Rankings in Question: Whitman and Washington

by | March 9, 2012, 12:40pm 0

In the end of the 2011 regular season rankings, the Whitman Sweets and the University of Washington Sundodgers ranked #17 and #19 respectively, earning the Northwest Region two of the final three team strength bids to the College Championships.  Both teams went on to qualify for and win multiple games at the Championships.  By looking at their 2011 results, I hope to show what goes into the rankings, and illustrate important points that teams should consider.


In 2010, Whitman finished 10th in the old Northwest Region and 2nd at the Division III Championships, losing a close game to Carleton-GOP in the final.  Though they returned almost the entire 2010 team, Whitman wasn’t on many people’s radar as a contender for a Nationals bid.*  Whitman was not invited to any elite tournaments.

*After being given a spot in an early-season Skyd Power Rankings, anonymous commenters called them “completely unproven, and probably unqualified,” and told the Skyd staff that “Y’all must be out of your minds.”

Whitman won their first 11 games, thrashing local competition at the one-day Tacoma Invite, then playing several tough games against sub-elite teams en route to winning the Sanford Open and earning a bid to the Stanford Invite.  Whitman went 3-3 at the Invite, beating eventual Nationals qualifiers #11 Harvard and #19 Washington, and finishing 12th out of 18 teams.  Whitman finished the regular season by easily winning the PLU BBQ against midlevel competition.

Whitman finished the regular season with a rating of 1678.  Based on individual game ratings, Whitman’s five best performances were:

  • 13-8 win over #19 Washington (2059)
  • 14-12 win over #11 Harvard (2013)
  • 15-3 win over #50 Puget Sound (1965)
  • 13-5 win over #50 Puget Sound (1965)
  • 11-4 win over #59 UCLA (1913)

Whitman’s five worst performances were:

  • 15-10 loss to #16 San Diego State (1335)
  • 15-0 win over #167 Puget Sound B (1398)
  • 13-1 win over #167 Puget Sound B (1398)
  • 13-2 win over NR Washington State (~1398)*
  • 15-0 win over NR Pacific Lutheran (~1399)*

*The games against Washington State and Pacific Lutheran were not included in the final rankings because those teams did not properly submit their rosters.

It’s interesting to note that just as Whitman’s rating was hurt by blowout wins, Puget Sound B’s rating was helped by blowout losses.  Though one could make the case that Puget Sound B was the worst team in the country, their rank was far from the bottom.  In fact, they ranked behind only #130 Pittsburgh B and #145 Washington B among B teams.

The other game worth mentioning is the Stanford Invite 11th place game against #33 Stanford that Whitman forfeited.  With a small roster, Whitman probably would not have performed well in their seventh game of the weekend.  Forfeits are not computed into the rankings.


Washington is historically a strong program, and their 2011 season included only elite tournaments.

The Sundodgers started off strong at the Santa Barbara Invite, recording wins over #10 California-Santa Cruz, and #16 San Diego State before a 13-12 loss to #5 British Columbia in the final.  They then went 4-4 at the Presidents Day Classic, with a quality win over #13 Colorado College, but a close loss to #59 UCLA.

At the Sanford Invite, Washington didn’t beat any top 20 teams, but lost close games to #4 Colorado and #11 Harvard.  At College Centex, Washington started strong, but lost in the quarterfinals to #35 Kansas State, then lost big in the 5th place game to Texas A & M, who would have been ranked in the mid-30’s had roster issues not lead to their exclusion from the rankings.

Washington finished the season ranked 19th with a rating of 1636, earning their region the final strength bid to the College Championships.  By rating, Washington’s five best performances were:

  • 15-9 win over #16 San Diego State (2139)
  • 13-11 win over #10 California-Santa Cruz (2027)
  • 15-7 win over #48 Arizona (1985)
  • 17-15 win over #13 Colorado College (1973)
  • 13-8 win over #27 California-Davis (1964)

Washington’s five worst performances were:

  • 15-8 loss to NR Texas A & M (~978)*
  • 12-11 loss to #59 UCLA (1117)
  • 15-8 loss to #14 Texas (1182)
  • 12-10 loss to #35 Kansas State (1248)
  • 13-8 loss to #17 Whitman (1256)

*not included in the final rankings.

Two of Washington’s three worst performances came in the final consolation game of a tournament.  They lost 15-8 to Texas A & M in the 5th place game at Centex, lost 15-8 to Texas in the 13th place game at the Stanford Invite, and also hurt their rating with a 13-12 loss to #28 California-Santa Barbara in the 5th place game at Presidents Day (1345 game rating).

Based on my calculations, I believe that had Texas A & M’s results been included in the final rankings, Washington would have fallen behind #20 Michigan State, costing the Northwest Region a bid.


This analysis suggests the following two lessons for a team that is in contention to earn its region a strength bid:

  1. Don’t play really bad teams.  It’s not that important to play top-tier teams; you can get a lot of credit for solid wins over teams ranked around #50.   But any game against a team ranked in the triple digits is going to hurt your ranking just for stepping on the field.
  2. Consolation games count just as much as any other game.  If you open up your rotation and lose big, you may hurt yourself when it comes time for bid allocation.  If your team is banged up, it may be in your best interests to forfeit.

Bryan Jones’ will pick up with more ranking discussion on Tufts and Penn State over the weekend.

Featured image by Andrew Davis.

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