I don’t envy the 47 people who fill out ballots for the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association NCAA Division I poll every week, especially after what happened last weekend.
North Carolina, after staggering through the early part of its season, took down No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Duke in a three-day period.
That vaulted the Tar Heels from fifth to … second. Yep, second.
The team currently at the top of the NFHCA heap is the University of Connecticut, the sole unbeaten team in NCAA Division I. However, the Huskies are ahead by only one point over UNC, and the Tar Heels have 18 first-place votes, as opposed to Connecticut’s 14.
National polls for collegiate field hockey are kind of fun, allowing fans to debate the merits of their particular side. They aren’t supposed to affect selections to the end-of-season Division I Tournament.
But it seems that, given the clustering of votes at the top of the poll, there are four clear favorites for the NCAA final. These teams are Connecticut, North Carolina, Duke, and Syracuse. All four of these teams have at least five first-place votes in this week’s poll.
And in the metrics of the poll, these top four teams have a significant gap between themselves and the rest of the teams that received votes. Connecticut graded out at 860 points, North Carolina 859, Duke 848, and Syracuse at 842.
When you consider that 47 people vote in the poll (with 20 points for a first-place vote, 19 points for second, etc.), an 18-point margin between first and fourth is incredibly small. By the same token, the gaps from Syracuse to fifth-place Penn State (718) and sixth-place Northwestern (653) are enormous.
It will be interesting to see whether the NCAA Division I Tournament Committee will follow this same script when Selection Sunday occurs on Nov. 6.