By Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
The first public NCAA rankings were released yesterday, which means it's that time once again for D3hockey.com to project the Women's NCAA Tournament field based on the published process the NCAA National Committee will be using to select and seed the NCAA tournament field.
|Lake Forest has one of the best records in the nation, but do the Foresters have to win the NCHA to make the NCAAs?
Before we proceed, however, we'd like to make a few quick points regarding our methodology: what will be seen here is the tournament field, were it set today, per our best interpretation and implementation of the published tournament selection process. There will be no speculation, tangent theories or conjecture.
Our job is to walk through the NCAA tournament selection process, as it can be confusing enough in its own right -- especially to those who are new to it. If our conclusions come to be different than the actual tournament field, the reasons why will be dealt with in our annual Tournament Selections Explained article that will follow the announcements of the selections. Simply put, our projections will not be based on anything other than the stated selction process.
- The 2017 Women's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of eight teams.
- Five conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. Those conferences are the: ECAC West, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC & NESCAC.
- One team will receive a Pool B bid to the tournament. This bid is reserved for independent teams as well as those that participate in conferences without a Pool A bid, which are the CHC and WIAC.
- Two teams that do not receive Pool A bids, or the Pool B bid, will receive at-large (Pool C) bids into the tournament. Every team that did not receive a Pool A or 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 choose to, 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 14, 21 and 28. A fourth will be generated on March 5 but those are not released to the public. It's prudent to note that this differs from the language in the men's championship manual, which now states their final rankings will be released. The tournament field will be announced at 10 a.m. EST on Monday, March 6.
- Both the East and West Region rankings will contain six teams.
- 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 5 final rankings).
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 14
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Plattsburgh State||1. UW-River Falls|
|2. Middlebury||2. Adrian|
|3. Norwich||3. Gustavus Adolphus|
|4. Elmira||4. Lake Forest|
|5. Oswego||5. Augsburg|
|6. Endicott||6. St. Scholastica|
- Pool A: As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the teams leading the five Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. That's easy enough, except we have a tie atop the NESCAC at the moment as Middlebury and Hamilton both have 19 points. Hamilton won the head-to-head season series 2-0, which is the league's primary tiebreaker and would give the Continentals the top seed in the NESCAC tournament if the season ended today. With that heavy lifting out of the way, the five Pool A bids go to:
- Pool B: One bid is reserved for independent teams and teams that participate in leagues that do not possess a Pool A bid. That means the CHC and the WIAC.
Each league has a clear front-runner with Endicott out of the CHC and UW-River Falls out of the WIAC, so we'll compare the two to see who claims the bid:
|RNK||.0000 (0-1-0)||1.000 (4-0-0)|
|COP||.0000 (0-0-0)||.0000 (0-0-0)|
Analysis: For Endicott and the Colonial Hockey Conference, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that Endicott brings a much better body of work to this comparison than Stevenson did a year ago, including a dramatic SOS improvement. The bad news for the Gulls is that River Falls has an even better resume this year. The Falcons hold the edge in every primary criterion, so the WIAC claims the the bid for a second year in a row. Endicott has had a strong campaign, but the current numbers hand this bid to the defending national runner-ups in pretty convincing fashion.
The Pool B Bid is Awarded To: UW-River Falls
- Pool C:
We now must consider which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. That requires looking at the highest ranked teams in the regional rankings that are not projected to win Pool A, and those are:
East: Middlebury, Elmira, Oswego
West: Lake Forest, Augsburg, St. Scholastica
In the past few years, Pool C has generally fallen into place nicely, even after the inclusion of Pool B reduced the number of Pool C bids available from three to two last season.
As always, we'll construct a table that includes WIN, SOS and RNK to see if we can draw any immediate conclusions.
|Lake Forest||.8910||.4350||.7000 (3-1-1)|
|St. Scholastica||.5450||.5470||.0555 (0-8-1)|
Analysis: We begin with the outliers, as always, as we starting by seeing if there are any teams that we can confidently move directly into the tournament field. With a No. 2 regional ranking and an SOS metric that is a runaway national best, Middlebury is a sure bet in our minds. The Panthers' WIN lags a bit behind a few of the others, but their regional ranking speaks for itself, as does their gargantuan SOS.
