By Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
There were no changes among the top four spots in either region when the second public NCAA regional rankings were released Tuesday, but that doesn't mean the events of the past week cannot have an impact on our latest NCAA projections.
|UW-Eau Claire's arrival in the West rankings this week seemed innocent enough, but it turned out to significantly affect this week's analysis.
In the last week alone Adrian pulled off a big sweep of Pool C contender Lake Forest in a battle of ranked teams in the West, Middlebury jumped into the Pool A drivers' seat by sneaking past Hamilton for the top spot in the NESCAC, and a pair of newcomers have broken into the regional rankings.
With those rankings in the public domain, and another week of games in the books, it's 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.
In case you're new to this or just need a refresher on how this is going to work, we'd like to make a few quick points regarding our methodology: what will be seen here is the tournament field, as it would be set as of the time of the most recent regional rankings, 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. If you're new to the NCAA process, we highly recommend diving into our Selection Process Primer before going any further.
Once you've done that, or if you're familiar with the process already in your travels, it's high time to move forward as we bring you our next version of the tournament field if we were to select it as of Tuesday's ranking release.
- 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 21
|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. Endicott||5. UW-Eau Claire|
|6. Connecticut College||6. Augsburg|
- Pool A: As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end now, we will use the teams that have claimed top seeding in the five Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. The only change here from last week is that Middlebury erased a narrow deficit in the NESCAC standings and overtook Hamilton. This is important, as it opens up one of the Pool C bids held by Middlebury in our last projection for a new team to jump in while the Panthers move to Pool A. With that in mind, your Pool A qualifiers are:
- 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, and another high noon standoff between West No. 1 UW-River Falls, and East No. 5 Endicott.
|RNK||.0000 (0-1-0)||.6000 (3-2-0)|
|COP||.0000 (0-0-0)||.0000 (0-0-0)|
Analysis: Endicott does pull a smidge closer to River Falls than last week because the RNK metric of the Falcons went from a perfect 1.000 down to .6000 now that UW-Eau Claire, who has beaten the Falcons twice this year, is a ranked team.
This helps Endicott a bit, but it's still nowhere near enough to overcome the advantages enjoyed in this comparison by River Falls. Endicott played only one currently ranked team in Middlebury this season and did not record a win and is still facing a significant disadvantage in SOS. Add in a relatively stagnant advantage in WIN and the Falcons still sweep this comparison.
The bid here will go to the WIAC, but unlike last week, this is not where Endicott gets off the tour. The Gulls will make famed singer Maurice Williams happy by staying...just a little bit longer. So if you're an Endicott fan, keep reading because you may just like it.
The Pool B Bid is Awarded To: UW-River Falls
- Pool C:
We now must consider which teams will get the remaining two 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: Elmira, Endicott, Connecticut College
West: Lake Forest, UW-Eau Claire, Augsburg
This is where the changes beneath the surface really begin to take hold, as we will evaluate three teams for a Pool C that did not make this comparison last week.
As always, we'll construct a table that includes WIN, SOS and RNK to see if we can draw any immediate conclusions.
|Conn. College||.7050||.5460||.5000 (1-1-0)|
|Lake Forest||.8200||.4590||.0000 (0-3-0)|
|UW-Eau Claire||.6600||.5180||.4285 (3-4-0)|
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. The highest ranked teams left in each region are Elmira and Lake Forest at this point, so let's get a look at who we may be able to pull in, first with the current numbers:
|RNK|| .1666 (0-4-2)
|| .0000 (0-3-0)
|COP||.0000 (0-1-0)||.0000 (0-3-0)|
For reference, here are last week's numbers as they greatly illustrate how much can change in the course of a week, as well as a principle that will apply to the selection of our final Pool C team:.
|ELMIRA (2/14)||LAKE FOREST (2/14)|
|| .7000 (3-1-1)
|COP||.0000 (0-1-0)||.0000 (0-1-0)|
Our first Pool C selection went to Elmira last week and although there has been some shifting of the updated numbers (blue table) relative to last week's (red table), we believe that a tightening deficit in win percentage, grouped with a dramatic overtake by Elmira in RNK and a still-enormous SOS advantage is enough to again place the Soaring Eagles into the field.
