November 16, 2022

Road to Houston Paved: Men’s Playoff Preview

Division I
A brutally competitive regular season has produced an unpredictable playoff bracket, evidenced already by a pair of nailbiter play-in games, as Fairfield bested Siena 31-29 Saturday, earning a quarterfinal with Big Rivers champion Thomas More. And Big Rivers runner-up Wheeling held off Southern Conference champion Belmont Abbey, 19-13, to earn a final-eight date with top-ranked Brown.

Thomas More is a tough draw for the Stags. But the Saints will be missing a pair of first-round Major League Rugby Draft picks in Matias Caramuti and Tomas Casares, who have joined their respective pro clubs already. Thomas More is the reigning Division II national champion, and since moving to DI this fall, the Saints haven't lost. 

The Brown Bears have steamrolled to a Liberty Conference championship their first season in the league, pitching four shutouts en route to 10-0. Led by All-American, captain forwards Ollie Corbett (lock) and Daniel Archer (prop), Brown is among the favorites to challenge defending champion St. Bonaventure for the national title.

The Bonnies enter the playoffs as the second seed out of the Rugby East, the toughest conference in the country, finishing league play with one more loss than Queens. The Royals will look to improve on their quarterfinal exit last season. Queens sees American International College in the first round. The Yellow Jackets entered the Liberty championship game a perfect 6-0, having swept their division, before falling 32-14 to Brown. 

The Bonnies get Indiana, which swept the Big Ten, despite not having a pair of their best playmakers in Will Chevalier and Noah Brown for the conference championship because they were debuting for the United States national team at the famed Hong Kong 7s. Depending on whether or not they stick with the Eagles through the next stop of the HSBC Sevens World Series, they could be back in action for the Hoosiers this fall.

Division I Brackets

Division I-AA
Four different teams have held the top ranking in DI-AA this season, and just two of them remain in the hunt for a national title; preseason No. 1 Virginia Tech and current No. 1 Louisville. Bowling Green, which spent more time atop the coaches poll than anyone else, was bounced from postseason contention after falling 33-17 to Louisville Sunday in the MAC championship game, ending the Falcons’ impressive streak of consecutive conference titles.

The other team to reach No. 1 this season was Clemson, the Tigers spending just one week atop the polls. They miss out on the postseason, having finished third in the SCRC, falling to second-place South Carolina 12-10 in October. As a result, the Gamecocks draw Louisville in the quarterfinals. 

SCRC champion Tennessee ran the table in league play this fall, earning a first-round match-up with Virginia Tech. The Hokies enter the postseason a bit of an anomaly at 3-7. They compete in the Rugby East, the toughest DI conference in the country and the source of all seven of their losses, but are a DIAA side. The Hokies are 2-0 this fall against DIAA competition,

JMU comes in as the second seed out of the Mid-Atlantic, falling to St. Joe’s 31-15 Saturday in the conference championship game. The Dukes draw Binghamton, the top seed out of the Liberty with a 6-3 record. There are two Liberty/MARC pairings in the opening round, as MARC champion St. Joe’s faces Liberty second-seed UMass.

Division I-AA Brackets

Division II
A new Division II national champion will be crowned in the coming weeks. With four play-in games over the weekend, several teams have already been eliminated from the postseason, and the last handful of tickets to the round of 16 have been punched.

Mira Costa met Montana State in Orem, Utah, winning 22-15 to earn a first-round match-up with Northern Lights champ Minnesota-Mankato. Great Midwest third seed Loyola (IL) defeated Gateway second seed Washington University (MO) 68-0 to face Auburn in the opening round. The Tigers defeated Memphis Saturday to win the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference. 

Tri-State champ Marist bested New England Wide third seed Coast Guard 32-31 for a round-of-16 meeting with reigning 7s national champion and Mid-Atlantic champion Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who have the most wins among ranked teams. In New Jersey, Cardinals champ Virginia slipped past Mid-Atlantic second seed Villanova 33-31. In Findlay, Ohio, Mideast winner Miami (OH) defeated Great Lakes champ Grand Valley State 34-5 to advance to the first round against Vermont.

The Catamounts upset then-top-ranked Norwich 25-7 to win the New England Wide championship a couple of weeks back. Norwich is still into the Round of 16, facing Mid-Atlantic champion Georgetown. Led by captain and All-American Mark Kearny, the Hoyas are a contender to make it to Houston.

Entering the postseason atop the rankings is Principia. The Thunder Chickens have dominated the regular season, scoring over 50 points every game and winning the Gateway championship by 75 points over Central Missouri. Coming off a National 7s Championship with key backs, scrumhalf RJ Beach and fullback Brian Arnold, IUP also looks like a contender.

Division II Brackets

Small College
With 20 different conference champions and runners-up having to contest myriad play-in matches and brackets, the field vying for the Small College national championship has been narrowed to 16. Defending national champion Christendom was knocked off in one of those play-in matches, the Mid-South Qualifier against 2009 national champion Coastal Carolina, where the Chanticleers won an instant classic, 41-40.

There was also drama in the South Cup Qualifier final Sunday, as Sewanee bested Southeastern Louisiana 45-41 on the last play of the game. Both teams had to win on Saturday to make the final, Sewanee upsetting VMI 27-24, and Southeastern Louisiana defeating Tennessee Tech 36-26.

Up next for Sewanee is Potomac Champ Catholic, which bested Widener 34-26 to advance through the Mid-Atlantic A Qualifier. In the Mid-Atlantic B, Susquehanna rolled up back-to-back wins over Gettysburg and Loyola to make the next round, where Coastal Carolina awaits. 

In New York, Lake Effect champion Geneseo defeated Upstate champ Plattsburgh 42-5 to meet Colonial Coast champion Endicott in the Round of 16. In New England, Tri-State champ Hofstra beat New England Wide champ Springfield 26-15 to earn a match with NERFU champ Maine-Orono. 

Wayne State won consecutive games against Moorhead State and Wisconsin-Stevens Point to advance to the Round of 16 against Allegheny champs Franciscan, which beat Mid-East top seed Xavier 7-0 in the East Qualifier. Slotting straight into the West side of the bracket are Northwest champ Western Oregon, who face 2021 runner-up New Mexico Tech. Also meeting in Orem, Utah are Northern Cal champ Cal Poly Humboldt and High Peaks’ Colorado School of Mines.


Small College Brackets


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