NAIA Ramblings of Jason Dannelly from 11/7/2005: Playoff Picture Taking Form

So who is in?  Right now my crystal ball tells me, Carroll, St. Francis, Morningside, and  Sioux Falls are definately in the playoffs.  Georgetown, Tabor, and St. Xavier are highly likely to make it into the Championship Series as long as they do not fall off the face of the earth this week and lose big to their final opponents.  Georgetown has the toughest game with Cumberlands, but their #5 ranking will keep them from falling out of contention with a loss to the Pats.
I would also say that Azusa Pacific is also a team that is highly likely to make it to the post season as well as Dickinson State.  APU does have a very tough game on the road at Valley City, which they could lose.  But I do not feel the NAIA Coaches will punish APU for a road loss in North Dakota by dropping them out of the Top 20 and killing their post season hopes.  VCSU is a quality opponent and a loss will not hurt APU badly enough to keep them from the post season.  Dickinson State has the conference tie breaker and does not play this week.  Seemingly they should not drop.


There are a lot of teams on the bubble right now and their final regular season games will either get them in the post season or hold them out.  McKendree, MidAmerica Nazarene, Walsh, Cumberlands, Evangel, Pikeville, Montana Tech, Graceland, St. Ambrose, Valley City, Geneva, Webber International and Bethel TN are sitting on the fence.  So without further delay, here’s a breakdown of what I think will happen with the post season in the final game of the year.
Who has a 100% chance they are in:
Carroll, St. Francis, Morningside, Sioux Falls


This Week’s Game Analysis
The remaining games are up for grabs.  Many will argue that some of these teams are in for sure, but in the last four seasons the final week of the season has been very interesting.  Here’s a rundown of the remaining contenders.
#5 Georgetown @ #12 U Cumberlands:  Georgetown can lose a close game and still make it to the post season.  However if they get blown out, raters will send them packing with three losses. The more interesting story is how far Cumberlands would drop with a loss.  If GT is the #5 team in the country one would like the Patriots would not drop much.   Cumberlands needs a great performance to make it to the post season.  They will be one of two teams waiting on the bubble Likely Outcome:  GT is in, Cumberlands has about a 50% chance.


#6 Tabor vs. Saint Mary:  Same deal as GT.  Tabor could lose and make the playoffs, but they cannot afford to get blown out.  Likely Outcome: Tabor is in.
#7  Saint Xavier vs. Saint Francis IL:  Repeat as previous two.  SXU is likely to be in the post season even with a loss to St. Fran.  Likely Outcome: SXU is in.


#8  McKendree @ Trinity International:  A big loss could eliminate McKendree, but it doesn’t look to be likely.  TIU is not the TIU of the past two seasons and the Bearcats will control this game.  Likely Outcome:  McKendree is in
#9 MidAmerica Nazarene @ #16 Graceland:  MNU is probably the final team in the Top 25 that could lose this week and make the post season.  GU is on the door step and must win to get in.  If GU wins they are in, if not they are held out for one more season.  Likely Outcome:  MNU in, GU sent packing.


#10 Azusa Pacific @ #18 Valley City State:  An upset in this game by VCSU would totally screw up the entire playoff picture.  The Vikings would likely vault up several spots in the poll to get an at-large berth while APU would hold on to their Independent berth.  A HUGE loss by APU could drop them out of the top 20 and open the door for #22 Webber International.  Likely Outcome: APU wins, VCSU and Webber left looking in.
#11 Walsh vs #2 St. Francis IND:  USF is in regardless of the outcome.  However a win by Walsh would keep the Cavs in the mix for post season play.  Unfortunately USF will not lose this game and Walsh will be like Cumberlands, on the bubble waiting for the selections.  Likely Outcome:  Walsh has a 50% chance.


#13 Evangel vs Central Methodist:  A loss will keep Evangel from the post season.  CMU has the ability to knock off the Crusaders, but I do not see it happening this week.  Likely Outcome: Evangel is in.
#14  Pikeville vs. Shorter:  A loss will kill Pikeville, a close win might not help much either.  They have about a 90% chance of making the post season as long as APU does not lose to Valley City State.  Based on my knowledge of that game, the odds will be in Pikevilles favor.  Likely Outcome: Pikeville is in.


