Division III Men's Tourney Expands to 30
The 2014 men's NCAA Division III tournament will feature 30 programs, a one-team increase over last year's bracket, according to Rob Randall, Nazareth's head coach and the chair of the selection committee this spring.
The increase will allow for two balanced brackets featuring one bye on each side. The North received a pair of byes last spring and the South earned just one. Division III is still two spots away from the magic number of 32 that could trigger a two-game, mini-regional format in the first round much like the Division III women have at this point.
The lone addition came in Pool A, which is reserved for automatic qualifiers. The eight-team North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is the newest member to the AQ stable. The NEAC is comprised of Bryn Athyn, Cazenovia, Keuka, Penn State-Abington, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNYIT, Morrisville State and Wells, although Penn State-Abington defaulted on its season in 2013 (and won't field a team in '14, according to athletic director Shawne McCoy). Keuka won its third consecutive NEAC title last year, but was not selected to the tournament as an independent.
The breakdown for the other two pools – Pool B (independents) and Pool C (at-larges) – remains the same as last year with each receiving five bids.
The five Pool B entrants had mixed results in 2013, with Otterbein and Colorado College losing by three goals apiece, although the other three squads lost by an average of 14 goals. This is likely the last year Pool B will enjoy such a large number of bids with the eight-team Southern Athletic Association and the seven-team MAC Freedom transitioning to Pool A in 2015.
It will once again be a fierce competition for the five at-large bids. The pendulum swung in the South's favor last spring as Dixie grabbed four of the five Pool C bids, aided by a down year from the NESCAC, which was held to one bid for the first time since 2005.