The Road to Placid: Men's Bracketology, Final Projection

by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer,

Seven of the eleven NCAA tournament bids are locked up and Selection Sunday is here. The wait for Monday's tournament selection show is on, which means it's time for our final Men's Bracketology of 2016. So for one last time, we will project the Men's NCAA Tournament field based on the published process the NCAA National Committee should be using to select and seed the NCAA tournament.

UMass Boston will be making its first tournament appearace, but where in the bracket will the Beacons land?
Photo: UMass Boston Athletics

If you recall, we took advantage of an opportunity to present a bracket option that included SUNY Geneseo last week, and we're glad we did as the Knights won the SUNYAC and are in the tournament field. This also means Plattsburgh State will enter the Pool C mix for the first time this season.

Will either of those alter either the make-up of the field or the layout of the bracket relative to what we presented in each of the past three weeks?

Perhaps, so sit back and enjoy the read as we walk through this year's final projection. And yes, there will be a projection...

As always, our governing principles:

Our goal, and only goal, is to illustrate the process as it is published in the NCAA Men's Division III Ice Hockey Pre-Championship Manual. To do so we will implement the process based on known regional rankings and NCAA-generated statistics for the relevant teams, and we will do so to yield the bracket that we feel maximizes fairness and equity of the field.  To this end, we remind ourselves of a few operating principles that we consider to be paramount:

  • Process, process, process. The published process is the only thing that matters. You might not like it and we might not like parts of it, but it is what it is. To worry about things outside of the process muddies the waters and tends to lead to more confusion amongst fans than it resolves. Learn the process here.
  • It has been numerous years since the tournament selection yielded an outcome that was not easily explained by the tenets of the process itself. While some, including us, may have differed with the committee's decisions at times, they nonetheless have fallen completely within the framework of the process.
  • To cross the boundary from interpretation and application to delve into the world of speculation does a disservice to everyone. There is enough of that swirling around out there this time of year and it is something we will not engage in.


The Tournament

  • The 2016 Men's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of 11 teams.
  • Seven conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. These conferences are the: ECAC Northeast, MASCAC, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, NESCAC & SUNYAC.
  • One team from a conference that does not possess a Pool A bid will receive a Pool B bid. This will be awarded to an independent, ECAC West or WIAC team.
  • Three teams that do not receive Pool A bids nor the Pool B bid will receive at-large (Pool C) bids into the tournament. Every team that did not receive a Pool A or Pool B bid is eligible for a Pool C bid.
  • For the purpose of Pool C selection, as well as team comparisons for regional ranking purposes and tournament seeding, the NCAA committee will rely mainly on what it refers to as its Primary Criteria, which are as follows:

  • Win-lost percentage against Division III opponents (WIN)
  • Division III head-to-head results (H2H)
  • Results versus common Division III opponents (COP)
  • Results versus ranked Division III teams as established by the rankings at the time of selection.  Conference postseason contests are included (RNK)
  • Division III strength of schedule (SOS)*

              Consisting of:
            -  2/3 Opponents' Average Winning Percentage (OWP)

            -  1/3 Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage (OOWP)


There are also three Secondary Criterion the committees may look at if they are unable to come to a determination by using only the primary criteria, and they are as follows:

  • Non-Division III won-lost percentage
  • Results versus common non-Division III opponents
  • Win-lost percentage during the last 25% of the season (L25)

Regional Rankings

  • The NCAA regional committees will release three editions of regional rankings prior to tournament selection, with the release dates being February 16, 23 and March 1. A fourth will be generated on Selection Sunday (March 6) but those are not released to the public.
  • The East Region rankings will contain ten teams, the West Region five.
  • For the sake of RNK, the NCAA considers a team ranked only if it is ranked at the time of tournament selection (in the March 6 final rankings).


NCAA Regional Rankings - Projected

1. Hobart 1. Adrian
2. SUNY Geneseo
2. St. Norbert
3. Williams
3. UW-Stevens Point
4. Trinity 4. Marian
5. Plattsburgh State
5. UW-River Falls
6. Buffalo State
7. UMass Boston
8. Babson
9. Utica  
10. Endicott  

In the East, we think Plattsburgh's loss in the SUNYAC finals proved devastating to the Cardinals in the final rankings. We also believe Geneseo may end up as high as second, and there are a variety of teams that could slide into spots nine and ten but let's just leave those two the same as last week. Either way, this is what we're going with and are quite confident we're pretty close to the mark. Quite confident.

