For Minot State University head coach Mike Hultz, a self described "geek" when it comes to the rankings, the past two days must have been torture.
Hultz and his Beavers are on the very tippy-top of the proverbial bubble for the NAIA Division II national men's basketball tournament. And there are so many different scenarios that could pop that bubble. Hultz has surely gone over every one in his head starting the very minute MSU lost the Dakota Athletic Conference postseason tournament championship to Black Hills State Sunday afternoon.
But while there are plenty of bubble-bursting possibilities, there is one magical path. Just ask Sheila Green Gerding and the MSU women's team. Last year they came into the final poll as the last at large bid, and, sure enough, everything worked in their favor.
The men's path, however, might be more treacherous. The Beavers were one place out heading into the final poll, which is released after the postseason tournament instead of before the playoffs, as it was last year.
While it took more than a week to figure out the women's future, MSU has just a few hours to wait as the NAIA Division II national tournament bracket is set to be released around 3 p.m. today.
The final word is in the hands of the raters and if any of the 15 other raters (Hultz is the DAC's representative and is certainly aware of all this) are scouring the Internet to get some last minute advice, here are some things to think about.
Minot State won 20 games and is ranked 10th in the NAIA Division II by the Massey Ratings, which uses a win-loss outcomes relative to schedule difficulty system, according to (www.masseyratings.com).
The Beavers play in the fourth best conference in NAIA Division II according to the computer models. The DAC is 69th out of 144 teams overall including NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA Division I and II and Canadian teams ranked by the Wolfe Rankings.
MSU has wins over NAIA Division I top 25 teams in Rocky Mountain College (No. 21) and Montana State-Northern (No. 22), as well as wins over Dickinson State and South Dakota Mines when they were ranked in the NAIA DI poll.
Of their 11 losses, three are to No. 5 Black Hills State, including two on the road and one on a banked in buzzer beater. A loss to Calgary, the No. 5 ranked team in Canada, and losses to Rocky and MSU-Northern, the aforementioned ranked teams. Two other losses came at the hands of Dickinson and Mines, both who have been ranked and received votes this season.
The Beavers are the No. 2 team in the DAC, again, the No. 4 conference in the NAIA DII, a conference which deserves at least two as they have been respectable at the national tournament over the last five seasons.
The sheer amount of computer data supports the Beavers. While I have never been one to base everything on the computer and have taken my fair share of shots at the BCS system in college football, this is what it is. There isn't any way to compare the different teams' wins and losses when it comes to games against very different opponents. That is where the computer rankings come in.
For just about every team on the bubble with MSU, there is no common opponent. If there is, it might be one team. There is very little to discriminate between programs.
I think for the local fan, MSU provided a dilemma all season. It seemed like every time MSU would get some steam and head in the right direction, there was a hiccup. The Beavers were up and down at times and lost games we believed they should win. Hultz put it perfectly to me about two weeks ago. If MSU had won one more game, the Beavers probably wouldn't be on a bubble, they would be in. Two more wins, regardless of the DAC tournament outcome, it would basically be a done deal. That's how close this team was.
That is the microscope view of the season.
But take a step back and look at it as a rater should and judge the overall scope of the season. MSU's strength of schedule, the conference's strength, the amount of wins over quality opponents and quality losses, for lack of a better description, should be enough to send them to Branson, Mo.
Hopefully the rest of the raters are as big a geek as Hultz is on the computer. We will have to wait and see.
(Michael Linnell is the sports editor for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)