NCAA DII postseason bracket leaves out Savannah State, jumped in rankings by Lenoir-Rhyne
Savannah Morning News
The Savannah State football team's season is over after the Tigers, with one of their best records in years, were left out of the NCAA Division II postseason on Sunday.
The Tigers came into the weekend ranked No. 8 in Super Region Two, with the top seven teams in each of the four regions nationally advancing to the playoffs for 28 berths total. SSU was idle this weekend after 10 straight weeks of games, but hoped the 8-2 overall record and 5-1 mark in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference was impressive enough for the top seven.
Mars Hill, No. 6 in the most recent region ranking, fell to 8-3 with a 26-19 loss to Wingate on Saturday, likely creating an opening in the top seven.
When the NCAA DII selection show Sunday revealed the region's bracket, previous No. 9 Lenoir-Rhyne (8-2) was the new seventh seed.
"Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, (but) I'm not on the committee," Quinn said. "The biggest thing is I think we had a good enough resume at 8-2. We were an 8-2 team ahead of Lenoir-Rhyne and then they picked the 8-2 Lenoir-Rhyne team over us that was behind us in the rankings.
"I'm grateful for the year we had. I'm disappointed we didn't get in. I think we should have been in. I'm sure there are a bunch of other coaches that feel the same way I do."
Savannah State held a watch party for the 5 p.m. Sunday selection show with players, coaches, staff and families. Quinn said everyone was excited and having a good time until the bracket was revealed.
"It was a lot of fun up until the announcement, then it was like a funeral at that point," he said.
He thanked the seniors for their contributions of the past, and then talked with the underclassmen about the program's future. But this season also must have been dissected in discussions.
Lenoir-Rhyne has won six straight games, and has wins over Mars Hill 31-16 and Wingate 31-6. The losses were at current No. 6 seed Newberry, a 9-2 team, 28-21; and at UVA Wise, a 5-6 team, 35-28.
Quinn credited Lenoir-Rhyne for successfully campaigning to make the DII playoffs.
"They've got a good reputation. We're an up-and-comer," he said. "The committee said our league (SIAC) is not as worthy as the SAC 8 (South Atlantic Conference) is to be in the playoffs."
Savannah State's two losses were in the season opener at No. 1 seed Valdosta State, a 9-1 team, 53-7; and at No. 4 seed Albany State, a 10-1 team, 30-0 on Oct. 23.
"Obviously, our losses were factored heavier than our wins were," Quinn said.
Albany State went on to win the East Division ahead of SSU and a berth in the league championship game Saturday, when it beat Miles 31-0.
Valdosta State (9-1), which was No. 2 in the most recent AFCA coaches national poll, earned the bye as the region's top seed despite losing Saturday at West Florida. No. 2 Bowie State (10-1) will host Lenoir-Rhyne (8-2); and No. 3 and defending national champion West Florida (9-1) will host Newberry (9-2). VSU will host the winner of 2 vs. 7 on Nov. 27.
Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne represent the South Atlantic Conference, Albany State the SIAC.
"Obviously, our league is not held in high enough regard yet," Quinn said. "We had some other good wins. For whatever reason, those weren't taken into consideration. We weren't given the opportunity to get into the playoffs, so obviously (we're) disappointed. I'm new to this process, our team is. We've got to find a way to win nine or 10 games instead of eight to make sure we get in this time next year."
Now Savannah State is in the conversation when the committee meets each week to rank the region's teams.
"It's baby steps," Quinn said. "I'm not big on moral victories. You're either in or out. We're outside looking in, so that's bittersweet. I felt like we have a good enough football team that we can compete with anybody if we played well. Obviously, in our two losses we played poorly. We needed to win the Albany State game to get in."
Playing Valdosta State, a perennial power and one of the top teams in the national rankings all season, toughened SSU's strength of schedule. Quinn said an in-state opponent from a powerful conference like the Gulf South is a better strategy than scheduling an FCS program, as zero consideration is given to by the committee to games outside of DII.
"We played the best team (Valdosta) in America according to everybody; we picked the hardest one," Quinn said. "We've got to be smart in who we schedule. We've got to play those guys in the regular season or playoffs at some point — them and West Florida and West Georgia."
Quinn also has long argued that the SIAC allow teams to play an 11-game schedule, giving all of them one more chance to add a victory.
SSU has felt on the other side of SIAC decisions such as in 2019, when it went 7-3 overall and 5-0 in the league to win the East Division but did not play for the SIAC title. League members had voted before the season that because SSU was transitioning to DII and not eligible for the playoffs, should it happen to win the division, another team would represent the East.
The SIAC canceled the 2020 fall sports season because of the COVID-19 pandemic when SSU figured to have a strong team returning.
"The biggest thing we've got to do is win," Quinn said. "The other stuff is out of our hands. Obviously, it's been disappointing the decisions over the last couple of years that went against us. I give our guys credit. Our team's been competing and finding a way to win.
"We've got to just keep winning and force it where people can't keep us out of things. For the committee to not pick us, that was their decision. We've just got to come back with a better body of work next time. We've also got to know how to work our end of it to make sure we're highlighted and we're in the forefront of people's minds to be selected like some other schools were."
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NathanDominitzhttps://www.savannahnow.com/story/sports/college/football/2021/11/14/savannah-state-tigers-not-selected-ncaa-division-ii-playoffs/8619210002/