As you can see, while Stanford has a sizeable lead, the second through sixth place teams are all closely bunched in the standings. With men's golf, women's rowing, softball, men's and women's track and baseball still ongoing, the "teams remaining" column refers to how many of those sports each school will receive points for. (Shortcut: I counted only ranked track teams, though schools, including Stanford, may get a modest score from an unranked track team at the NCAA Finals.) The purpose of the above table is to show that Michigan, Penn State and UNC won't have enough points outstanding to catch the Cardinal, already ahead by 230 points and still looking to add to their total. Instead, this is a three school race…
|MGOLF||34.5 (T-37th)||49 (25th)||48 (26th)|
|WROW||34 (10th)||0||63 (6th)|
|SOFT||50 (17th)||83 (3rd)||50 (17th)|
|MT&F||30||80 (4th)||55 (19th)|
|WT&F||66 (11th)||85 (3rd)||61.5 (14th)|
|BASE||0||25 (33rd)||64 (9th)|
Schools can only score 10 sports for each gender, so the over column reflects those adjustments. (NACDA has yet to make this adjustment, which is why their scores differ from ours.) We project Stanford will forfeit its points for women's lacrosse (53), softball (50), rowing (34) and field hockey (25) and that Florida will forfeit points for women's cross country (51). UCLA scored 50 points in women's baskeball and volleyball and is projected to score another 50 in softball, so it would lose two of those totals for an 100-point deduction.
Where We Stand
Stanford has gone from slight underdog to even-money to comfortable favorite in a span of weeks. The turn of events has proven the adage that one in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Just two weeks ago, we projected Florida to finish at 1,332.5 points. Instead, they have hit a rough stretch when they could least afford to. In these last two weeks, the Gators have lost nearly 100 points, due to women's lacrosse, women's tennis and men's golf all coming in well under their seedline, women's softball and baseball now each standing one loss from elimination, and men's track falling from No. 1 in the polls. By contrast, most of Stanford's points are already in the books. Plus, the Cardinal's few recent results have, in the aggregate, met projections. Women's tennis provided a 36-point bump by winning as a No. 12 seed, more than erasing men golf's disappointing slide from ninth to 37th, while women's golf finished right at their seeding.
What to Watch For
Currently outstanding sports are bolded. For Stanford, the single biggest key will be the men's NCAA track finals, June 5-8 in Eugene. Three Cardinal men have qualified for 24-man event finals in which the top eight participants score. If any of Stanford's three men can score, then Stanford will place in the sport, and receive on the order of 30 points. That boost would provide some key breathing room in the chase for the Card's 19th straight Director's Cup. (Women's track and women's rowing are projected to finish higher, but they're less crucial right now because of the 10-sport gender limit. Even if these women flameout, Stanford has enough scores in reserve from other women's teams such that the point dropoff would not be that severe.)
Conversely, If the Gators or Bruins want to reverse 18 years of history, they will also need to finish more than 31 or 94 points, respectively, ahead of their projections.
For Florida, men's track, women's track and softball are projected to finish in the top five, so winning a national championship in one of those sports would net them only an additional 17 points on average (and, when the bar is that high, it's more likely that they fail to meet their seeds). With Florida baseball bowing out in the first round of NCAA play, the Gators will need a combination of Stanford men's track going scoreless and top-five finishes in their three outstanding sports. Still, they aren't out of it yet.
UCLA's remaining sports are projected at about 55 points on average, so there is more upside potential. Still, the Bruins are far enough back it would take a highly unlikely near-sweep of top-five finishes in their four remaining sports, plus some slow times from Stanford men's track.
The fat lady may not be singing, but with Stanford in front and the calendar winding down, she's starting to warm up. To lose, it would take a weak Stanford finish coupled with a perfect storm by UCLA, or a Florida finish as strong as their last two weeks were weak. Conversely, Stanford could deliver a mear-knockout punch by either placing in men's track, or watching anything go wrong for their opponents, such as UCLA baseball failing to advance out of this weekend, or Florida falling short in softball or men's or women's track. It's not yet certain, but Stanford most likely will be claiming a 19th straight Directors' Cup, albeit by a more modest margin.
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