By Ray Biggs & Matthew Webb
The second public NCAA rankings were released Tuesday, which means it's again time 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.
|A projected Pool A team last week, Hamline now finds itself in the Pool C mix. Will it affect the Pipers' chances and our projected bracket?
Photo: Ryan Coleman for d3photography.com
As always, 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. For some it will give you closure or justification, and for others it probably will just make you sprout grey hairs, but we're not going to be the judge of that. We're just going to give you the information based on the interpretation of the rules laid out in advance. Anyway, our projections will not be based on anything other than the stated selction process.
For a more detailed of how the Women's NCAA Tournament is organized, feel free to take a look at our Women's Tournament Primer.
So what has changed this week? Not a lot, but more than nothing. The second set of NCAA regional rankings feature a few changes worth noting. They were:
- Connecticut College and Amherst flipped in the 5/6 spots in the East, with the Camels now in fifth. St. Thomas and Hamline also flipped at 3/4 in the West, but note that it proves irrelevant here as St. Thomas has elected not to participate in the postseason
- Endicott fell out of the East rankings while Hamilton has entered in the 8th and final spot
- Adrian has surprisingly fallen completely out of the West rankings while Augsburg has moved in at 6th
Additionally, Gustavus Adolphus passed Hamline in the MIAC race and is the top seed in MIAC tournament. Thus the Gusties will be our new projected Pool A team out of the MIAC.
Will any of these have a great enough effect on the application of the process so as to yield a different projection than that of a week ago? There's only one way to find out...
- The 2018 Women's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of nine teams.
- Six conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. Those conferences are the: NEWHL, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, Colonial, & 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 UCHC 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 evaluation of the primary criteria does not result in a decision, 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 March 4 for selecting and seeding the field and those rankings will also be released to the public. The tournament field will be announced at 10:00 am EST on Monday, March 5.
- Regional Rankings have been expanded this season and now include eight teams from the East Region, and six from the West.
- For the sake of RNK, the NCAA considers a team ranked only if it is ranked in either of the final two sets of regional rankings (February 27 and March 4)
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 20
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Norwich||1. Gustavus Adolphus|
|2. Plattsburgh State||2. UW-River Falls|
|3. Elmira||3. St. Thomas|
|4. Middlebury||4. Hamline|
|5. Connecticut College||5. UW-Eau Claire|
|6. Amherst||6. Augsburg|
|7. Morrisville State|
- Pool A: As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the teams leading the six Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. That's easy enough.
Note: Morrisville State holds the same number of wins and standings points as Endicott in the Colonial Hockey Conference but is ranked higher in the regional rankings so Morrisville will be our Pool A bid for the Colonial. With that out of the way, our 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 UCHC and the WIAC.
Each league has a clear front-runner with Elmira out of the UCHC and UW-River Falls out of the WIAC, so we'll compare the two to see who claims the bid:
|RNK||.643 (4-2-1)||.500 (3-3-2)|
|COP||.750 (1-0-1)||.250 (0-1-1)|
Analysis: Looks like we're headed to the same conclusion as a week ago. Adrian dropping out of the West rankings did shave a RNK loss off River Falls, but it's still not going to be enough. Elmira still takes WIN, RNK and COP, and we find its large WIN advantage alone to be of more significance than River Falls' small edge in SOS.
There just isn't a lot to discuss here as to make a case for River Falls we'd have to pin it entirely on a rather small SOS advantage, and it's not a case we're willing to try to make.
The Pool B Bid is Awarded To: Elmira
- 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. That holds one exception, as we understand St. Thomas will not be competing in the NCAA postseason this year due to a self-imposed ban. This again makes UW-Eau Claire the third team from the West.
East: Connecticut College, Amherst, Hamilton
West: UW-River Falls, Hamline, UW-Eau Claire
As always, we'll construct a table that includes WIN, SOS and RNK to see if we can draw any immediate conclusions.
|Conn. College||.717||.557||.500 (3-3-1)|
|UW-River Falls||.740||.587||.500 (3-3-2)|
|UW-Eau Claire||.680||.566||.375 (2-4-2)|
Analysis: Little bit of a different look here as Hamilton and Hamline are new to the mix this week, plus a fair amount of the numbers have changed from what we saw a week ago.
Nonetheless, we'll do what we always do and see if there's anyone we can peel off the board and move into the field right away, and as usual we think there is. It's UW-River Falls. The Falcons boast the second highest WIN (trailing only a team that's ranked behind it in the West), the best SOS, and second-best RNK. Looking at all three together, there just isn't another team here with a resume as strong as the Falcons. UW-River Falls grabs the first Pool C bid.