Now that one of our two bids is off the table, we'll wipe away anyone who would be mathematically eliminated in the pecking order created by the regional rankings for the final spot. Thus we must bid farewell to St. Scholastica, Augsburg and Oswego, and we'll compare the highest-ranked team in the East, Elmira, with its counterpart in the East, Lake Forest:
|RNK|| .3125 (1-4-3)
|| .7000 (3-1-1)
|COP||.0000 (0-1-0)||.0000 (0-1-0)|
In so many of our past Pool C comparisons involving an NCHA team, those teams seem to stack up in every criterion but one: SOS. Lake Forest does just about everything it can here by claiming rather significant advantages in WIN and RNK. But, the Foresters .4350 is extremely low -- and much lower than we've ever seen brought to the table by a team selected for Pool C.
Can we really swing the entire thing on one comparison? Whew, it's tough but for now we're going to. For now. But hang tight Forester fans as if Middlebury sneaks into a Pool A spot it opens a door as Lake Forest fares well in a comparison with Oswego.
Additionally, note that Elmira and Lake Forest actually share a common opponent this year as both played Adrian. Both lost to the Bulldogs so for now that comparison is moot but that could change as Lake Forest plays Adrian twice this weekend and two could also meet in the NCHA playoff. A win or two for Lake Forest will greatly strengthen its case here. That said, we're sticking with Elmira. Barely.
The Pool C Bids are awarded to: Elmira, Middlebury
Setting The Field
- Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool B:||UW-River Falls|
Seeding the Field
- Now the field must be seeded by region. Using this week's regional rankings, it would look something like this:
1W UW-River Falls
Setting the Bracket
We begin by reminding you that as we place our teams, there are two considerations that have to be noted.
1. The NCAA 500-mile preliminary round travel limit must be adhered to if possible. Mapquest, Google Maps, or your Rand McNally Atlas are not official methods of calculating the mileage between institutions. Instead, the NCAA utilizes an institution-to-institution mileage calculator, which is available online.
2. Per the NCAA Pre-Championship manual, we cannot pair teams from the same conference against one another in the quarterfinals.
In this scenario, we have the 5/3 split in favor of the East. In many cases, the unbalanced regional split means a flight for at least one quarterfinal game with most inter-regional opponents being over 500 miles apart. However, we can avoid that this year -- and in fact are required to -- as Adrian and Elmira are within 500 miles of each other. As you may recall, this match-up was featured in last year's bracket and we saw Elmira go to Adrian and score a win. Time for round two, which will again be in Adrian by virtue of the Bulldogs' higher regional rank.
With those two pairing off, we think the rest of the bracket's match-ups are completely straightforward. River Falls will host Gustavus Adolphus in the lone all-West quarterfinal, while the two all-East quarters fall into place by regional rank/seed. This means Plattsburgh State will host Hamilton, and Middlebury will host Norwich.
|Click to view full size|
Our quarterfinal match-ups are:
5E Hamilton at 1E Plattsburgh
4E Elmira at 2W Adrian
3E Norwich at 2E Middlebury
3W Gustavus at 1W UW-River Falls
Which leaves us two more things to check. One, do we have any teams from the same conference meeting in the quarterfinals? We do not, so we're in the clear there, but then which teams should be lined up to meet in the semifinals? Obviously we're going to put Plattsburgh and UW-River Falls on opposite sides of the bracket, and as we highly suspect Plattsburgh is the top overall seed we're going to line up what we believe the lower-seeded No. 2 regional team, Middlebury, with the Cardinals. This is exactly what happened last season.
Which yields potential semifinal match-ups of:
Plattsburgh State/Hamilton v. Middlebury/Norwich
UW-River Falls/Gustavus Adolphus v. Adrian/Elmira
And that's that for the week. But stay tuned as three more installments are in store and things are highly subject to change. After all, they always do...
Questions, comments, you'd like further explanation or you simply think we're nuts? No problem, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or you can always yell at us on twitter @d3hky.