by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
The third and final public NCAA rankings were released on Tuesday, which means it's (usually) time once again for D3hockey.com to 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.
|Augsburg hosts Saint John's for the MIAC title this Saturday and it's win or go home for both the Auggies and Johnnies.
Photo: Ryan Coleman for d3photography.com
This week's regional rankings brought a handful of changes, with most coming courtesy of the East Region. Additionally, Williams now finds itself in the Pool C mix after falling victim to Tufts in the NESCAC quarterfinals.
Will any of these affect our projected bracket? Truth be told, we're not really going to find out this week.
We continually emphasize that our sole goal here is to illustrate the process in the most equitable manner possible, which is a very different thing than trying to predict what the national committee would, and ultimately will, do.
To that end, a situation presents itself this week that will allow us to illustrate a potential bracket outcome we have yet to encounter this year, and we're going to take advantage of that opportunity.
With full emphasis: this week's end result should not be construed as a "projected" bracket.
Confused? So are we, which is why we're going to do what we're going to do. So sit back and enjoy the read -- it will all make sense in the end...
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 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:
- 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:
- 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 - March 1
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Hobart||1. St. Norbert|
|2. Williams||2. Adrian|
|3. Plattsburgh State
||3. UW-Stevens Point|
|4. Trinity||4. Marian|
|5. Babson||5. UW-River Falls|
|6. SUNY Geneseo
|7. Buffalo State
|8. UMass Boston|
Analysis: The top four remained the same in each region, though some shuffling in the middle portion of the East Region rankings is going to bring some new faces into the Pool C picture, which is what ultimately sends us in the direction we choose to go.
- Pool A
As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the highest seeds remaining in the Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. Thus, the seven Pool A bids go to:
Analysis: There's just one change here this week, and it's Trinity entering as the NESCAC's projected pool A
- 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 so we end up with the same comparison we've had the first two weeks, which is between the highest ranked ECAC West team, Hobart, and the highest-ranked WIAC team, UW-Stevens Point:
|RNK|| .7500 (4-1-1)
|| .4167 (2-3-1)
Analysis: Considering this has been the case for three weeks in a row now, we really don't need to break this down too much. Stevens Point's 1-0-1 weekend against UW-Eau Claire has bolstered it's rèsumè a reasonable amount but not enough to claim this comparison. Hobart runs a clean sweep of WIN, SOS and RNK, and that's that. For the third time in three weeks the Statesmen are off to the NCAAs.
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, Babson, SUNY Geneseo
West: St. Norbert, UW-Stevens Point, Marian
Williams and Geneseo are new to the mix this week, but how do they stack up? Let's find out by again constructing a table that shows each of these six teams' relative winning percentage (WIN), strength-of-schedule (SOS), and record against ranked teams (RNK). We'll eye things up and see if we can come to any obvious conclusions.
|St. Norbert||.8890||.5370||.7222 (6-2-1)|
|UW-Stevens Point||.7780||.5310||.4167 (2-3-1)|
Analysis: Let's get started in the same manner we always do. Is there any team here that is so obvious we can go ahead and confidently move it directly into the field? Yes, and it's again St. Norbert as the Green Knights continue to have the highest WIN, SOS and RNK of the entire bunch.
One bid down, two to go.
At this point is there anyone we think we can discount? Probably, and it's Marian. By virtue of its collective numbers and its current spot in the West Region rankings we find the Sabres' chance of claiming a bid here to be miniscule, if not zero. The Sabres actually aren't alone here (in our minds), but we're going to hold off on mentioning that for a moment.
Instead, we'll create an expanded table to look at the four teams we have vying for the final two spots:
|RNK||.5000 (2-2-0)||.600 (3-2-0)|| .5000 (3-3-1)
|H2H||-|| 0-1 v. Geneseo
|| 1-0 v. Williams
0-1-0 w/Stevens Point
| 1-2-0 w/Babson
| 1-1-0 w/Williams
This is a complete mess. Only one number in the entire chart sets a team apart and it's Babson's SOS, which is significantly lower than those of the other three. As a side point, with everything else so incredibly tight it makes us question why Babson is ahead of SUNY Geneseo in this week's rankings, but we won't worry about it too much as the rankings are what they are, and with them we shall work.
