Friday, November 19, 2010
Friday Water Cooler: The Complicated Postseason Situation
But I can't help it. I'm a national columnist, and part of what I do is speculate on playoff positioning. In this column for College Sporting News I do so, prognosticating that Lehigh will host Robert Morris in the first round of the playoffs.
(While we're speculating, looking at the picture on the left, I'll speculate that someone photoshopped the heads of Alec Baldwin and Merryl Streep onto somebody else's heads. No, really, is that all I need to do to get involved in show business? I've got better cut-and-paste skills - not that that's hard or anything.)
So let's say - for the sake of argument - that it's 2:30 PM, and Lehigh is beating Lafayette 50 to 0. What should a Lehigh fan be looking for in the scores around the nation. What scenarios result in a trip across country, which involve a first-round bye, and which involve one more home game at Murray Goodman? (more)
In my article, I detail the possible autobid winners and seeds. I won't go through all the hoops to detail all the information: as a Mountain Hawk fan, you already know one critical fact: Lehigh is in, period. Whether Weber State upsets FBS Texas Tech and gets in the field, Lehigh fans don't care: it won't affect Lehigh at all.
But there is one very important detail to consider, however.
With Lehigh peaking in the rankings at No. 22 this week, the Mountain Hawks, win or lose, are not going to get one of the top 5 seeds in the tournament.
Since Lehigh is not seeded, that means that the playoff subcommittee will pick first and second-round games (not involving seeded teams) based on regional considerations, bid amounts to the NCAA, and other factors, like average attendance.
So the rules are clear: Lehigh wants the teams in the non-seeded pool in the local area that bid less and draw less than Lehigh.
This is why Mountain Hawk fans will want to pay close attention to the Delaware/Villanova game this weekend.
A Blue Hen win will put Delaware squarely in category for a seed as CAA champions. It also has the beneficial side effect of removing a possible destination for Lehigh - the Villanova Wildcats.
Another possible local destination which Lehigh could be outbid or outdrawn is UMass. They play Rhode Island on the road at Meade Stadium in Kingston, and the Rams have already beaten two potential playoff teams there in the form of New Hampshire and Villanova. If the Rams can pull the trifecta, that helps Lehigh's chances of hosting tremendously. Coupled with a Delaware win over Villanova, it seems like a very strong possibility.
New Hampshire is also technically out with a loss, but their opponent - 1-9 Towson - is seen as a longshot at best to knock off the Wildcats. If the former leaguemates of Lehigh pull off the shocker, it would help Lehigh a little - but even if New Hampshire wins, as expected, Cowell Stadium is small, and the Wildcats have historically been sent on the road when they haven't been a seed. So a Wildcat win could hurt Lehigh mildly, but it may not affect a Lehigh home game as much as you might think.
But that's not all that might affect Lehigh's playoff placement.
William & Mary is 7-3 right now, and considering they own big wins over ranked teams and one of their losses comes from FBS North Carolina, they will be in the playoffs almost certainly. However, a loss to Richmond would cause two problems for Lehigh: it cascades the Tribe from the teams that are likely for at a first round bye (at minimum) to a potential Thanksgiving weekend destination for a team like Lehigh. It also would put the Spiders in play for a playoff spot, too: at 7-4, and finishing the season with a win over the No. 4 team in the country, they'd be a lock for a playoff spot and could also be playing Thanksgiving weekend.
Both the Tribe and Spiders have beautiful stadiums, engaged fan bases and aren't a plane flight away: basically, a nightmare for Lehigh's home playoff hopes.
There's more too. Lehigh will also be big fans of Stony Brook beating Liberty this weekend to win the Big South championship. The Flames, with an 18,000 seat stadium and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of football fans, are a much tougher school to bid against in comparison to Long Island-based Stony Brook and their 10,000 strong Lavalle stadium. If the chips fall right, the Seawolves, who already lost 28-21 to Lafayette, would be an interesting thought to come to the Lehigh Valley in the first round.
With tiny, somewhat nearby Robert Morris already qualified - and a lock to be sent on the road - the more tiny, somewhat nearby schools to be sent to schools in our area works in our favor.
My gut feeling is as follows:
If Lehigh loses, they will almost certainly be sent on the road, perhaps even halfway across the country to fill out brackets.
If Lehigh wins, it will depend on the outcomes of the Delaware/Villanova and William & Mary/Richmond games.
If Delaware and William & Mary both win, Lehigh will be in a strong position to host a first-round game.
If Villanova and Richmond both win, Lehigh will be a mortal lock to be sent on the road. A rematch of 1998 - Lehigh at Richmond - might be in the offing.
If either Delaware OR William & Mary win - it's going to be really, really interesting. It will depend on things like Stony Brook winning the Big South - and a landscape that will be very, very hard to track.
We'll see how this all shakes out in the next 48 hours.