Bracketology: Top 5 MPSF teams’ non-conference schedules for 2015

The season is still about two months away but several MPSF teams already have an advantage over other conference opponents in the race for a spot in the NCAA Tournament because of their non-conference schedules.

Off the Block using the same criteria as the NCAA Tournament selection committee analyzed non-conference schedules of MPSF teams that have released their complete 2015 schedules to determine what teams could have an advantage come Selection Saturday.


The NCAA Tournament is comprised of six teams with two at-large bids and each of the four conferences receiving an automatic bid. In addition, the selection committee determine the field primarily based on the following criteria: overall record, head-to-head record, non-conference record, home and road records, record versus common opponents and record against teams already qualified or under consideration.

Check out the five MPSF teams that if they are successful in non-conference play during the upcoming season could have a big advantage on Selection Saturday.

UC Irvine
2015 non-conference opponents:
Lewis, Penn State, Ohio State, George Mason, Princeton, Ball State
Breakdown: The Anteaters put together a non-conference schedule with the Selection Saturday in mind, and it could give them a big boost in an at-large bid race or seeding for the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine has four non-conference home matches and an MPSF-best seven non-conference matches, including a road match against MPSF opponent Hawai’i as part of the Outrigger Invitational. That amount of non-conference matches has a chance to give the Anteaters help in the selection committee criteria categories of overall record and home record. In addition, UC Irvine will likely have at least two non-conference matches against teams under consideration for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Anteaters entering the season have the strongest non-conference schedule of any MPSF team. If they are close to a higher NCAA Tournament seed or an at-large bid their non-conference success could be the deciding factor.

Stanford
2015 non-conference opponents:
UC Santa Cruz, Concordia-Irvine, Lewis, Loyola, Holy Names, Hope International
Breakdown: One of the most intriguing non-conference events will be played on Stanford’s home court in the second week of the season. Stanford as part of its non-conference tournament will play home matches against Lewis and the defending-NCAA champions Loyola on back-to-back nights. If the Cardinal can win both these matches, it would significantly help Stanford in the criteria categories of overall record, home record and likely record versus teams under NCAA Tournament consideration. Stanford plays seven non-conference matches but only four of the matches will be considered part of the Cardinal’s schedule by the selection committee. The committee only includes matches against NCAA opponents into its criteria. As a result, Stanford’s home-and-home series against NAIA to NCAA transitioning program Concordia-Irvine and its home match against NAIA opponent Hope International will not be factored into the selection committee’s criteria.


Pepperdine
2015 non-conference opponents:
North Greenville, George Mason, Harvard
Breakdown: Coach Marv Dunphy said in a recent interview with Off the Block that he did not consider the NCAA Tournament selection committee criteria when compiling his non-conference schedule. However, the Waves’ five-match non-conference schedule sets up nicely to benefit the team on Selection Saturday. Pepperdine will open its season in South Carolina with a two-match series against first-year Conference Carolinas program North Greenville. This series will likely not only benefit the Waves in the overall record and non-conference categories, but the biggest edge will be in the road record category. Pepperdine is one of three MPSF teams that will play a road non-conference match next season. Along with playing North Greenville, Pepperdine is undefeated all-time against George Mason and Harvard — including being 6-0 all-time against the Patriots entering their two-match home series in January. The only likely criteria category that Pepperdine likely won’t from in its non-conference schedule will be record against teams under NCAA Tournament consideration. Pepperdine would likely need George Mason or Harvard at the end of the season to upset Penn State and win the EIVA Tournament to get a bump in that category.

BYU
2015 non-conference opponents:
Loyola, Lewis, Ball State
Breakdown: All four of BYU’s non-conference matches next season will be against MIVA teams that last season had at least 20 wins and were under consideration for a spot int he NCAA Tournament. The early season matches against Loyola and Lewis at a neutral site will be critical for BYU to get an advantage in the categories of head-to-head record, non-conference record and record versus teams under consideration for the NCAA Tournament. However, BYU has a chance to benefit the most if Ball State has another 20-win season and is in the hunt for an at-large bid. The Cougars have a mid-season two-match home series against the Cardinals. The results of that non-conference series will effect BYU’s standing in the overall record, non-conference record and home record criteria categories. A successful Ball State season, though, would likely have those matches count towards the category of record versus teams under consideration for the NCAA Tournament.

USC
2015 non-conference opponents:
Grand Canyon, Lindenwood, Penn State
Breakdown: The Trojans are among the MPSF teams with fewest non-conference matches during the upcoming season but the schedule is effective at hitting all the necessary selection committee criteria. USC is one of the three MPSF teams with a non-conference road matches as it travels to play an early season match against Grand Canyon. This match has a chance to give the Trojans an edge in the road record criteria category compared to the majority of MPSF teams that only have non-conference matches at home or at neutral sites. The shorter non-conference schedule for USC, though, means it will likely have to go undefeated in non-conference play to maintain an edge over other MPSF teams in the non-conference record criteria category. Along with its non-conference road match, USC will have a home match against Penn State — the only non-conference match for the Trojans against a team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The Penn State match will likely be the most critical non-conference match for USC. A win would give USC help in the overall record, home record, non-conference record and record against teams under NCAA Tournament consideration categories. It also would give the Trojans an edge over the Nittany Lions in the head-to-head category if they are competing for an at-large bid or a higher NCAA Tournament seed on Selection Saturday.