by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
note: the following has been edited to reflect the results of Tuesday night's MASCAC semifinals.
The third sets of NCAA regional rankings were released on Tuesday and that means it's time for our final Tuesday edition of Men's Bracketology. After this, all that remains will be our Selection Sunday edition. But for now it's time for round three, so we welcome you back to the exercise in which we will once again use the published process the NCAA National Committee should be using to select and seed the NCAA tournament to project a tournament field were the season to end today.
|Hobart held strong at third in this week's East Region rankings but remains mired in the Pool C mix. Will this week's changes affect the Statesmen's fate?
Photo: HWS Athletics/Ken DeBolt
So what's changed between this week and last? A lot more than changed between weeks one and two, that's for sure. The notables:
- Four of our former projected Pool A recipients went down in the semifinals of their conference tournaments and will now enter the Pool C mix for the first time. These are: Salve Regina, St. Thomas, Oswego State, and Plymouth State.
- This also means we will have four new Pool A projections out of the CCC, MIAC, SUNYAC and MASCAC. These will be: University of New England, Augsburg, SUNY Geneseo and Fitchburg State, respectively.
- Aside from that, nothing of too much gravity has changed, though it's worth noting that Geneseo and Trinity flipped in the 5/6 spots in the East Region rankings, which may ultimately affect tournament selection or seeding/pairing.
And I think that's it as far as that goes as far changes are concerned, but one more note before we proceed:
Over the years many have surely become familiar with our never-ending battle as to how to go about this adventure and we've always looked for a way to express it in simple terms. We think it finally hit us a few days ago:
Our belief is that the goal should not be to use the process to attain an end, but rather to allow the process to create its own end.
In other words, allow the rules of the procedure to dictate as many of our actions as possible while doing everything within our power to minimize subjective decisions on our part. Obviously such decisions aren't completely unavoidable when it comes to things like pool selections and bracket alignment, but we strongly believe that philosophy is, for us or anyone else, absolutely fundamental to any analysis.
Just wanted to mention that as we think it's the most efficient manner we've ever come up with to explain what we're after here, but with that said...will last week's results and the new regional rankings affect this week's projected bracket? There's only one way to find out...
- The 2018 Men's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of 12 teams.
- Seven conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. These conferences are the: CCC, 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, UCHC, or WIAC team.
- Four 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 on what it refers to as its Primary Criteria, which are as follows:
- 1/3 Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage (OOWP)
There are also four 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 13, 20 and 27. A fourth will be generated on Selection Sunday (March 4) and is slated to be released to the public on March 5.
- 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 in either of the final two regional rankings (February 27 & March 4)
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 27
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Salve Regina||1. Adrian|
|2. U. of New England||2. St. Norbert|
|3. Hobart||3. UW-Stevens Point|
|4. Oswego State||4. Marian|
|5. SUNY Geneseo||5. Augsburg|
|7. Plymouth State|
|9. Buffalo State|
Analysis: Nothing changed in the West so all is calm there, but in the East we see SUNY Geneseo passing Trinity for the five-spot, while Buffalo State moves up to nine despite losing. Also, Norwich enters for the first time while Endicott falls out. We don't expect these to affect this week's team selections too much though they may lead to changes in bracket alignment and pairings.
- Pool A
As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the teams leading the seven Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. Thus, the seven Pool A bids go to:
|CCC:||University of New England|
- Pool B:
As only UCHC, WIAC, and independent teams are eligible here, this should be easy enough. No independent teams are anywhere near the mix so we'll compare the highest-ranked UCHC team, Utica, with the highest-ranked WIAC team, UW-Stevens Point:
|RNK||.500 (1-1-1)||.400 (2-3-0)|
|COP||.000 (0-1-0)||1.000 (2-0-0)|
Analysis: Same two teams, same result. All Utica can lay claim to here is a negligible half-game edge in RNK. Beyond that the pair ties in WIN while Stevens Point claims signifcant edges in SOS and COP, and we note that the common opponent results here come from games against Adrian.
The bid goes to the Pointers, but is it possible this could change? Best case for Utica is of course a win over Elmira in the UCHC championship game and a loss by Stevens Point to UW-Eau Claire in the WIAC title game. Would it be enough for the Pioneers? We don't think so, but we'll of course take a look at the actual numbers on Sunday once all the actual results are in the books.
The Pool B bid is awarded to: UW-Stevens Point
- Pool C:
We now must consider which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. This requires looking at the next-highest ranked teams in the regional rankings. However, there may come a time we take liberties here and include a few others. We will explain why if/when that time does indeed come:
East: Salve Regina, Hobart, Oswego State, Utica
West: St. Norbert, Marian
Let's begin by 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.
