by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
Yet again it's hard to believe that February has snuck up on us this fast, but it's done it again. But as it's the first Tuesday in February this means the NCAA regional committees have gone through their mock regional rankings in preparation for what lies ahead. Up next on that front will be the first official editions of the regional rankings next Tuesday, and 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 13.
|The 2018 Men's Frozen Four returns to historic Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. It will mark the seventh time since 2008 that Lake Placid has hosted the season's final weekend.
Photo: Eric Gulseth
Annual changes to the selection process are expected and there were again a few minor tweaks this year. Before proceeding, let's point them out right off the bat so they don't come as a surprise later on:
- For the purpose of tournament selection, teams are now considered ranked teams if they appear in either of the final two NCAA regional rankings. Previously, a team was only considered ranked if it appeared in the final regional ranking.
- Non-conference strength-of-schedule has been added as a secondary criterion.
Twelve schools will participate in the 2018 Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship, culminating with the final four teams squaring off in the Frozen Four on March 23 and 24 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Eight teams will face off in four First Round games on Saturday, March 10, with the winners advancing to the Quarterfinals on Saturday, March 17. Games occuring in the first two rounds are generally held at the home rink of the higher-seeded team, though there have been a few 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 is allotted one bid per every 6.5 teams that sponsor the sport. There are currently 81 men's Division III teams which creates 12.46 bids to the tournament and thus our 12-team field.
So which teams make 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: 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 UCHC and WIAC, as well as SUNY Canton and Bryn Athyn.
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 last two rankings prior to 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 other rankings, nor does it have or has it ever had anything to do with the KRACH rankings. Instead, the two NCAA regional committees (East and West) will, four times prior to the tournament, rank 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,” and recall that beginning this year a team will be considered ranked if it appears in either of the final two regional ranking sets.
Outside of the primary criteria, there is also secondary criteria that the committee 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)
- Non-conference strength-of-schedule (new in 2018)
The NCAA will release a set of regional rankings once per 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 13, 20, and 27. These provide the public with a guide to 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 4, just before the national committee holds its conference call to select the field. These rankings should provide the foundation for the Pool B and Pool C selections, as well as for tournament seeding once the field is set, though they are subject to modification by the national committee. For the second year in a row these rankings will be released to the public.
Regional Committee Composition
Craig Russell, Plymouth State (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, unless it is not possible to do so. 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, a carrier pigeon, or any other implements 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 the 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 region will be given consideration as first-round and quarterfinal sites, assuming they meet the requirements of Bylaw 126.96.36.199.3. 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 2018 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 annual Selection Monday "Tournament Selections Explained" piece that will assuredly infuriate everyone as usual. So stay tuned, as it's sure to prove a wild ride, and it will all kick off on Tuesday, February 13 with the announcement of the first official regional rankings and the first edition of Men's Bracketology which will follow shortly after.
In the meantime, always a good read: 2017-18 Men's Ice Hockey Pre-Championship Manual