The Big West was identified as one of the closest leagues from top to bottom in my preseason projections, but for the most part, I’ve been pretty close with those projections. Long Beach State has defied projections of a drop into mid-table and look poised for another title challenge despite some rebuilding. Preseason title contenders Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine also look poised to challenge, though all may not have the chops for an at-large bid depending on who ends up on the bubble with them. At the other end of the table, Cal Poly started out like a house afire but has wilted in the face of greater competition, though their fading RPI might not do them justice, with a league comeback possible.
The story of the league so far is lowly Wagner, who aren’t so lowly at the moment, standing at an impressive 7-2-1, the only NEC club over .500 at the moment. Yes, you can certainly quibble with the strength of schedule, but the Seahawks will probably take anything they can get after so many seasons of suffering and may finally break their long postseason duck. Much of the rest of the league is going close to what I predicted, with the exception being Robert Morris. RMU looked set for a mid-table challenge and netted a draw with Pittsburgh early in the season, but have gone 1-5-0 away from home in their last six to plummet down the RPI. The league as a whole has also been doing a bit of plummeting with the loss of Monmouth and Quinnipiac, both doing well in the MAAC right now.
As always, you can pretty much throw out the records when considering the SWAC in league play, pretty much a universe kept to itself. Though Alabama State isn’t on top of the RPI right now between SWAC teams, they’ve actually beaten three DI teams in non-conference play and have to be considered overwhelming favorites to win the league. Good luck making heads or tails of the rest of the conference though, as things look wide open behind ASU after non-conference play.
Let’s be real. If Denver doesn’t win both pieces of the Summit League crown, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest upsets in the history of women’s college soccer. The Pioneers are #10 in the RPI as of press time. Next best? IUPUI at #202. That’s a remarkable and unheard of gap between the top and second best team in a conference. IUPUI and South Dakota, both tipped to struggle by me, instead stand at 3-3-3 each and have what seems to be a legitimate shot at the postseason. By contrast, North Dakota State, typically a league titan, has struggled out of the gates, joining Western Illinois, as disappointments thus far in the league.