By Ray Biggs
The Third 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.
|The changes in this week's West Region rankings do not help the numbers of UW-River Falls, but is it possible the Falcons land in a better spot in the bracket anyway?
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.
Not much changed out East this week. The rankings remained completely intact and in order from the first spot to the last in that region. What could be a significant catalyst for change is the West Region, where Adrian has returned to the rankings after a one week absence. That won't change our Pool A projections, where the Bulldogs remain the top remaining seed in the NCHA, but it could alter the outlook of some of the others relative to a week ago.
But will it? Let's 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). So those the rankings below will be considered in that metric going forward regardless of if they maintain their position or not.
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 27
|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. Adrian|
|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.
- 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)||.444 (3-4-2)|
|COP||.750 (1-0-1)||.250 (0-1-1)|
Analysis: This is the first spot where we see the re-inclusion of Adrian in the regional rankings come into play. While it doesn't alter the outcome, Elmira picks up even more ground with as its RNK advantage has grown as River Falls lost to the now-ranked Adrian and that loss is now back in as part of the Falcons' RNK. We gave this bid to Elmira in each of the last two weeks and don't see that changing on the above metrics as we'd still have to take a River Falls based solely on it's smallish edge in SOS, and that's still not something we can logically do. If anything, the case for Elmira has actually become even stronger due to the RNK hit taken by River Falls.
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||.729||.551||.500 (3-3-1)|
|UW-River Falls||.759||.587||.444 (3-4-2)|
|UW-Eau Claire||.704||.566||.571 (3-2-2)|
Analysis: First, a note. The change in this week's West Region rankings (Adrian being ranked instead of Augsburg) moves some things around when it comes to the the numbers. To us, UW-Eau Claire has gained some significant ground on Hamline as it removed two losses and adds a win as far as RNK goes, while Hamiline's RNK lost a win and a tie. The RNK of UW-River Falls was also altered as the Falcons have a loss to Adrian this season. Will that one small change in the regional rankings end up altering our two Pool C selections? Maybe.
As always, we'll see if we can pull the best of the best off the top here to start. Right now with its dominant SOS, second-highest WIN and a RNK on part with the rest, we still think River Falls is the first team off the board here -- an opinion bolstered by the fact the Falcons remain ranked second in the West. But it's certainly not as rock solid of a position as it was a week ago and puts the Falcons in a spot where a loss to Eau Claire in the WIAC championship game, perhaps when combined with other outcomes, could put them in a bit of peril. River Falls is in here, but that's definitely something to remain mindful of.
Next we'll have to cut a few teams loose with just one remaining Pool C bid. We'll again turn to the current regional rankings which means we can remove any team that isn't currently the highest remaining team in its region. That means, unfortunately for the group, Amherst, Hamilton and Eau Claire are all out of luck.
Which brings us right back to the nasty comparison from last week, which narrowly went to Hamline after our esteemed Senior Writer determined we needed to go to the secondary criteria. Will it need to this week? Let's take a look under the hood.
| CONN COLLEGE
|RNK||.500 (3-3-1)||.416 (2-3-1)|
Yikes. It remains an incredibly tight comparison after both teams picked up wins last weekend weekend. But, it's not exactly the same as it was last week. The change comes in RNK as Hamline took a hit when Augsburg did not appear in this week's regional rankings. Now Conn College has an edge in RNK, though it's important to note is a small one, and perhaps small enough to be a statisitcally insignificant one. Nonetheless, the Camels now hold the edge in SOS and RNK whereas Hamline only claims WIN.
We still think this could go either way, but if we keep it simple and take Conn College based on its 2-1 edge in the primary criteria, it not only is straightforward but also presents an opportunity to explore how a bracket with a 6-3 split in favor of the East would look, which we have not seen yet this year. We already know what it looks like if Hamline gets the nod here, so we're taking Conn College based on its 2-1 edge which will conveniently let us illustrate this new bracket option.
The Pool C Bids are awarded to: UW-River Falls, Connecticut College
Setting The Field
- Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool C:||UW-River Falls|
|Pool C:||Connecticut College|
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|
With Conn College now in the field in lieu of Hamline, there's one big change that happens in this bracket relative to last week.
As you may recall, we had four West Region teams last week, one of which was Adrian. As we know, NCAA travel restrictions make it so Elmira is the only team in the field within 500 miles of Adrian, which means the Bulldogs and Soaring Eagles must play each other, and it will be in a quarterfinal. It seems this theme has officially become old hat at this point.
This leaves just one possible match-up remaining out West and an odd number of teams remaining in the East, which means for the first time this year we must project the first round game to be played in the East. This makes River Falls at Gustavus Adolphus the second quarterfinal match-up we are forced to go with.
So what happens with the opening round game? To maintain seed integrity by way of setting up Norwich to play against the lower-seeded team in the quarterfinals, it means we pair the two lowest-seeded East Region teams, 5E Conn College and 6E Morrisville State, in the first round with the winner playing Norwich. And then we're down to just two which means 4E Middlebury travels to 2E Plattsburgh State for our final quarterfinal.
And voila. Our early round matchups are:
6E Morrisville v. 5E Connecticut College @Norwich
6E Morrisville/ 5E Conn College at 1E Norwich
4W Adrian at 3E Elmira
4E Middlebury at 2E Plattsburgh
2W River Falls 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. We still believe Norwich is the top overall seed so we'll line up the Cadets with the lower seeded quarterfinal, which is again Adrian/Elmira:
6E Morrisville/5E Conn College at 1E Norwich
4W Adrian at 3E Elmira
4E Middlebury at 2E Plattsburgh
2W River Falls at 1W Gustavus
And that's it. Despite the fact the field is different from last week and that in turn forced us to move the first round game to the East, things again fell into place rather nicely once the field was set. So that's what a 6-3 split would look like, and is that what we will see Monday? Tough to say now as the weekend's results hold the potential, and especially so this year, to alter how this picture shapes up by Sunday night. Which is, of course, when we will unveil our final bracket projection, so enjoy the weekend's action and we'll see you Sunday...
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.