#15 Montana Tech @ Montana Northern:  Tech must win or they are done.  Northern will give them everything they have to keep them from the post season, but the return of Aaron Johnson might be enough to get the Orediggers past the Lights.  However, APU must beat VCSU to guarantee a bid.  Likely Outcome: Tech has a 70% chance to make it to the post season.
#17 St. Ambrose vs Olivet Nazarene:  SAU needs a big win to impress voters to move them past the possible losses by Cumberlands and Walsh.  If this game is close, SAU is probably done.  Likely Outcome: SAU has a 30% chance at making it.


#19 Dickinson State BYE:  Likely Outcome: As long as something screwy does not take place Dicky is in with a #20 rating or higher.
#20 Geneva vs Urbana:  Geneva has less than a 20% chance of making the post season even with a win against Urbana.  They would essentially have to vault to #15 in the ratings and hope that SAU, Walsh, Cumberlands, Evangel, and Graceland all lose.  It is possible, but not likely.  Likely Outcome: Geneva to the NCCAA’s Victory Bowl?


#24 Bethel @ Cambellsville:  Bethel has a shot to make the playoffs.  They first need to win.  VCSU needs to lose, Graceland must lose, Geneva must lose, a loss by Webber would help as well as SAU.  It could happen, but it will be the toughest shot of everyone in contention. Bethel has to pray for some blowouts  Likely Outcome: Bethel wins, and waits to find out.
Jason’s Coaches Poll Final Top 25 Prediction
#1 Carroll
#2 St. Francis
#3 Morningside
#4 Sioux Falls
#5 Georgetown
#6 Tabor
#7 St. Xavier
#8 McKendree
#9 MidAmerica Nazarene
#10 Azusa Pacific
#11 Evangel
#12 Pikeville
#13 Montana Tech
#14 Walsh
#15 Cumberlands
#16 St. Ambrose (left out)
#17 Dickinson State (automatic conference champion)
#18 Geneva
#19 Graceland
#20 Northwestern IA
#21 Valley City State
#22 Bethel TN
#23 Kansas Wesleyan
#24 Webber International
#25 Black Hills State


First Round Matchups Predictions
#17 Dickinson State @ #1 Carroll:  The Dickinson State will bus to Helena as the defending champs will bid for homefield all through the playoffs.
#15 Cumberlands @ #2 St. Francis:  Another bus trip which the NAIA will like to see because of the costs of Chartered Planes.  USF will bid for homefield and get it as well.


#9 MidAmerica Nazarene @ #3 Morningside:  Morningside will not travel this season unless they are forced to.  Crowds at Elwood Olsen Stadium have been great revenue makers for the football team.
#8 McKendree @ #4 Sioux Falls:  Relatively good travel costs will put McKendree in a bus to USF.  The Coo will play at Howard Wood field and also bring in a lot of revenue.


#14 Walsh @ #5 Georgetown:  If Walsh makes it, they will be on the road unfortunately.  It would be great to see the Cavs get a home game at the Hall of Fame, but it doesn’t look likely.
#6 Tabor @ #11 Evangel:  Easy bus ride on the road for Tabor.  The Jays are trying for a homegame, but Evangel’s home stadium presents a lot better revenue stream to help for travel costs.  Plus, I do not think the NAIA is crazy about playing a post season game away from Tabors campus.


#12 Pikeville @ #7 St. Xavier:  Nice matchup between the Mid South and MSFA.  With this trip being about 550 miles, Pikeville will be on a bus to Chicago.
#13 Montana Tech @ #10 Azusa Pacific:  The only plane ride in the country for the first round of the playoffs.  If the NAIA can save money by doing this, they certainly will try this way all the other schools can be reimbursed for post season play.


There is no real science to any of this.  Most of it is educated guesses base on previous years outcomes, matchups, and ratings.  Trust me, I will be proven wrong because at this point in time I am like the 40,000 people who visit this web site each week:  I am just a fan.
Take care everyone and lets not try to kill each other this week!

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