March 1, 2017
Last night, the NCAA announced the list of qualifiers to the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, to be held March 10-11 at Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Tex. We already broke down what it took to make it in the distance events compared to years past, and today we’ll take a more detailed look at the entries and their implications for the team competition.
Scored track meets can be hard to follow, but we’ve done our best to give you a starting point by scoring the meet based on the entry lists. To create the chart below, we simply looked at the entries and assigned points to the top eight seeds according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system used at NCAAs. In the event of a tie, we split the points as the NCAA would (eg. if two athletes tied for seventh, each would earn 1.5 points). We’ve listed the top seven men’s teams below.
Here are the events in which each school has an athlete(s) entered but not projected to score:
Florida: 400 (#9 and #11), 800 (#10), weight throw (#15)
Oregon: 60 (#11), mile (#13), 3k (#13), 60 hurdles (t-#10), DMR (#9), heptathlon (#13)
Arkansas: 60 (#15), 200 (t-#10), 400 (#13), long jump (t-#11), heptathlon (#15)
Texas A&M: pole vault (t-#14)
Virginia Tech: mile (#10), DMR (#11),
Alabama: 5k (#14), 60 hurdles (t-#14), shot put (#16), weight throw (#14)
Georgia: shot put (#9), weight throw (#9), heptathlon (#10)
Look at the table above and you’ll see why Oregon has triple-entered Edward Cheserek individually in the mile, 3k and 5k. Even with Edward Cheserek tripling (and it is possible that he quadruples – he’s also listed in the DMR), Florida is projected to outscore the Ducks by over 20 points. That means Oregon needs every point possible from Cheserek if it is to win its fourth straight title. At the NCAA scoring level this year indoors, Oregon’s entire team is basically Edward Cheserek. The only other projected scorer they have on the team is long jumper Damarcus Simpson, who was a 2-time NCAA D2 champ at Chadron State before transferring in.
If you want to say that the most events Cheserek can win is three, then it makes most sense to enter him in the mile, 3k and 5k. With that workload, Oregon could get up to 30 points from Cheserek and whatever it manages on the DMR (where they have two other 3:58 milers). Replace one of Cheserek’s individual events with the DMR and you get a better chance of winning the DMR but you lower Oregon’s ceiling. And if Oregon is to pull the upset, it needs to maximize its possible points.
But to win, it’s possible Oregon decides to quadruple Cheserek. The hardest part of a potential quadruple is the fact that the 5000 and DMR are back to back events (5000 starts at 8:20, DMR at 8:55 so there is about 20 minutes’ worth of rest), but Cheserek already proved he could handle that short turnaround last year. Adding in a fourth event, the mile, means Cheserek has to run two more races but the mile is the first event both days so there is a lot of rest. How much more tired does someone like Edward Cheserek, a 3:52 miler, become from having to add in a mile prelim 2.5 hours before he does the 5000 and DMR final on day 1 and a mile final some two hours before the 3000 final on day 2? Remember, he killed everyone in the 3000 final last year.
It’s a very different situation than the last two years. Last year, Oregon scored 62 to runner-up Arkansas’ 39. Running Cheserek in the DMR was a luxury, something the coaches let him try because he wanted to try it. Likewise, in 2015 Oregon scored 74 to runner-up Florida’s 50. As in 2016, Oregon still needed some points from Cheserek to win the title, but it wasn’t necessary for him to run three events even though he did that anyway (mile, 3k, DMR).
Unlike the past two years, however, Oregon isn’t projected to win the meet. In 2017, Oregon returns just 30 of its 62 points from NCAA Indoors last year but they are all tied to Cheserek – Cheserek in the 3k (10), Cheserek in the 5k (10) and the DMR, featuring Cheserek (10). That’s it. Even if you give Cheserek wins in the mile, 3k and 5k this year and give Oregon the win in the DMR, Florida is still projected to outscore the Ducks, 53-45. Oregon does have six additional athletes/relays that aren’t projected to score (more than any title contender), but to win, they’ll need those guys to have a great meet (in particular sophomore Matthew Maton, who is entered in the mile and 3k) and hope that Florida drops points. The former may come to pass (Oregon exceeded projections by an average of 13 points the last two years), but the latter will require some luck. Perhaps the Gators’ superfrosh Grant Holloway (#1 seed in 60 hurdles, #2 seed in long jump, also listed on Florida’s #2 seed 4×400) feels the pressure and has a poor meet. But Florida is the favorite, no doubt about it.