Which leaves us just one bid to go and by virtue of the change in this week's East rankings Conn College is now the highest-ranked remaining East team, so we'll compare the Camels to the highest-ranked remaining team in the West, which is Hamline. The end result, a fresh comparison we did not have to look at last week, which illustrates how much these things can change in just a week's time.
| CONN COLLEGE
|RNK||.500 (3-3-1)||.500 (3-3-3)|
Well this is a bit of a challenge. We've got no H2H or COP to work with and RNK is a tie, so all we have to look at is a reasonably significant WIN edge for Hamline against a moderate SOS edge for Conn College. What to do, what to do...
In the real world we wouldn't be surprised to see this go to Conn College considering the way the committees have historically treated (mistakenly at times in our minds) SOS as a sort of a holy grail, but on our end we prefer to sit back and make sure we know what these numbers are actually telling us.
Hamline is a couple games better in WIN, but it's been against a schedule that's a bit weaker overall, and that matters. But at the same time a SOS gap of .027 is small enough that it can be the result of each playing just one played against a certain opponent.
So, while both claim an edge, we just don't view either to be strong enough to be a determinant here. Thankfully there are rules for what to do in a situation like this. From the Women's Pre-Championship Manual: "If the evaluation of the primary criteria does not result in a decision, the secondary criteria will be reviewed."
As a refresher, the secondary criteria include non-Division III won-lost percentage, results verses common non-Division III opponents, and Division III non-conference strength of schedule.
Do we get any help here? Let's see...
Conn College did play one Division II team this year, St. Anselm, and lost, and the pair had no common non-Division III opponents. That leaves non-conference strength of schedule, which presents a bit of a conundrum on its own. Both due to the improper statistical method the NCAA uses to calculate SOS (averaging averages) and the fact we don't have a convenient method of calculating the OOWP component. But, we can calculate the OWP portion, which is good for 2/3 of the total, so out of curiosity we did and it's:
Conn College: .5642 (91-68-20)
Hamline: .5938 (94-60-20)
Now, recall we don't have the full calculation here, but inclinations are that both relevant secondary criterion favor Hamline.
This is a painful comparison, but if we stick to the tenets of the process, recall we determined that we could not make a decision based on the primary criteria alone which means we went to the secondary criteria as instructed, and it favors Hamline.
In perhaps the tightest comparison we've ever had to deal with, and a prime illustration of the peril that comes with not winning a conference tournament and ending up in the at-large shark tank, the second and final Pool C bid goes to Hamline.
The Pool C Bids are awarded to: UW-River Falls, Hamline
Setting The Field
- Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool C:||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 Gustavus Adolpghus
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 (Whether upright, or flipped over) are not official methods of calculating the mileage between institutions. Instead, the NCAA utilizes an institution-to-institution mileage calculator, which is available online. If it's beyond 500 miles, the NCAA has to pay for flights for the visiting team, and they try to avoid that at all costs in the pre-championship site rounds, even if it has sometimes come at the expense of maintaining seed integrity in the bracket. You can expirement with the NCAA mileage calculator here.
2. Per the NCAA Pre-Championship manual, we cannot pair teams from the same conference against one another in the first round (opening round).
|Click to view full size|
Amusingly, after all that we end up with the exact same field, seeded the exact same way, that we did last week. Which means our bracket is also going to be the same as it was last week.
If you recall, Adrian must play Elmira as it's the only school within 500 miles, which leaves us four East Region teams and three West. This means the only way we can avoid flights is to put the lone first round game out West, and from there teams fall in by regional rank.
Our early round match-ups are:
2W UW-River Falls v. 3W Hamline @Gustavus Adolphus
5E Morrisville at 1E Norwich
4W Adrian at 3E Elmira
4E Middlebury at 2E Plattsburgh
2W River Falls/3W Hamline at 1W Gustavus Adolphus
From there, we again split the bracket in so the top regional seeds are lined up on opposite sides of the bracket. With that done, we still believe Norwich to be the top overall seed here so we line up the Cadets with the lower seeded quarterfinal, which is again Adrian/Elmira:
5E Morrisville at 1E Norwich
4W Adrian at 3E Elmira
4E Middlebury at 2E Plattsburgh
2W River Falls/3W Hamline at 1W Gustavus
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.