by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
It's somewhat hard to believe we're already into February, but time flies when we're having fun and as yesterday marked the first Tuesday in February you know what that means: the regional committees have compiled their mock NCAA regional rankings in preparation for the first official rankings which will be released next Tuesday. With the first editions of the real ones now a little under a week away, that means it's once again time for our annual Men's NCAA Tournament Selection Primer, in which we fully explain the process that will be used by the NCAA to select this year's tournament field. This process will also serve as the framework for our forthcoming and exclusive editions of Men's Bracketology, which will debut on Tuesday, February 14.
|The 2017 Division III Men's Frozen Four, slated for Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25, heads to the Utica Auditorium for the first time ever.
Photo: Hans Gulset
Each year usually brings a change or two to the tournament selection process, and this year proved no different as we see two rather notable changes. Before continuing for the sake of clarity, the changes are:
- The addition of new programs in recent years has run the total of men's teams past the threshold required to expand the tournament field. That means this year's field has been expanded by one and will contain 12 teams.
- For the first time in a long time, if not ever, the final regional rankings will be made public. According to the NCAA Pre-Championship Manual, the release of these rankings, which are the final rankings that tournament selections and seedings are based on, will occur on Monday, March 6, the same day the tournament field is announced.
Twelve schools will participate in the 2017 Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship, culminating in the final four teams participating in the Frozen Four on March 24 and 25 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, N.Y.
Eight teams will face off in four First Round games on Saturday, March 11, with the winners advancing to the Quarterfinals on Saturday, March 18. Games occuring in the first two rounds are generally held at the home rink of the higher-seeded team, though there have been some exceptions to this in past years.
Why does the tournament have 12 teams and not 16 like Division I even though DIII has more teams than DI? In DIII, tournament field size in nearly all sports is based on an NCAA rule that states each championship tournament is allotted one bid per every 6.5 teams that sponsor the sport. There are currently 78 men's Division III teams which creates 12.0 bids to the tournament and thus our 12-team field.
So who makes the tournament? There are three ways a team can earn a bid into the tournament:
- Pool A: Teams that have been awarded the championship of an automatic qualifier conference (7 bids)
- Pool B: Teams selected only from conferences without automatic qualifiers (1 bid)
- Pool C: Any other unselected team, often called “at-large” teams (4 bids)
Pool A: Any league which has played with the same seven (or more) members for at least two years is eligible to receive a Pool A bid. Seven leagues qualify for a pool A bid and they are: CCC, MASCAC, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, NESCAC, and SUNYAC.
Pool B: This bid is reserved for teams that do not play in a conference that possesses a Pool A bid, and also for independents. In the case of Men's Division III Ice Hockey, the eligible teams are those in the ECAC West and WIAC, as well as SUNY Canton and Daniel Webster.
Pool C: All teams not already having earned a Pool A or Pool B bid are eligible for Pool C at-large selection.
For all selection and seeding purposes, teams will be weighed against each other using the primary criteria.
The primary criteria are:
- 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 Opponents' Average Winning Percentage (OWP) and
- Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage (OOWP)
- Nullification (read more about it here)
* Strength of Schedule (SOS) is determined by a composite figure consisting of 2/3 OWP and 1/3 OOWP
^ The Men's NCAA Rankings will include ten teams from the East Region and five from the West Region
To emphasize, regionally ranked teams, as defined in the fourth criterion above, does not refer to the D3hockey.com poll or any similar media, fan or computer rankings. Instead, two NCAA regional committees (East and West) will spend the four weeks prior to the tournament ranking teams in their respective regions based on the above selection criteria. These and these alone determine the "ranked teams" used to generate “results versus Division III ranked teams.”
Outside of the primary criteria, there is also secondary criteria that the committees may choose to examine. As a reminder, the NCAA Pre-Championship Manual directly states that the secondary criteria will not be reviewed unless "the evaluation of the primary criteria does not result in a decision." The secondary criteria are:
- Non-Division III won-lost percentage
- Results versus common non-Division III opponents
- Won-lost percentage during the last 25 percent of the season (i.e. end of season performance)
The NCAA will release a set of regional rankings once a week for three weeks in the run up to the NCAA Tournament. This year, the three sets will be released to the public on February 14, 21, and 28. These provide the public with a guide of which teams could be considered for selection and also afford the ability to calculate each team's current “results versus Division III ranked teams,” or RNK.
The final regional rankings will be generated Sunday, March 5, just before the national committee holds its conference call to select the field. These rankings will provide the foundation for the Pool B and Pool C selections, as well as for tournament seeding once the field is set. These rankings will be released to the public.
Regional Committee Composition
Bill Kangas, Williams (co-chair)
Jared Phillips, Gustavus Adolphus (co-chair)
Who Plays Where and Why?
At the Division III level, the tournament's ruling principle is geography. The committee will pair teams regionally based on the geographic location and final seeding and will not pair teams in the first or quarterfinal rounds from schools that are located more than 500 miles apart. However, and this is important, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that satisfying these requirements bears any influence on which teams are selected for the tournament. Rather, it can greatly impact where those teams can play once in the tournament.
Google Maps, Mapquest, your car's odometer, or other tools are not valid methods of determining whether two campuses are within 500 miles of each other. Instead, the campus-to-campus distances the NCAA uses can be calculated on its official site. You may view and experiment with the NCAA mileage calculator here.
The end result of 500-mile limitation is usually a bracket with one chunk of East Region teams and another of West Region teams, with the possible caveat of a field that includes Adrian as its location puts it within 500 miles of schools in both regions. While the appropriate number of highest-ranked teams would ideally receive “byes” to the quarterfinals, be aware of the fact that travel restrictions take priority over maintaining seed integrity should such a situation arise.
For the first round and quarterfinals, the team ranked highest within its region will be the host team, provided they have properly submitted an acceptable bid to host a tournament game in the given round.
For maximum clarity, here are the words of the NCAA itself as it relates to hosting rights and placing teams into the bracket:
|The highest-ranked teams in each reason will be given consideration as first-round and quarterfinal sites, assuming they meet the requirements of Bylaw 188.8.131.52.3. The committee will pair the teams regionally, based on geographic location of all participants and final seeding. Teams located more than 500 miles away from one another will only be paired if it is not possible to pair them with opponents located within 500 miles.|
And that is how 12 teams will earn their way into the 2017 NCAA tournament field. As always, we will closely follow the selection process from now until Selection Sunday and Announcement Monday with four exclusive Bracketology columns, as well as our traditional "Tournament Selections Explained" piece. Stay tuned, as it's sure to prove a wild ride, and it will all kick off on Tuesday, February 14 with the announcement of the first official regional rankings and the first edition of Bracketology which will follow shortly after.
In the meantime, here's some leisure reading: 2016-17 Men's Ice Hockey Pre-Championship Manual