Analysis: Well, definitely a different look from a week ago as Salve Regina and Oswego State appear here for the first time this year, but what all does it change? As it turns out...not too much. In fact, it might make this week even easier, and as these were pretty straightforward the past two weeks that's a rather telling statement.
But anyway, as usual, can we just go ahead and move any teams right through by virtue of resumes that are clearly superior?
Yes. Salve Regina and St. Norbert both have superb resumes are both clearly getting a bid out of this group. From there, we're even going to take Hobart with little hesitation as it's got the 3rd best WIN, the best SOS of the four teams remaining and the best overall RNK. Hard to argue with that -- welcome back to the field, Statesmen.
One spot to go, and we finally get to Oswego State, whose fans have been in a virtual panic since the Lakers fell to Fredonia last Saturday. Oswego remains three spots ahead of Utica and Plymouth State in the East Region rankings so that means the only team left to compare with the Lakers is Marian. It's fairly close as WIN is a virtual tie and SOS is almost one, so RNK is all that's left as the two have no common opponents and did not play each other this year, and there it's a clear win for Oswego and enough to get it through.
And that's our four, which we believe to be a very obvious four.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: Salve Regina, St. Norbert, Hobart, Oswego State
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|CCC:||University of New England|
|Pool B:||UW-Stevens Point|
|Pool C:||St. Norbert|
|Pool C:||Salve Regina|
|Pool C:||Oswego State|
Seeding the Field
1E Salve Regina
Setting the Bracket
Despite three conference tournament favorites losing on Saturday and another one going down Tuesday night, we end up with nearly the same tournament field as we had last week. Ultimately, Salve Regina and Oswego State just traded with University of New England and Geneseo when it comes to Pool A and C spots and the only two changes were Augsburg replacing St. Thomas and Fitchburg State replacing Plymouth State -- the latter of which will ultimately alter the match-ups in two of the East Region's first round games.
But so, about that bracket...
Two weeks ago we went with two West Region quarterfinals while last week we had four groups of three with Adrian hosting the winner of a East Region first round game between 3E Hobart and 6E SUNY Geneseo. We also laid out our rationale for each, and this week it's going to be last week's rationale that plays.
So which of those only two ways that does not violate NCAA travel restrictions is the better way to do it this time around? Ultimately, it all hinges on the one thing we spent time digging into and laying out last week (and this is precisely why we did it): so long as neither option infringes upon earned hosting rights (neither does here), do the benefits of balancing the bracket with four groups of three outweigh the loss of perfect seed intregrity offered by the two West Region quarterfinal option?
It really is the only question here.
Our conclusion this time around is the same as it was last week. It's not quite as good as last week from a seed standpoint as Geneseo has moved up to 5E, but will still find it preferable. If you recall, even though it's closer to ideal from seed standpoint we cannot pair Oswego and Geneseo in the first round, so this means it's Geneseo at Hobart in the first round with the winner heading to Adrian for a quarterfinal. This again tweaks the seed balance a bit but the downsides of that are outweighed by the desireable outcome of keeping the top two East seeds out of the first round. Just our opinion, but we believe the basis for it is strong and wholly defensible.
Anyway, from there that puts a first round game out West, two more out East and everyone drops in by seed/rank. The end result is, despite all the upsets and changes in regional ranks and some seeds, the exact same bracket layout as last week though Augsburg now heads to Stevens Point for a first round game, Norwich is now off to Trinity instead of Oswego, and Fitchburg State heads to Oswego by virtue of being the new 8E.
Our bracket is:
4W Augsburg @ 3W UW-Stevens Point
|Click to view full-size.|
5E SUNY Geneseo @ 3E Hobart
7E Norwich @ 6E Trinity
8E Fitchburg State @ 4E Oswego State
Augsburg/UW-Stevens Point @ 2W St. Norbert
Geneseo/Hobart @ 1W Adrian
Norwich/Trinity @ 1E Salve Regina
Fitchburg State/Oswego State @ 2E Univ. of New England
And as far as setting up the semifnals, we'll again put 1W on same side of the bracket as 2E, and 1E on the same side as 2W, and that is again...that.
It's again not perfect, but of course due to NCAA travel restrictions neither option is. Nonetheless, we (for once) efficiently conclude this is the best option and it's again because the benefits of balancing the bracket outweigh the relatively minor infringement on seed integrity. But be sure to stay tuned as this weekend's results could drastically alter the make-up of the field and the look of the bracket. Our final edition will be out Sunday evening when, for the final time this season, we let the process apply itself in the best and most equitable way we can manage. What will at look like? We're as eager as you are to find out...
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 in with your own questions or ideas in the Bracketology Discussion over on the D3sports forums, comment below, or you can always yell at us on twitter @d3hky, or new this year you can yell directly at me on Twitter @d3hky_webb. I will do by best to answer all questions and keep an open discussion going with anyone who would like to participate.