Now, last week we went pretty deep inside the numbers, but is it even worth it here?
We thought about that, and while we could have spent hours sitting at the long mahogany table in the D3hockey.com executive conference suite while peering over our glasses and rubbing our chins as if deep in thought, we ultimately concluded it isn't worth it.
Between the regional ranks being what they are, the numbers being this tight, and the fact these exact comparisons will be pointless by the end of the night on Saturday, we aren't even going to bother.
Quite frankly, any combination of these four getting the last two spots is plausible and wouldn't surprise us in the least, so instead we're going to hand pick two of them that allow us to set up a geographical bracket option we haven't seen yet.
Let it be known that we aren't doing it strictly for the sake of it, but rather because it's illustrative and also a rather plausible bracket option, especially should Geneseo win this Saturday's SUNYAC title game.
Which means we need to take Geneseo and UW-Stevens Point, so that's what we're going to do.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: St. Norbert, Geneseo, UW-Stevens Point
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool C:||St. Norbert|
|Pool C:||SUNY Geneseo
|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 St. Norbert|
|3E Plattsburgh State
||3W UW-Stevens Point|
|6E SUNY Geneseo
|8E UMass Boston
|NRE Salem State
Note: We now have Endicott as a higher seed than Salem State. We had the inverse last week as we had to guess at it, but Endicott's presence in this week's regional rankings tells us the Gulls would be the higher seed.
Setting the Bracket
Alright, so where are we at? From a participant standpoint the only difference between this week and last is that Geneseo is now in the field instead of Williams, but oh what a difference it could make.
The "Adrian Problem" still exists, so we again start with the Bulldogs. Which teams in the field are within 500 miles of Adrian and thus viable early round opponents? There are four: Hobart, Geneseo, St. Norbert and UW-Stevens Point. This gives us options, but two are terrible as we aren't going to put 2W Adrian against 1W St. Norbert or 1E Hobart in a quarterfinal unless we absolutely have to. This leaves 6E Geneseo and 3W Stevens Point.
By virtue of regional seed we're inclined to say Stevens Point has a better claim to go straight to a quarterfinal, but we've had the Pointers at Adrian in each of the past two weeks, so let's pretend otherwise and send Geneseo to Adrian instead. Now we end up with a first round game in the West and from there everything falls into place by seed as usual.
Of course, come Sunday when we roll out our final projection, we will indeed make a bonafide projection no matter how difficult it may be, but for now we wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to present a bracket arrangement that we could very well see unveiled next Monday, and here it is:
NRW Augsburg @ 3W UW-Stevens Point
NRE Salem State @ 4E Trinity
|Click bracket to view full-size.|
10E Endicott @ 8E UMass Boston
NRE Augsburg/3W UW-Stevens Point @ 1W St. Norbert
NRE Salem State/4E Trinity @ 3E Plattsburgh State
8E UMass Boston/10 Endicott @ 1E Hobart
6E SUNY Geneseo @ 2W Adrian
As we usually do, we're going to put the two No. 1 regional seeds, St. Norbert and Hobart on opposite sides of the bracket. From there we believe St. Norbert would be the No. 1 overall seed and believe Adrian would be a higher seed than Plattsburgh, so we're going to line Adrian up with Hobart and Plattsburgh up with St. Norbert. Granted it involves a little bit of guesswork when it comes to national seeds, but we have no choice. In this instance we think our conclusions are pretty safe ones. The potential semifinals are:
Augsburg/Stevens Point/St. Norbert v. Plattsburgh State/Trinity/Salem State
UMass Boston/Endicott/Hobart v. Adrian/Geneseo
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.