Updated: Nov 5, 2018
Over the week, we asked you to submit your questions to be answered in our Mailbag (and you came through with a ton). We'll dive into some of these questions today and save the rest for Part 2.
Who is the biggest underdog / dark horse to make NCAA's (for the men)? Which region is most vulnerable and why? - Anonymous
For this question, I'm going to exclude the South region from this conversation since there are approximately three teams capable of snagging the final automatic qualifier with Alabama now out of the picture (Tennessee, Belmont, and Florida State). With all of the attention on those teams, I'm not ready to call them dark horses.
The biggest underdog has to be the Temple men this year and it's also because they are in the most vulnerable region (Mid-Atlantic). Don't forget that this is the same that team who beat Army in a head-to-head matchup earlier in the season. The Owls put three in front of Army's top scorer and then four in front of Army's second scorer. With the Black Knights now in a position to qualify out of the Northeast region, we shouldn't forget about Temple's chances of qualifying out of the Mid-Atlantic.
As of right now, we have Temple ranked #4 in the Mid-Atlantic region behind Georgetown, Princeton, and Villanova. However, they're in a region where the rankings are super tight and anything could happen.
Georgetown and Princeton are favored to take the top two spots, but both teams could be vulnerable to an upset if they develop significant gaps in the backend of their lineup. As for Villanova, they'll be relying on Casey Comber and Andrew Marston to give them a pair of key top-scoring low-sticks.
Temple has the luxury of have a tight pack up front (which should bode well for a region known for it's depth), but their bottom two scorers have been a point of emphasis throughout the season. That's a big reason why they struggled at large meets like Joe Piane and why they haven't been able to edge conference and regional rivals like Villanova, Princeton, and Tulsa throughout the season.
Speaking of Tulsa, I also think that they could be a key dark horse to watch. They have been a model of consistency over the past few years and continue to field competitive lineups. Iowa State and Oklahoma State are simply more talented than Tulsa this season, but don't be surprised if the Hurricanes keep the race interesting.
Is there any scenario where the Southeast Region gets more than 2 auto qualifiers for men or women? - JDL Fast Track
Yes, it's possible that both the men and/or women of the Southeast region could have more than two national qualifiers. There are some complex/unrealistic scenarios that we could go through, but that would take up an unnecessary amount of time. We'll keep things relatively straight forward.
Let's suppose everything stays the same in our Kolas projections, but Michigan State places 5th in the Great Lakes region and Michigan places 6th. If that happens, then NC State would be the next team to qualify for Nationals (assuming that they still place 3rd).
In most scenarios, Michigan would push in Michigan State. However, since there is only one spot left for qualification, neither Michigan nor Michigan State would qualify. That leaves NC State as the team with the next most points.
NC State could also bank on the idea of Wyoming placing 8th (or worse) in the Mountain region. We will explain that later in another question...
Even if NC State were to finish in the top two of the region and Virginia were to finish 3rd, all of our projected Kolas qualifiers would still earn At-Large bids. Virginia would be the First Team Out with three points.
However, if NC State were to finish in the top two of the region and Eastern Kentucky were to finish 3rd, then the Colonels would also qualify (easily). In fact, EKU could most likely push in another team to Nationals if they finish 4th next weekend.
Let's suppose everything stays the same in our Kolas projections, but NC State finishes 3rd. Either Virginia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest, or Eastern Kentucky would likely earn the other automatic qualifying spot. NC State would have more than enough Kolas points to earn an At-Large bid. In fact, they would have enough points to qualify for Nationals AND push another team into Nationals if NC State were to finish 4th.
As for Furman, they would probably qualify for Nationals by finishing 3rd in the region, although it greatly depends on who the other automatic qualifier would be (Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Duke, etc).
Can you talk about the West region a bit? - Anonymous
The West region has consistently been one of the top regions for as long as I can remember. In 2018, that is no different.
Keep in mind that over the past few years, Washington has become a very strong postseason team and has seemingly peaked at the West Regional Championships. Don't be surprised if they finish in the top two this weekend. However, if that happens, you likely won't see much of a change in the qualifying scenarios.
Oregon, Washington State, and UCLA could all finish in a different order, but it likely wouldn't have much of an effect on the overall Kolas qualifying picture.
I really like Gonzaga this year, but it's unfortunate that they are stuck in a difficult Kolas qualifying scenario. However, I can't help but wonder why they didn't race at Nuttycombe or another big meet (other than Pre-Nats) this year.
They had to know that BYU and Portland were at a different level of fitness and could not be beaten at the West Coast Conference Championships. Another Kolas point (or two) from a race like Nuttycombe or Penn State would have drastically improved Gonzaga's chances of earning a qualifying spot to Nationals (assuming they ran like they did at Pre-Nats).
Is there a Kolas scenario where the Gonzaga men qualify for Nationals? - Anonymous
TSR currently ranks Gonzaga as the 8th best team in the West region. If they finish 8th at regionals and our projections are accurate, then they are effectively out of the national qualifying discussion.
However, if Gonzaga were to finish 7th in the West region (one spot ahead of a team with numerous Kolas points such as Washington State or UCLA) AND Belmont finishes 2nd in the South region, then Gonzaga could get pushed into the national meet.
That is the most realistic scenario. However, there might be another scenario where Gonzaga gets in by finishing 8th in the region, but it would be extremely complex. Let's assume that everything in our current Kolas projections is the same, except...
- South: Belmont places 2nd
- Great Lakes: Michigan places 3rd, Michigan State places 4th, and Indiana places 5th
- Southeast: NC State places 4th or worse
If that happens, Gonzaga would have three Kolas points and be the final team to qualify.
So in other words, if you're a Gonzaga fan, your new favorite team is now Belmont.
How poorly can the Wyoming men perform at regionals (Mountain) and still qualify for Nationals? - Maria
TSR currently has Wyoming finishing 6th in the Mountain region. Let's suppose that everything else in our Kolas projections stays the same with the only difference being Southern Utah in 6th and Wyoming in 7th. By the time Wyoming accumulates enough Kolas points to be selected, there would be only one qualifying spot left. They would be the last team into Nationals with four points.
Since there would only be one qualifying spot left, 7th place is the lowest Wyoming can finish in the Mountain region and still qualify. If they finished 8th, they could theoretically push in the team ahead of them, but there wouldn't be enough qualifying spots available. Therefore, the selection process would skip over Wyoming and choose NC State.