2004 Tournament preview

By Pat Coleman
Publisher, D3hoops.com

If the committee wanted to take the public's attention away from the way teams were placed in the brackets, mission accomplished. Compared to the people talking about the teams that weren't even selected, concerns over the unevenness of the brackets are secondary.

Unfortunately, we'll never know how well Wheaton (Ill.) would've done in this year's bracket. As a five or six seed, it's not at all impossible the Thunder would have rolled into Salem.

Instead we have a Pool C team from the SUNYAC and another from the Little East. Can't remember seeing those conferences in Salem the last seven seasons. The CCIW and UAA, which the committee snubbed, have been represented, however.

Oh well — I suppose we should concentrate on what they've left us.

West Regional

No. 10 Colorado College at No. 8 Pomona-Pitzer, winner to No. 1 Puget Sound
No. 9 Benedictine at No. 5 UW-Stevens Point, winner to No. 4 Gustavus Adolphus
No. 12 University of Dallas at No. 7 Sul Ross State, winner to No. 3 Trinity (Texas)
No. 11 Lakeland at No. 6 Lawrence, winner to No. 2 Buena Vista

The NCAA got itself a little Texas sub-bracket, saving itself some money in the progress. We knew there would be a West Coast sub-bracket once Colorado College presented itself as a viable tournament candidate, but Dallas only was viable if you consider 10 of its 25 games. So while Texas and the West Coast are each guaranteed a spot in the Sweet 16, the MIAC and WIAC are not. One will eliminate the other Saturday, assuming UW-Stevens Point gets by Benedictine.

Cinderella story: Usually we're trying to pick a team that has a shot to win two games on the road and make the Sweet 16. There aren't any great possibilities in this bracket, but Colorado College has a shot in the first round.

Most likely to disappoint: Gustavus Adolphus was hot this time last year as its run to Salem started. And they are once again, with 16 wins in 17 games. But to expect another long playoff run is a little unrealistic.

Who will win? This is the year the Northwest Conference breaks through. Puget Sound. You heard it here. Are we crazy? Maybe.

Great Lakes Regional

No. 9 Calvin at No. 8 John Carroll, winner to No. 1 Wittenberg
No. 10 Methodist at No. 5 Randolph-Macon, winner to No. 4 Maryville (Tenn.)
No. 12 Maryville (Mo.) at No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan, winner to No. 3 Hanover
No. 11 Potsdam State at No. 7 Penn State-Behrend, winner to No. 2 Wooster

By the way, this is a tough bracket. Just wanted to have that out front. When your No. 5 and 6 seeds are considered threats to make it to Salem that's a good sign, except that it means the bracket is unbalanced. Randolph-Macon has struggled since losing its point guard and will have had 11 days off to figure things out. They can't sleep on Methodist too long either. When Maryville (Tenn.) is your weakest team with a bye, that's a good sign.

Cinderella story: Calvin's the only one that can start on the road and reach the Sweet 16. Potsdam State could win its first round game but that would be it.

Most likely to disappoint: Someone will have to disappoint, there are too many good teams. We already have lowered expectations for Randolph-Macon because of the injury, but Illinois Wesleyan is poitsed to make Hanover the disappointment.

Who will win? Where's the sectional? Can Illinois Wesleyan pull off a big win at a raucous Wooster or Wittenberg? We think so.

Northeast Regional

No. 9 Lasell at No. 5 Trinity (Conn.), winner to No. 4 Brockport State
No. 12 Johnson and Wales at No. 7 Salem State, winner to No. 1 Williams
No. 11 St. John Fisher at No. 8 Hamilton, winner to No. 2 Rochester
No. 10 Babson at No. 6 Endicott, winner to No. 3 Keene State

There are eight Northeast region teams in this bracket and another three come in the next one. Williams and Rochester are the only consensus 2004 national contenders in this group. Tom Murphy will get a chance to pick up another win before he retires but Hamilton will be hard-pressed to get him a second tournament win.

Cinderella story: Lasell wears the glass high-tops.

Most likely to disappoint: Too many to count. Let's try Keene State.

Who will win? This is Williams' bracket to lose. They don't do so.

Mid-Atlantic Regional

No. 11 Lehman at No. 8 Lycoming, winner to No. 4 New Jersey City
No. 12 Castleton State at No. 7 Plymouth State, winner to No. 1 Amherst
No. 9 Elizabethtown at No. 5 Hampden-Sydney, winner to No. 3 Franklin and Marshall
No. 10 SUNY-Old Westbury at No. 6 Catholic, winner to No. 2 Gwynedd-Mercy

We'll get another early doozy in the bracket if Hampden-Sydney wins its opener and goes to Franklin and Marshall. (Hint, we'll be there to broadcast it.) But all five top seeds are threats to win this bracket, with the jury out on sixth-seeded Catholic. Castleton State is seeded 12 only because 304 wouldn't fit. That's where they stand in the Massey Ratings out of 372 teams. Even if Massey is off by 100 spots it's still a Cazenovia waiting to happen.

Cinderella story: The only possible team in this bracket to do so would be Elizabethtown.

Most likely to disappoint: Most people don't expect much from Gwynedd-Mercy so it would be unfair to pick them here. But we have to because nobody else is in a position to disappoint.

Who will win? Franklin and Marshall if they host the sectional. Amherst if it's anywhere else.

Final Four

Illinois Wesleyan vs. Puget Sound. IWU fans will like to liken this matchup to the Grinnell game in the 2001 playoff opener but remember, Puget Sound doesn't play Grinnell's system. It's not 132-91, but it's an IWU win.

Williams defeats Franklin and Marshall and continues Glenn Robinson's run of "not quite" in the Final Four. Or Williams defeats Amherst for the third time in four meetings.

Who will win? Williams vs. Illinois Wesleyan. Two traditional powers in Division III, a game to like. Each has been in the title game before and both are familiar with Salem.

Far be it from me to pick a repeat, but we take Williams. At the very least Holy Cross can say they lost at home to the best Division III team.