Nov. 7, 2011
STANFORD, Calif.- Stanford's four-year run as NorPac Tournament champions came to an end on Saturday afternoon, falling 1-0 to California as the Golden Bears captured their first crown since 2006.
As a result, California will represent the conference in an NCAA Play-In game on Tuesday morning, hosting Atlantic-10 champion Richmond, with the winner securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Stanford is done playing- at least for the moment. Even despite the loss, the Cardinal remains a strong candidate for one of eight at-large berths into the NCAA Tournament.
Consider the following:
Stanford (17-3, 6-0 NorPac) is one of seven Division I teams with three losses or less. The 17 wins have tied a school record.
The Cardinal owns an RPI of No. 5 (as of the latest edition of the rankings, published Nov. 1). Stanford had been ranked as high as No. 4 and among the top-10 for most of the year.
The Cardinal has six top-20 wins, including non-conference victories over No. 17 Albany, No. 19 Indiana, No. 18 Northeastern and No. 7 Michigan. Stanford also defeated No. 12 California twice to claim the league's West Division title.
Stanford's three losses have come against top-20 teams (No. 4 Connecticut, No. 12 New Hampshire, No. 16 California). The combined record of those schools is 50-9.
Stanford has maintained a top-10 ranking in the Kookaburra/NFHCA National Coaches poll for all but the first two weeks of the year, topping out at program-best No. 6.
Sixteen teams are selected for the NCAA Tournament. Five conferences (ACC, America East, Big East, Big Ten, Colonial) receive automatic qualification into the postseason. There are also three Play-In games slated to take place on the morning of Nov. 8, hours before the selection show at 5 p.m. PT. That leaves only eight spots remaining for at-large teams, with primary criteria such as RPI, head-to-head competition, strength of schedule, results against common opponents and win-loss record utilized in the decision-making process.
According to the projections below, the NCAA selection committee might be hard-pressed not to include the Cardinal in the postseason party. Stanford's body of work is deserving for an at-large bid.
| IN: North Carolina (20-1), New Hampshire (17-4), Syracuse (18-3), Penn State (16-5), Old Dominion (20-2).
These are the five conference tournament winners mentioned above who receive automatic bids. No debate here. And no surprises either, as all five teams have been ranked among the top-10 of the RPI and coaches' poll at some point during the year.
| IN: Winner of Lafayette (11-8) vs. Ohio (18-4), Winner of Richmond (15-6) at California (16-3), Winner of Rider (19-1) at Princeton (9-7).
These are the three NCAA Play-In matchups that will take place Tuesday morning, with the winners locking up a spot in the tournament field. The losers of these games are most likely eliminated from postseason contention, with the exception of possibly California, Rider and Ohio. We'll cover that later.
| IN: Duke (13-7), Connecticut (17-2), Michigan (14-6).
Might as well include the losers of the conference tournaments in the ACC, Big East and Big Ten. Duke has seven losses but the Blue Devils navigated through an extremely challenging schedule and were one of two schools to beat Old Dominion. Connecticut is another top-10 RPI team that has lost only twice this year. Not to mention, the Huskies own a win over Stanford. Meanwhile, Michigan lost in the Big Ten Tournament title game but won the regular-season title. Stanford actually owns a head-to-head win over Michigan, but the Wolverines are probably safe thanks to a season-long top-10 RPI standing.
| IN: Maryland (15-4), Ohio State (12-8).
It's also probably safe to include Maryland and Ohio State among the at-large entrants. The Terrapins were upset in the ACC Tournament, but a top-5 RPI and national ranking make the 2010 NCAA champions hard to ignore. Ohio State is squarely on the bubble, but for projection purposes, the Buckeyes make the cut due to their schedule. That being said, if Stanford notched a 3-0 shutout against the Big Ten's regular season champ (Michigan) and Penn State is already locked in, how many bids will the conference receive? A logical guess is at least three.
| UP FOR DISCUSSION: Stanford (17-3), Albany (13-7), Northeastern (14-7), Iowa (15-4), Boston College (10-9), Wake Forest (10-9), Rider (19-1), California (16-3) and Ohio (18-4).
So, three spots remain in the field, with the selection committee likely choosing at-large schools from the group above. Stanford compares very favorably to all of the teams listed here, accounting for criteria such as RPI, head-to-head results and overall body of work.
Albany: The Danes beat only one top-20 team (New Hampshire). But they also lost to Stanford 3-2 on Aug. 31.
Northeastern: The Huskies lost to Stanford 4-2 on Sept. 11. Again, that's probably the difference.
Iowa: Ranked No. 13 in the RPI, the Hawkeyes have only four losses (North Carolina, Penn State and Michigan- twice). The schedule was not great, but Iowa did beat Ohio State, so this could just as easily be flip-flopped.
Boston College, Wake Forest: Both of these squads play in the rugged ACC, but both also have nine losses. That's six more defeats than Stanford. Wake Forest won both meetings against Boston College, so the Demon Deacons figure to have that edge.
Rider: If Rider wins their Play-In game, remove them from this group. The Broncs are 19-1, but the RPI is in the low-20's.
California: If Cal wins their Play-In game, remove them from this group. Stanford has been ranked at least 10 spots higher than Cal in the RPI all season. And of course, the Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears twice.
Ohio: If Ohio wins their Play-In game, remove them from this group. Otherwise, an RPI in the low-20's and head-scratching losses (Robert Morris) are possible deal-breakers that can't be associated with Stanford's season.
by Brian Risso, Stanford Athletics Communications/Media Relations