In the West, just one small change as we flip Adrian and St. Norbert at 1/2.


Pool Selection

  • Pool A

Seven tournament champions have been crowned and all are on their way to the NCAAs.  This year's Pool A receipients are:

ECACNE: Salve Regina
MASCAC: Salem State
MIAC: Augsburg
NCHA: Adrian
NEHC: UMass Boston
NESCAC: Trinity







  • Pool B:

As only ECAC West, WIAC, and independent teams are eligible here, this should once again be easy enough. No independent teams are anywhere near the mix and we're looking at the same comparison we've been staring at for the past three weeks, which is between the highest ranked ECAC West team, Hobart, and the highest-ranked WIAC team, UW-Stevens Point:

WIN  .8150  .7860
SOS  .5480  .5360
RNK  .7860 (5-1-1)
 .5000 (3-3-1)
H2H  -  -
COP  -  -

  This again requires little analysis. Hobart is ranked No. 1 in the East, sweeps the comparison and we again award the Statesmen Pool B with the utmost confidence.

The Pool B bid is awarded to: Hobart


  • Pool C:

We now must consider which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. This requires looking at the highest-ranked teams in the regional rankings that are not projected to win Pool A, and those are:

East: Williams, Plattsburgh State, Buffalo State

West: St. Norbert, UW-Stevens Point, Marian

Five of the six are the same as in our last edition, but we now welcome Plattsburgh State to the mix. How will this alter things? Well let's find out, and let's do so by constructing a table that includes all six.

Williams  .7600  .5310  .6000 (3-2-0)
Buffalo State
 .6540  .5310  .4380 (3-4-1)
Plattsburgh State
 .7960  .5250  .4167 (2-3-1)
St. Norbert  .8570  .5450  .6500 (6-3-1)
UW-Stevens Point  .7860  .5360  .5000 (3-3-1)
Marian  .6960  .5370  .2500 (1-5-2)

As is standard, first we're going to look at this and see if there are any teams we can immediately move into the field. Yet again we believe there is, and it's still St. Norbert. The Green Knights sweep the board here and there is absolutely nothing to suggest they should not be in the field. Our first Pool C goes to St. Norbert.

At the same time, is there anyone we can discount? We think so. Due to their respective regional ranks and how they stack up in terms of WIN, SOS and RNK, we cannot justify giving Buffalo State or Marian a bid here.

We have now whittled it down to three teams, Williams, Plattsburgh State and UW Stevens Point, vying for the final two spots in the field. Let's expand our data set a bit here and take a gander:

WIN  .7600  .7960  .7860
SOS  .5310  .5250  .5380
RNK  .600 (3-2-0)  .4167 (2-3-1)
 .5000 (3-3-1)
H2H  1-0 v. Plattsburgh
 0-1 v. Williams

 0-1-0 w/Stevens Point
 4-1-0 w/Plattsburgh

 3-2-1 w/Williams
 1-1 w/Williams

For starters, we're going to make an assumption here, and it's that by virtue of its superior placement in the East rankings that Williams gets selected over Plattsburgh State. This means Williams is one of our two selections by default. It has to be.

That leaves Plattsburgh State and UW-Stevens Point, and while in reality they might not get compared directly against each other like this, we think it's pretty clear the Pointers have the edge here. Plattsburgh takes WIN by a meaningless amount, while Stevens Point claims RNK by a similarly meaningless amount. The only thing that distinguishes the two is SOS and Stevens Point's edge is somewhat significant. It's not huge, but it's significant enough to matter.

To be thorough, we can even dip into the secondary criteria and look at the L25 of each, which is their performance over the last 25% of the season. Plattsburgh is 4-1-2 over this stretch while Stevens Point is 5-1-1, so if anything it's a positive for the Pointers.

