed. Berry lost lots of talent essential to their semifinal run last season in Milwaukee including Walter Ellard, Caleb Enright, and Chris Gmeiner. Colin Hill should continue to be an anchor for the Bucks this weekend, but their record from this season leaves much to be desired for a team with hopes of making nationals. But Berry “earned” this bid by competing in more games than the other teams from the Southeast. If there’s one thing that Berry can lean on as a strength, then, it will be that they’ve had more games to work through any problems than the other teams in their region.
Two other teams to watch this weekend are, appropriately, the no.1 and no.2 seeds of this tournament. #23 Union Jaxx enters the weekend with a 3-1 record with wins over North Carolina Asheville, South Carolina B, and Christopher Newport. They pair these three blowout wins with a blowout loss to Appalachian State to round out their single tournament, Needle in the Ho Stack. It’s a toss-up if Union Jaxx will be able to hold seed. Admittedly there’s not a lot of data to work with which is both frustrating for writers (me), and exciting for the casual (or committed) fan.
Embry-Riddle Dirty Birds have a legitimate claim to their seed and enter with a 3-2 record with wins over Wake Forest, North Carolina State B, and, most notably, a 13-11 win over Berry at Needle in the Ho Stack. As with Union Jaxx, their losses were proper blowouts with a 13-1 and 13-2 final to Tennessee and Davidson DUFF, respectively. The Dirty Birds have the only sanctioned win over Berry in the region, so it tracks that they would be seeded above them for this tournament.
But as with everything in the Southeast, keep your eyes peeled. Ave Maria Gyrens has a 5-1 record after a very successful tournament with wins over lots of D-I B teams, and Georgia College Disconnected could string together a run to the game to-go. To borrow a phrase that we use often with another (that shall remain nameless) region in both college divisions, somebody has to win the Southeast.