The swing in RNK is particularly fascinating on the Lake Forest end of the equation because of how quickly and drastically it happened. Remember, a team is only calculated into record against ranked opponents if it is ranked by the regional committees at the time of selection. With that in tow, Lake Forest had a 3-1-1 RNK last week, which was due in large part to St. Scholastica being a ranked team. The Foresters were 3-0-1 against the Saints, with their lone ranked loss coming against Adrian.
Fast forward a week, and the Saints have fallen out while Lake Forest lost twice more to Adrian, who remains ranked. The result was a complete wipeout of the Foresters previously solid 3-1-1 RNK. A lot can change in a week.
That, of course, remains quite volatile, and all RNK metrics are subject to change based on team movement in and out of the rankings each week.
We explained this in pretty expansive detail because the results of our final comparison, and our last team in, just might surprise you. But before we do that, we need to cut some teams loose. By the pecking order created for prospective tournament bids by the regional rankings, UW-Eau Claire, Augsburg, and Connecticut College cannot get in under this scenario as they all have teams ahead of them in the regional rankings and we only have one spot left. So for that trio, it's not goodbye; rather it just might be see you later. Things can change in a flash as we have just demonstrated with Lake Forest, but we cannot stray from the stated process today.
Getting back on course, this leaves us with the top ranked team remaining in each region for our final spot: Lake Forest and Endicott.
|| .0000 (0-3-0)
|COP||.0000 (0-0-0)||.0000 (0-0-0)|
One look at the numbers and, while it may not be by all that much, Endicott wins this comparison in surprisingly easy fashion. Lake Forest's RNK last week may have saved it here, but with that neutralized and the Gulls holding the edge in the other two items, Endicott sneaks into the field to give the Colonial Hockey Conference its first NCAA tournament bid. One can't help but wonder if UW-Eau Claire would have a much better chance in this spot...
The Pool C Bids are awarded to: Elmira, Endicott
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, and not a whole lot is going to change. Again, the unbalanced split between regions usually means a flight for at least one quarterfinal game with all but a small handful of inter-regional opponents being over 500 miles apart.
However, we can avoid going over the 500 mile threshold and using a flight for a second week in a row, and we have to if we're able to according to the rules. Adrian and Elmira are within 500 miles of each other. As with last year, and last week's edition, nothing changes here and Elmira will bus to Adrian by virtue of Adrian's higher ranking.
With those two pairing off, we think the rest of the bracket's match-ups are cut and dried. River Falls will host Gustavus Adolphus in the lone West quarterfinal, while the two all-East quarterfinals fall right into place by seed.
|Click to view full size|
Our quarterfinal match-ups are:
5E Endicott at 1E Plattsburgh
4E Elmira at 2W Adrian
3E Norwich at 2E Middlebury
3W Gustavus at 1W UW-River Falls
There are no in-conference matchups, and we will again place the top regional seeds on either side of our bracket. Which means we now just have to decide on which side of the bracket to put the Adrian and Middlebury quarterfinals.
As was the case last week, we suspect Adrian is a higher-seeded team than Middlebury, though it's a very close comparison. But for now we give Adrian the edge which mean we put the "weaker" quarterfinal, Middlebury's, on the same side of the bracket as top-seeded Plattsburgh State.
We concede this eliminates the chance for two East-West semifinals, which is always a nice novelty, but seed integrity trumps all when possible, which means Adrian lands in the same half as River Falls, giving us potential semifinal match-ups of:
Plattsburgh State/Endicott v. Middlebury/Norwich
UW-River Falls/Gustavus Adolphus v. Adrian/Elmira
In the words of a famous cartoon pig you that you or your parents may have watched growing up, that's all folks. At least for now. Things can change in a hurry and one must look no further than this week's Pool C picture to see that. So hang tight as plenty more changes could be in store...
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.