2016 Men’s NCAA XC Regionals Preview: Find Out Who’s Projected to Qualify for NCAAs, and Why Oregon & Colorado Could Be the Keys

*What do you think? Vote in the 2016 LetsRun.com Regional Polls.

By LetsRun.com
November 9, 2016

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, the fields for the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be set. All nine of the NCAA Regional Championships will have concluded by then; all that will remain is for the results to be published and the proper formulas applied to generate the 31 men’s and 31 women’s teams that will head to Terre Haute’s LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on November 19 for the Big Dance.

We here at LetsRun.com expect to be able to publish the NCAA qualifiers within minutes of the final results being posted thanks to the amazing computer program of former Duke runner and Olympic Trials qualifier (and Harvard Ph.D. candidate) Bo Waggoner. On Friday, we’ll be running the program all day long and updating the fields after each of the regional results come in.

Friday is one of the best days to be a college cross country fan, but it’s also one of the most hectic. To prepare you for all the races, we’ve used Bo’s program to project the qualifiers for NCAAs based on results up to this point and the most recent USTFCCCA Regional Rankings (men here, women here). The men’s projections are below; we’ll have the women’s projections in a separate article that will come out Thursday.

After projecting the fields, we previewed each region. You can find those previews, including links to live results (where applicable), below. If you want a quick and dirty summary, scroll all the way to the bottom where we’ve outlined the key regions in two sentences.

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If the regionals go according to form, this is who will be in NCAAs.

Automatically selected (projected to finish top-two at Regionals)
1. Wisconsin
2. Michigan State
3. Georgetown
4. Penn
5. Oklahoma State
6. Iowa State
7. Northern Arizona
8. BYU
9. Syracuse
10. Iona
11. Ole Miss
12. Middle Tennessee State
13. Arkansas
14. Texas
15. Virginia
16. NC State
17. Stanford
18. UCLA

At-large teams*
19. Providence
20. Tulsa
21. Indiana
22. Eastern Michigan
23. Bradley
24. Colorado
25. UTEP
26. Colorado State
27. Southern Utah
28. Michigan
29. Oregon
30. Portland
31. Washington State

*It was necessary to make a few assumptions based on whether a school was running an A team or a B team at a certain regular season meet. Check out this article for the logic behind why each team was selected: *LRC  2016 NCAA Regional Projections Assuming Everything Goes According To Form

Total bids by region
6: Mountain
5: West, Great Lakes
4: Midwest
3: Northeast
2: South, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, South Central

Ranked Team That Will Be Left Out
No. 20 Boise State (Boise State would be the first team out under the formula)

Unranked Teams That Would Be Dancing
Texas (#35 in the votes)
Bradley (no votes)

Below, you’ll find analysis of all nine regions. There’s a quick cheat sheet of the teams/regions to watch for at the bottom of the article.

# = team is projected to qualify for NCAAs

South Regional
Live results *
Official site
Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee, Florida
Start times: 8:30 a.m. ET (women); 9:30 a.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 11 Ole Miss #
  2. No. 26 Middle Tennessee State #
  3. Florida State
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Samford

Ole Miss has made it to NCAAs in each of the past two years, but only because it resides in the talent-strapped South Region as they were just 30th last year and 29th in 2014. The Rebels will make a third straight trip to NCAAs in 2016, but they’re a far better team this time around: they won the Notre Dame Invite back in September and kept it fairly close (25-38) against a stacked Arkansas squad at SECs, putting six runners in the top 13. Sean Tobin (Notre Dame) and MJ Erb (Penn State National) have each won major invitationals this fall, and a top-10 finish at NCAAs is a real possibility (Ole Miss has never finished higher than 29th).

There’s more of a question at the #2 spot, where the three top contenders are Middle Tennessee State (2nd at Conference USA and led by freshman Jacob Choge, brother of 3:29/12:53 man Augustine Choge), Florida State (5th at ACCs) and Georgia (4th at SECs). It’s hard to get a good gauge on Middle Tennessee as the Blue Raiders didn’t face Florida State during the regular season and didn’t run at Wisconsin or Pre-Nats. They beat Georgia, 63-81, at the Commodore Classic, but that came all the way back on September 17. According to our model, whether Middle Tennessee, Florida State or Georgia grabs the #2 spot, it won’t make much of a difference in the at-large projections. It will make a huge difference to the schools in this region, however, particularly Middle Tennessee, which would be making its first NCAA appearance, as it’s unlikely there will be an at-large team in this region.

