The 2022 NCAA DI National Championships at Detroits Little Ceasar's Arena (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Yesterday, the NCAA released conference allocations for the 2023 NCAA Championships. These numbers are the first part of the puzzle when putting together the 330 wrestlers who will compete at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma in mid-March.
Speaking of puzzles, I was initially stunned by the fact that the Pac-12 was only given two automatic qualifying slots at 149 despite having #5 Kyle Parco and #11 Jaden Abas, both with identical 21-4 records. A few hours later, it was revealed that the ACC had received one of the Pac-12’s berths at 149 lbs.
Aside from that brief snafu, there was a lot that stood out about the allocations. In fact, there’s one thought for each conference, along with a couple other general points.
Changes from 2022’s Automatic Allocations #’s
ACC (-6) from 39 to 33.
Big 12 (+6) from 58 to 64
Big Ten remained at 88
EIWA (+3) from 42 to 45
MAC (+1) from 22 to 23
Pac-12 (-4) from 23 to 19
SoCon (-3) from 15 to 12
Last year’s pre-allocations had three more than 2023 which speaks for the discrepancy between last year’s total and this year's.
That bottom half of 184 is unusual!
After the hiccup at 149 lbs, one of the most obvious figures that stood out from the initial allocation data was that only 26 spots were handed out at 184 lbs. The other nine weight classes had either 28 or 29 slots allocated.
What does it mean? The bottom fifth of the top-33 was not particularly strong compared to other weights. As someone who looked at this type of thing every week in compiling rankings, I concur with this assessment. The top-tier at 184, it’s going to be fun. A returning two-time champion and a handful of guys, who could knock him off. But, after the top 20 or so, it’s anyone’s guess as to how this weight class will play out.
How will it impact conference tournaments and the construction of the NCAA brackets? My guess is that it will reward wrestlers that have decent conference tournaments, yet still fall short of NCAA qualification. The wrestlers that have fallen outside of the 26 allocation spots all have their positives and negatives, when weighing the body of work from their 2022-23 season. If someone on the bubble goes 0-2, they are less likely to get an at-large berth as opposed to someone who may have won four matches at the EIWA tournament and placed fifth.
There will also be more of a security net for a high-quality wrestler that gets injured or has an off day next weekend. That happens a few times a year to top-ten wrestlers, but they will get in anyways with an at-large berth. Who is at risk in those instances are the guys that are ranked 20-24 and have bad conference tournaments. That shouldn’t be as big of an issue this time.
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