Throw in the fact that Stevens Point is ranked third in its region while Plattsburgh is ranked fifth and the end sum is that, while it's tight, the only thing Plattsburgh has going for it in this comparison is a tiny advantage in WIN. Our final Pool C bid goes to Stevens Point.

The Pool C bids are awarded to: St. Norbert, Williams, UW-Stevens Point


Setting the Field

Thus, our full tournament field is: 

ECACNE: Salve Regina
MASCAC: Salem State
MIAC: Augsburg
NCHA: Adrian
NEHC: UMass Boston
NESCAC: Trinity
Pool B: Hobart
Pool C: St. Norbert
Pool C: Williams
Pool C: UW-Stevens Point










Seeding the Field

Now the field must be seeded by region. Using this week's regional rankings, it would look something like this:

1E Hobart 1W Adrian
2E SUNY Geneseo
2W St. Norbert
3E Williams
3W UW-Stevens Point
4E Trinity
NRW Augsburg
7E UMass Boston
NRE Salem State  
NRE Salve Regina








Setting the Bracket

Now the fun part. Remember our last edition where we took the time to illustrate a bracket option that had Geneseo going to Adrian? Well here we are and that's one of just two ways this bracket can go.

The "Adrian Problem" is in full play, so we again start by looking at who the Bulldogs can even play in the early rounds. There are four others in the field that are within the allowable 500-miles from Adrian, and they are: 1E Hobart, 2W St. Norbert, 2E SUNY Geneseo and 3W UW-Stevens Point.

To make this as simple as possible, we believe Adrian to be the top-seeded team in the field. Over the weeks and years of us doing this you may have noticed that when it comes to maximizing bracket integrity that, while geography almost always makes perfect seed integrity impossible, we always defer to the highest-ranked teams and do what we can for as many of them as we can. There is no real good option here in this regard, but we think the best we can do is to send the lowest-ranked team possible to Adrian, and that's Stevens Point.

Yes this drops Geneseo into a first round game which is definitely not ideal, but in an 11-team field with these travel restrictions a regional number two team often gets stuck with a first- round game.  However, this does set up a home quarterfinal for Geneseo should it win its first round game, and the rules do state that higher seeds get preferred hosting rights. As usual, this is far from perfect but we believe it's the best we can muster without sending a regional No. 2 team on the road right off the bat.

The alternative is, of course, to send Geneseo to Adrian which puts Augsburg at Stevens Point in a first-round game with the winner traveling to St. Norbert for a quarterfinal game. However, and we realize this is really getting into hair-splitting territory, if one really examines the NCAA Pre-Championship Manual and the way it addresses seeding vs. geography vs. hosting rights, we feel our conclusion is the one that most strictly adheres to the process. Barely. The committee could certainly conclude otherwise, and it wouldn't be a bad conclusion as neither of these two options are overly inspiring.

Anyway, that just about does it. St. Norbert now has to host Augsburg in another quarterfinal and everything else falls into place by seed/ranks. Our match-ups are:


First Round

NRE Salve Regina @ 2E SUNY Geneseo

NRE Salem State @ 3E Williams

Click bracket to view full-size.

7E UMass Boston @ 4E Trinity



NRW Augsburg @ 2W St. Norbert

3W UW-Stevens Point @ 1W Adrian

UMass Boston/Trinity @ 1E Hobart

Salve Regina/Geneseo v. Salem State/Williams



As we usually do, we're going to put the two No. 1 regional seeds on the opposite side of the bracket, which puts the Hobart quarterfinal on one side and the Adrian quarterfinal on the other.

From there, we believe St. Norbert to be the next-highest seed so we're going to line the Green Knights up with Hobart, while Geneseo lands on Adrian's side. This yields potential Frozen Four match-ups of:

Adrian/Stevens Point v. Salve Regina/Geneseo/Salem State/Williams
Hobart/Trinity/UMass Boston v. St. Norbert/Augsburg



Questions or comments you'd like further explanation on or you simply think we're nuts?  No problem, we'd love to hear from you!  Feel free to jump with your own ideas in the Bracketology Discussion over on the D3sports forums, comment below, or you can always yell at us on twitter @d3hky.



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