Southeast Regional
Live results * Official site
Panorama Farms, Earlysville, Virginia
Start times: 11 a.m. ET (women); 12 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 16 Virginia #
  2. No. 27 NC State #
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. Kentucky
  5. Furman
  6. William & Mary
  7. Eastern Kentucky

Virginia, NC State and Virginia Tech, the top three teams in this region, all raced against each other two weeks ago at ACCs, with Virginia (2nd, 72 points) beating out NC State (3rd, 82) and Virginia Tech (4th, 128). Virginia and Virginia Tech also raced on October 17 at Penn State, with similar results: Virginia was 3rd with 78 points to Virginia Tech’s 125 (4th). Virginia also gets the advantage of running this race on its home course.

Normally the Southeast has a chance to send several at-large teams to NCAAs (it sent six in 2015), but Louisville, Furman and Eastern Kentucky have all taken steps back this year. According to our projections, both Virginia and NC State have enough points that a top-three finish should send them to Terre Haute. Virginia Tech, however, needs to finish in the top two.

Northeast Regional
Official site
Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, New York
Start times: 11 a.m. ET (women); 12 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 5 Syracuse #
  2. No. 7 Iona #
  3. No. 30 Providence #
  4. Columbia
  5. Dartmouth
  6. Yale
  7. Cornell
(left to right) Martin Hehir, Colin Bennie and Justyn Knight finishing third, second and first, respectively, at the NCAA Northeast Regional Cross Country Championships in Boston's Franklin Park on November 13, 2015 (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly) Syracuse went 1-2-3 at regionals last year before winning NCAAs a week later (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

Syracuse and Iona have dominated this region for years and that should continue on Friday. It gets more interesting at #3. Providence is the favorite, and the Friars are actually the first at-large team into the field as things currently stand (Portland, Washington State and Southern Utah all begin with more points, but those teams are initially blocked by other schools with fewer points). That creates a massive opportunity for the Ivy League schools — Columbia, Dartmouth and Yale. If Providence finishes fourth and one of them finishes third, they’ll almost certainly be pushed into NCAAs by Providence. Dartmouth has already beaten Providence once this year, but that was back on September 16 at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. Providence has improved tremendously since then: at Wisconsin, the Friars finished with the same number of points (486) as Ivy League champs Penn and handily beat Columbia (582), which in turn beat Dartmouth and Yale at Heps (Columbia scored 81, Dartmouth 115 and Yale 118). So for one of the Heps squads to make it, they’ll have to run well and hope for a bad (but not too bad) day by Providence.

This situation is very similar to last year, with Columbia playing the role of Providence. Columbia could have gone to NCAAs if it finished third or fourth, but the Lions were fifth, which meant they stayed home — and so did third-place Cornell and fourth-place Dartmouth. We’re sure all schools involved have memories of that day and will want to avoid the same fate in 2016.

South Central Regional
Live results * Official site
Agri Park, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men) 

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 6 Arkansas #
  2. Texas #
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Lamar
  5. UT Arlington
  6. Stephen F. Austin
  7. Baylor

It’s been 14 years since the South Central Region sent an at-large team to NCAAs, and barring a remarkable choke job by Arkansas, the drought will continue on Friday. The Razorbacks, as usual, should roll, securing their 42nd NCAA bid in the last 43 seasons (they missed in 2011). The battle for second should come down to the same two schools as last year, Texas and Texas A&M, but Texas A&M is at a greater disadvantage in 2016. Last year, the Aggies were coming off a shocking runner-up finish at SECs and had the benefit of running regionals on their home course. But Texas A&M was just 7th at SECs this year, while Texas finished in the same spot at Big 12s (3rd) as last year.

If you look a little further back, however, Texas A&M does have a shot to pull the upset as the Aggies finished just nine points behind the Longhorns at the Notre Dame Invite on September 30. Should the Longhorns qualify, they’d make their eighth successive trip to NCAAs; for the Aggies, it would be their first NCAA berth since 2011.

Mid-Atlantic Regional
Official site
Penn State Blue and White Courses, University Park, Pennsylvania
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 22 Georgetown #
  2. No. 28 Penn #
  3. Navy
  4. Princeton
  5. Villanova
  6. Penn State
  7. Duquesne

This region sent just two teams to NCAAs last year — Georgetown and Penn — and it’s looking as if those same two squads will be the only ones in Terre Haute next week. Georgetown, ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches’ poll, has largely been a disappointment this year, as Jonathan Green (5th NCAAs last year) has not raced since October 1 (we believe he’s injured) and All-American grad student Michael Clevenger has struggled as well (38th at NCAAs last year, but just 106th at Wisconsin this year). The good news: Scott Carpenter (14:06/8:40 st.) has emerged as a stud (Paul Short champ, 2nd to Patrick Tiernan at Big Easts) and the Hoyas are coming off their best race of the season at Big Easts, where they won with 33 points, putting six in the top 12. Clevenger (6th) looked closer to his old self in that race, and if he can continue to improve, the Hoyas could make some noise at NCAAs. They shouldn’t have a problem qualifying on Friday as they have beaten the #2 team in this region, Penn, twice already this season (by 31 points at Paul Short and 87 points at Wisconsin).

