2018 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Week 7
NEW ORLEANS – We now know the 31 men’s teams that will compete for the national title at the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
And while there can only be one national champion, three others can find their way on the podium thanks to their efforts on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wisconsin.
Which team is favored to bring home the national title on Saturday? Well, according to the Pre-Championship Edition of the NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll, that distinction belongs to none other than Northern Arizona.
The Lumberjacks, who are the two-time defending champions, enter the meet as the unanimous favorite. All 11 first-place votes this week went to NAU, a team that rolled to the team title at the Mountain Region Championships this past weekend in Provo, Utah.
History is at stake when the Lumberjacks toe the line on Saturday. If NAU wins a third national title in a row, it would be the first NCAA DI men’s program to do so since Arkansas from 1998 to 2000. Four other programs won back-to-back titles and tried to match the Razorbacks’ feat – Stanford in 2002 and 2003, Oregon in 2007 and 2008 and Oklahoma State in 2009 and 2010, and Colorado in 2013 and 2014 – but all of them fell short.
BYU is the biggest threat to the Lumberjacks’ dynasty, according to the National Coaches’ Poll. The Cougars enter NCAAs ranked No. 2 for the second year in a row. BYU finished runner-up to NAU at the Mountain Region Championships as it scored 56 points to the champ’s 42.
The Cougars – who raced extremely well on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course at the Wisconsin Pre-National Invitational (77-point victory in the Men’s White Race) – are looking for their first national title in program history.
Wisconsin is ranked third in the final index after capturing the team title at the Great Lakes Region Championships. This is the first time since 2012 that the Badgers have been ranked in the top-5 this late in the season. That year turned out pretty well for them as they finished runner-up, one year after winning the national title.
If Wisconsin does win the national title, it would be the first program to win on its home course since Michigan State in 1959. In fact, no team has won a national title in its home state since 1985 (The Badgers accomplished that feat).
Portland, last year’s NCAA runner-up, sits fourth. The Pilots just won the team title at the West Region Championships in a close competition with Washington (77 to 82). This is the third time in program history that Portland has been ranked fourth entering the NCAA meet (2009, 2017).
Iowa State moved up one spot from No. 6 to No. 5 after winning the team title at the Midwest Region Championships. The Cyclones, who have been ranked in the top-5 five times this season, are looking to win their first national title in 24 years.
There were some big movers and shakers outside of the top-5 after an upset-heavy Regional Championship Weekend.
Three regional champs jumped two or more spots deeper inside the top-20: South Region champ Ole Miss from No. 17 to No. 14, Southeast Region champ NC State from No. 26 to No. 16 and South Central Region champ Arkansas from No. 19 to a tie for No. 17.
Teams that truly proved themselves at their respective regional championship meets were rewarded: Wyoming went from No. 18 to No. 15 after finishing sixth in the Mountain Region; Southern Utah joined the poll again at No. 19 after finishing fifth in the Mountain Region; Michigan jumped seven spots from No. 27 to No. 20 after finishing third in the Great Lakes Region; Tulsa comes in at No. 28 after finishing third in the Midwest Region.
Then we have Bradley, a program that was ranked fourth in the Midwest Region entering this past weekend. The Braves surprised everybody with a runner-up finish behind Iowa State and punched their first ticket to the NCAA meet in program history. Bradley also received its first spot in the National Coaches’ Poll in program history as it comes in ranked 25th.
If this postseason has shown us anything so far, it’s that ANYTHING can happen.
The women’s 6K race at the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships gets underway this Saturday at 10:45 am CT, while the men’s 10K race starts an hour later at 11:45 am CT. Fans can follow along with the action live off of the USTFCCCA Twitter account here or a paid live video stream off of Flotrack.com at this location.