DIAA Playoffs Breakdown
DIAA Playoffs Breakdown
As March is around the corner there’s the little matter of figuring out who will be in the Men’s DIAA playoffs.
The DIAA championship is starting to garner some interest around the nation, and programs realize this is a good post-season for smaller DI programs, clubs, and up-and-coming quasi-varsity teams.
As a result, an eight-team, three-round championship is going to be a larger, four-round championship.
In 2014-15, eight conferences sent representatives to the playoffs, so it was relatively straightforward to place four of those teams in the East and four in the West and run a quarterfinal-semifinal-final series.
This year, some conferences that were not involved in 2014-15 are back - ECRC, and MAC have joined, and the Southwest Conference expressed their interest, and then backed it up with an ACRC Bowl win over Rutgers in November.
So, winning a conference and saying you want to be in the playoffs says a lot.
With the addition of those conferences, we’ve got perhaps 11 conferences involved:
That’s enough for an opening round, especially if you add some at-large bids, and there’s some reason to.
First off, Delaware and Notre Dame College have been playing independent schedules and have voiced a desire to be considered at-large participants. The same goes for Montana State and Utah State, both trying to get more included in the USA Rugby playoff system without being in a conference.
Then there’s the question of conferences where the winner and the runner up were very close. Some of those second-place teams might deserve a second look.
Here’s what we think is the picture as of now:
We should have enough for a 16-team Round 1, split roughly along geographic lines.
In the East, ECRC champs AIC has confirmed they will participate, and they could well be among the favorites to win.
The Ivy League champion, Dartmouth, will be in the Varsity Cup, so once again the Ivies will hold a qualifier tournament among the next four best teams to decide who will be in the DIAA playoffs.
The MAC champion, Bowling Green, has confirmed that they will be in the DIAA playoffs also, and the Falcons should be in the East.
Keystone champions JMU will be there, and SIRC champions Florida International will be there, also.
Then there’s Empire. Now Syracuse won the Empire, but they, like Stony Brook (winners in 2014 and runners-up in 2015) might be concentrating on 7s. We haven’t confirmed anything as yet, but we might see no Empire team.
That leaves five conferences in the East - we’ll see if we can fill out the bracket in a minute …
In the West, Pac West (UC Davis currently leading), Gold Coast (CSULB currently leading), Heart of America (Arkansas in best position), and NCRC (Washington currently leading) all will be back. There’s no doubt there. The SWC champions, North Texas, will be there - they’ve been very enthusiastic about the idea.
That’s five conferences in the West.
Now to the gaps
Among the at-large teams, all seem to have done enough to warrant a look.
Notre Dame College was 7-3 last fall, losing only to Davenport, St. Bonaventure, and Navy. Among the teams the Falcons beat were Syracuse (Empire champs), JMU (Keystone champs), and West Virginia. They’ve done enough to get an invitation.
Delaware is a little more problematic in that the Blue Hens - back from suspension - didn’t win as often. In fact we’ve got them at 4-3, with wins over Rowan (a very good DII team), St. Joseph’s (solid Keystone team), Princeton, and DIA team Iona. They lost to Kutztown, Penn State, and Wheeling Jesuit, the last one pretty close. So not bad, and in the totality, you’d probably say they deserve a spot.
As for runners-up, Middle Tennessee State lost a very close one against FIU in the SIRC final, and in fact felt they should have won. Well, as we understand it, MTSU will replay that final at FIU in the first round, so MTSU gets an at-large bid.
In the West, there are three spots to fill, and Utah State, which has been winning for two years now, should get one of them, in our opinion. The other two might still be in question. Since the Pac West produced last year’s champion, maybe the runner-up should also go.
Other runners-up include Heart of America, MAC (Western Michigan), and the Gold Coast - all could be in the mix.
With all of that in mind
The East could look like this:
AIC, Bowling Green, Delaware, James Madison, Notre Dame College, and the winner of the four-team Ivy League playoff (Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Princeton), and FIU will play MTSU.
The matchups are harder to predict, although USA Rugby likes geographically convenient games, so look for NDC to play Bowling Green, and Ivy League, AIC, JMU, and Delaware to mix it up somehow.
The West could look like this:
North Texas, and champions from the NCRC, Gold Coast, HOA, and Pac West.
Utah State and two other teams chosen from Western Michigan, HOA runner-up, Pac West runner-up, and Gold Coast runner-up.
Harvard seems in the best position to win the Ivy League playoffs, but things didn’t run to form last year - watch out for Brown.
The Gold Coast looks to be Long Beach State’s to lose, and UC Davis will probably repeat as Pac West winners. Arkansas is 3-0 in the HOA but the Razorbacks have some tough opponents left. In the NCRC, it’s kind of anyone’s game, as Washington, Western Washington, Boise State, and Washington State could all be there on the day.
We’d vote for Utah State, Western Michigan, and either the HOA or Pac West 2nd-place team to fill in.