Penn, which is coming off its first Heps title since 1973, is the team most likely to grab the other auto bid. The Quakers ran well at Heps (38 points) and beat Navy, the #3 team in the region, at Paul Short, 146 to 184. But Navy ran well at conference (23 points, granted it came against the Patriot League) and it’s not inconceivable that the Midshipmen close the gap. Another team that has a shot to topple Penn is Heps rival Princeton. The Quakers spanked the Tigers at Wisconsin, 486 to 634, but at Heps, the Quakers’ margin of victory was just 13. Granted, there are far fewer teams at Heps (8) than Wisconsin (30), but Princeton put two in (William Paulson 2nd, Conor Lundy 3rd) before Penn’s #1 (Nicholas Tuck). If the Tigers can shore up the #5 spot (Princeton’s Noah Kauppila was 26th at Heps, while Penn’s #5, Patrick Hally, was 12th), they have a chance to pull the upset. Villanova, a recent power in this region, lost four of its top five from regionals last year. The Wildcats still have 2015 NCAA runner-up Patrick Tiernan but relied on freshman at #2/#3/#4 at Big Easts.

It’s important for Penn to finish second. While there are some scenarios where the Quakers get in by finishing third (depending on how the tiebreakers shake out), they won’t want to leave anything to chance.

Midwest Regional
Live resultsOfficial site
Ashton Cross Country Course, Iowa City, Iowa
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 9 Oklahoma State #
  2. No. 13 Iowa State #
  3. No. 23 Tulsa #
  4. Bradley #
  5. Minnesota
  6. South Dakota State
  7. Illinois

Bradley — yes, Bradley — is currently projected to be among the 31 teams on the line in Terre Haute a week from Saturday. The Braves (we had to look up their nickname) have never been to NCAAs. Heck, in the USTFCCCA poll archives (1995-2016), they’ve only ever received votes on one occasion (Week 5 of this year; Bradley received 10 votes, not enough to be ranked). But if the regional rankings hold, they’ll make it to the Big Dance thanks to wins over Texas, NC State and Eastern Michigan, all at the Notre Dame Invite.

There’s almost no scenario in which Oklahoma State doesn’t qualify for its 14th consecutive NCAA championship as it already has wins over both Iowa State (Big 12s) and Tulsa (Cowboy Jamboree) as well as three projected auto qualifiers (Virginia, Ole Miss and Texas x2). Iowa State is similarly well-positioned after finishing 8th at Wisconsin. Both the Cyclones and Tulsa (13th at Wisco) should advance even if they finish 4th. Bradley, however, is more dependent on results in other regions. If NC State or Eastern Michigan miss out — or if the order of finish is different in the Mountain/West Regions, Bradley could easily find itself sitting at home again.

Great Lakes Regional
Live results * Official site
Zimmer Championship Course, Madison, Wisconsin
Start times: 1 p.m. ET (women); 2 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 14 Wisconsin #
  2. No. 18 Michigan State #
  3. No. 21 Indiana #
  4. No. 25 Eastern Michigan #
  5. No. 29 Michigan #
  6. Purdue
  7. Ohio State
Wisconsin won its Wisconsin won its 48th Big 10 title this year (courtesy Badger Track & Field)

After missing out on NCAAs for the first time in 44 years in 2015, Wisconsin reclaimed its Big 10 title two weeks ago and will look to start a new NCAA qualifying streak on Friday. The Badgers’ chances are good as they have beaten all of the teams on the list above (Michigan State on two separate occasions) after an 11th-place showing at their home invite and a win at Big 10s. Wisconsin could conceivably finish 6th and still make it through.

The key team here is Indiana. All of the other projected qualifiers should accumulate enough points to qualify on their own. As long as Indiana finishes in the top four, it should either qualify automatically or be pushed in by the fourth or fifth placer. Indiana was third at Big 10s, comfortably ahead of Michigan (92-123) and 5th at Pre-Nats. In a normal year, 5th at Pre-Nats would qualify easily, but that’s not necessarily the case in 2016. At Pre-Nats, Indiana did beat UTEP, Air Force and Bradley, but as of now Air Force isn’t projected to get in and two points may not be enough. If the Hoosiers run as they did at Pre-Nats and Big 10s, however, they should finish well enough in Madison to extend their season.

