Friday, November 12, 2010
Friday Water Cooler: Can Lehigh Host?
I know, I know. Georgetown is much improved. Lehigh cannot fall asleep against the Hoyas - they have come so far, and can't get stopped now. All that is true.
But if you haven't at least mulled the possibility of Lehigh hosting a game in the playoffs - should they win this weekend, of course - you either don't know how the playoffs work or you had better check your pulse.
Should Lehigh win this weekend, what other results might be friendly to a potential first-round matchup at Murrray Goodman? We'll look at them below the flip. (more)
The first thing to realize about the FCS playoffs - if this is your first time reading about them - is that the bracket has just been expanded to 20 teams. In years past, it was a sixteen-team bracket, starting the week after Thanksgiving and ending the weekend before Christmas.
Now, there are twenty teams. The top five teams are seeded, and whenever possible will get home games in the playoffs. The top four seeds will play the winners of Round One two weeks after the end of the season - against one of eight unseeded teams which will play the weekend after Thanksgiving.
(In my CSN Way column this week on College Sporting News, I project the entire playoff field - and I have Western Illinois travelling to Lehigh in the first round.)
In the past, the FCS Playoff subcommittee has tried to group the games - especially those involving non-seeded teams - regionally, in an effort to cut down costs.
It's safe to say that Lehigh - not currently in any national Top 25 - will not be getting a seed. But there are some things that can happen in the East that could help in the playoff subcommittee choosing to have Lehigh host a first-round game.
First, Lehigh would need to put a competitive bid to the NCAA for the game. Now if the bracket comes down to Appalachian State and Lehigh getting consideration to host a first-round playoff game, it would be no contest - Lehigh would be heading to Boone, North Carolina, since Appalachian State is likely to put in a very significant bid for the game. But a good-sized bid might be the difference in a trip and a home game, depending on the size of the school.
Second, Lehigh would be rooting for other CAA schools to either be at six D-I wins - putting them in danger of not being selected - or undisputed champions. The CAA - home of Delaware, James Madison, Richmond and Villanova, all FCS National Champions of the last ten years - is widely respected as being one of the strongest conferences in FCS. The more teams that have first-round byes - and the more teams that don't make it into the twenty-team field - the better for Lehigh.
Third, Lehigh will be hoping for schools that have small enrollments and/or small stadiums to make the field. One such school, Robert Morris, is already in the playoffs, and seem like an ideal candidate to be sent on the road somewhere - possibly Lehigh.
Finally, if at all possible, Lehigh wants those team in the non-seeded portion of the playoffs to be outside the Eastern region. Fewer candidates out East, the better Lehigh's odds.
So what would be a good situation for Lehigh?
* William & Mary beating both James Madison and Richmond, eliminating any small chance that the Dukes and Spiders make the playoffs and putting the Tribe in line for a seed.
* UMass losing twice: first to Delaware, then to Rhode Island. Don't laugh about the Rams' chances: Rhode Island just upset Villanova last weekend. This would put the Minutemen at six D-I wins, and probably out of the playoffs.
* Delaware beating UMass this week, and Villanova the final week of the season. This would put them at 10-1 and very likely in line for a seed alongside William & Mary.
* In an ideal world, New Hampshire would beat Villanova and then lose to winless Towson. This would put both teams at six D-I wins, but that's extremely unlikely to happen. If Villanova beats New Hampshire, they will have seven D-I wins, and it will probably be enough to make the playoffs no matter what happens vs. Delaware.
* Either Stony Brook or Coastal Carolina grabbing the Big South title away from Liberty. Liberty's Williams Stadium - and a rabid fan base - means they could be a place where Lehigh is sent. If it's not the Flames, Coastal Carolina would reduce the number of potential destinations for Lehigh by one, and Stony Brook (NY) would at best have a 7-4 record and have a stadium tinier than Murray Goodman for hosting. Lehigh might actually end up being the perfect destination for the Seawolves, too.
So there you have it - a scenario where Lehigh is sitting pretty for hosting a home game the weekend after Thanksgiving. If they win this weekend, of course.