The NCAA Men’s Water Polo Committee announced today the seven teams in the running to take home the 2019 National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship. USC will look to go back-to-back but will first have to go through Bucknell/Harvard and then Stanford before reaching the final.
The top two seeds have been placed in the bracket; the remaining five teams will compete for the last two berths in the bracket via three opening-round games. The opening-round games will be contested Nov. 30, hosted by Harvard, and Dec. 5, hosted by Pacific, which will also host the championship to be held Dec. 7 and 8. The semifinal and championship games will be played at the Chris Kjeldsen Aquatic Center in Stockton and streamed live on NCAA.com.
Conferences receiving automatic qualification included the Collegiate Water Polo Association (UC Davis), Golden Coast Conference (Pepperdine), Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (Stanford), Northeast Water Polo Conference (Harvard) and the Western Water Polo Association (Bucknell). The remaining two teams were selected at-large without geographical restrictions (USC & Pacific).
In the first opening-round game, Harvard (29-0) will host Bucknell (22-8). The winner will advance to the second opening-round game to play Southern California (14-5), with the winner advancing to the championship bracket to play Stanford (19-2) at Pacific. In the third opening-round game, Pepperdine (24-7) will play UC Davis (16-7) at Pacific, with the winner advancing to the championship bracket to play Pacific (16-5) also at Pacific. Game times for the opening-round games are listed on the bracket. Game times for the semifinals are 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time Dec. 7, and the championship game will be played at 6 p.m. Eastern time Dec. 8.
There is often some controversy surrounding the at-large selections and rankings, due to the committee approach that the college system adheres to. This year is no different. USC has secured an at-large bid after loses to UCSB & Cal (teams not featuring in this years NCAA tournament).
Pacific has secured the easiest run to the final after losing to Stanford twice & UCLA. More importantly, Pacific finished 4th in the GCC championship over the weekend, dropping games to Long Beach State & UCSB (both teams not featuring in this years NCAA tournament).
With the current format, weaker teams will continue to sneak into the tournament while extremely strong teams capable of making a run in the tournament, such as #3 UCLA will continue to miss out. Instead of seeing the best 7 teams battling it out in 6 fiercely competitive games, we will see a few consolation games with one interesting semi final and many blowouts. For example:
- 2018: Long Beach State 12 Pomona Pitzer 5
- 2018: UCLA 18 George Washington 6
- 2018: Stanford 16 UCSD 7 (Semi-Final)
- 2017: USC 16 Harvard 4