Also worth noting: Eastern Michigan, which perfect-scored the MAC Championships (the Eagles’ seventh consecutive title) and is searching for its first NCAA bid since 2005.

Mountain Regional
Official site
Steve & Dona Reeder Cross Country Course, Logan, Utah
Start times: 1 p.m. ET (women); 2 p.m. ET (men) 

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 1 Northern Arizona #
  2. No. 3 BYU #
  3. No. 2 Colorado #
  4. No. 15 UTEP #
  5. No. 19 Colorado State #
  6. No. 24 Southern Utah #
  7. Air Force
NAU won Wisconsin and will go for its first national title next weekend NAU won Wisconsin and will go for its first national title next weekend (courtesy NAU XC/TF)

The nation’s top three teams — and six ranked teams in all — reside in the Mountain Region. They’ll almost certainly go 1-2-3 here, and while the order in which they finish is unimportant for them, it could be important for other schools. In particular, if Colorado auto-qualifies, that changes things. The current scenario has them getting an at-large bid, and they don’t get in until #24 (the sixth at-large spot), which leaves space for Bradley. But if the Buffaloes auto-qualify, that means either BYU or Northern Arizona will have to rely on an at-large spot. Both of them have far more points than the Buffs and would get in immediately at #19 (the first at-large spot). It’s a little complicated, but basically, all those teams from the Mountain Region that were waiting in line behind Colorado wouldn’t have to wait any longer and Bradley would wind up getting bounced.

Air Force finished fifth in this race a year ago but should make it to Terre Haute as long as it finishes in the top six as it will likely be pushed in by one of the ranked teams. The Falcons were third at the Mountain West meet, 13 points behind Colorado State.

West Regional
Live results * Official site
Haggin Oaks Golf Course, Sacramento, California
Start times: 2 p.m. ET (women); 3 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 4 Stanford #
  2. No. 8 UCLA #
  3. No. 10 Oregon #
  4. No. 12 Portland #
  5. No. 17 Washington State #
  6. No. 20 Boise State
  7. California
  8. Washington

This is another region with a lot of top teams, and, like the Mountain, the order of those top teams makes a big difference. If the current rankings hold, the West will send five teams. But if we change just one thing — bumping Oregon up to second and moving UCLA down to third — that total leaps up to eight! The reason: like Colorado in the Mountain, Oregon doesn’t have a lot of points to begin with, which creates a logjam behind them as none of the other teams can get in before Oregon. Often in this case, the #4 team, Portland, would push Oregon in, but because Oregon would eventually accumulate enough points to eventually get in on its own, that doesn’t happen. The result, however, is that Oregon doesn’t get in until the #29 position. Which leaves Boise State with 11 points (a massive total) but no NCAA berth.

Stanford, UCLA, Oregon and Portland are all going to get in as long as they finish in the top five. The teams ranked behind them — Washington State, Boise State, California and Washington — will be rooting for Oregon to auto-qualify, freeing up at-large spots for them. But bubble teams in other regions — such as Bradley, Southern Utah, Michigan — will be hoping the projections hold so that they can grab those at-large spots instead.

Pay Attention To …

If you read the whole preview, you know which schools/regions to look out for, but we’ll recap them quickly here.

  • Northeast: Syracuse and Iona are locks. Providence goes as long as it finishes in the top four; everyone else will need to finish in the top three and hope Providence (or Syracuse/Iona) pushes them in.
  • Mid-Atlantic: Almost certainly a two-bid region although Georgetown will go with a top-three finish. Penn, Villanova, Navy and Princeton need to finish in the top two as none of them has enough points to go at-large (Penn might get in as an at-large at #3 but it seems unlikely).
  • Midwest: Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Tulsa should all go. Bradley has a chance but needs things to break their way in other regions.
  • Great Lakes: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan and Michigan all have good chances to go. Indiana can go too but will need to beat at least one of those teams.
  • Mountain: Projected to send six and could send seven if Air Force finishes in the top six. It’s better for the bubble teams in this region if Colorado auto-qualifies (but bad for bubble teams in other regions).
  • West: Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, and Portland should all go. Washington State is in based on regional projections. If Oregon auto-qualifies, Boise State, California and Washington will all have a good chance to join the party. If Oregon finishes third or lower, that hurts bubble teams in the West but helps the at-large teams in other regions.

What do you think? Vote in the 2016 LetsRun.com Regional Polls. We’ll compile the votes and then run the computer program to see who gets in and who is left home after the fans’ vote.

LRC Who’s In? Who’s Out? 2016 NCAA Regional Projections Assuming Everything Goes According To Form

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