by Mathieu Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
Another week is in the books and the third edition of the Pairwise Rankings from the NCAA are in.
|UMass Boston was in a week ago, but did a NEHC semifinal loss to Hobart knock the Beacons out of this week's field?
It's hard to believe we're less than a week away from Monday's selection show, but indeed we are, and that means it's time for our third of four installments of Men's Bracketology. The fourth and final will follow this Sunday upon the conclusion of the conference tournaments.
So how much has changed this week?
We already gave away that Adrian is back in this week's field, which means we're back to an 8-4 East-West split. This means an East Region team that was in last week is currently out, and you can take a read to find out which that is.
Beyond that, not a lot has changed aside from Norwich now being the projected Pool A bid from the NEHC as top-seed UMass Boston was knocked out of the conference tournament by Hobart? Will this have an affect on this week's projection? Perhaps.
What we end up with might come as a bit of a surprise to people as it's an option we don't think many are considering, but we like it that way -- and as we will expain, it's the best option there is. Not perfect, but it's as good as it can get at the moment.
Recall that the purpose here is project the Men's DIII NCAA tournament field as if the season ended today, and to do so using the written process as provided by the NCAA. We interpret the process in what we conclude is the most fair and equitable manner possible while accounting for its restrictions to yield what we believe is the best bracket possible.
It's not a prediction of what the NCAA would do but rather our best interpretation of the stated process. We cannot emphasize this enough.
With that in mind, away we go once again...
- The 2019 Men's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of 12 teams.
- Eight conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. They are: CCC, MASCAC, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, NESCAC, SUNYAC & UCHC.
- Four teams that do not receive Pool A bids will receive at-large (Pool C) bids into the tournament. Every team that did not receive a Pool A bid is eligible for a Pool C bid.
For the purpose of Pool C selection the committee will use the Pairwise Rankings and select the four highest remaining teams. The components used to generate the Pairwise comparisons, and thus rankings, are as follows:
- The committee will release three editions of Pairwise Rankings prior to tournament selection, with the release dates being February 12, 19 and 26. A fourth will be generated on Selection Sunday (March 3) and is slated to be released to the public on March 4.
NCAA Pairwise Rankings - February 25
|15||University of New England||19-6-2|
|16||New England College||16-5-5|
Analysis: Not much to say as these remain ironclad, but we do note this week's movements in the 6-8 spots and wonder if it will affect our ultimate field.
- Pool A
As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the teams leading the eight Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. Thus, the eight Pool A bids go to:
- Pool C:
We now must determine which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. Usually this leads to having to make a plethora of statistical comparisons, but we already know that now we just have to identify the four highest-ranked teams in the Pairwise that are not currently projected to win a Pool A bid. So let's take a look at the top of the Pairwise to learn who the fortunate four are:
Analysis: The big change here is a direct result of UMass Boston dropping its semifinal game to Hobart. The loss dropped the Beacons from 6 to 8, while Hobart and Adrian both slid up one spot. Two weeks ago Adrian was the last team in, last week it was the first team out, and now the Bulldogs are now once again the last team in.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: UW-Stevens Point, Oswego State, Hobart, Adrian.
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool C:||UW-Stevens Point|
|Pool C:||Oswego State|
Seeding the Field
Now the field must be seeded. Using this week's Pairwise Rankings, we'll do exactly that and seed the teams 1-12 and also include their Pairwise rank in parentheses.
|1||UW-Stevens Point (1)|
|4||Oswego State (4)|
|5||St. Norbert (5)|
|10||Salve Regina (11)|
|12||Plymouth State (31)|
Setting the Bracket
Well here we go. It happened. We're back to an 8-4 East-West split with Adrian in the field, and as we know this convolutes things when it comes to trying to create a balanced bracket, thanks mainly to the NCAAs Division III travel restrictions.
If you recall, in week one we went on a bit of an exploratory adventure and took a look at what the Division III bracket were looked like if we had the full flexibility that Division I offers, and a fine bracket it did yield. As a refresher, you can take a look at it here, and note that while a couple of the East representatives have since changed that the basic concept is still in play. It sure would be nice to just drop these 12 into that bracket by seed and call it a day.
But we can't, though the week one example is a good one as it's the ideal -- the sacred bracket we should all hope and strive to achieve with every last ounce of our rapidly withering D3 souls. So that's what we'll do: get as close to that one as possible while adhering to the Division III travel restrictions. And recall, when we talk about balance we're talking about seed balance, not physical balance as their are four first round games regardless and it doesn't really matter where they go.
To this end, we commonly see three options get bandied about. The first sends all four West teams right to the quarterfinals, the second puts all four West teams in the first round, and the third involves sending Adrian to play an East opponent in the first round. But they all have issues -- big ones, in our minds. Those issues are:
Two West Region quarterfinals: It buries the entire East Region in first round games, which is far from desirable, especially when the group includes the two, three and four overall seeds.
Two West Region first round games: Almost just as bad, especially as it puts the top overall seed in the first round, which seems absurd to do when we don't have to.
Adrian to the East for a first round game: The only allowable version this time around would be Adrian to Oswego State for a first round game with the winner heading to Geneseo for a quarterfinal. The problem is this puts the two, four, and seven seeds in the same group of three, which creates an extremely strong group and one we'd like to avoid. Regardless and most unfortunately, this seems like it might be the best option we have.
Right up until we decide that it isn't.
There's a better one that abstrusely never gets talked about much considering how many words people waste on these things and the fact we've actually seen it happen before, and it involves sending Adrian right to a quartefinal in the East, which in this case could be at Geneseo, Oswego or Hobart. Hobart makes little sense relative to seeds and while sending the Bulldogs to Oswego is mildly intriguing for a few reasons, it would put Norwich into a first round game despite it being a lower seed than Oswego and we don't like that. That leaves Geneseo, and it becomes consummately appealing once we see it's a perfectly balanced quarterfinal as they are the two and seven seeds. Just the way it should be. The one drawback is that it does nothing to fix the remaining group of three out West that lines up the top overall seed with the five seed in the quarterfinals, but there's just no way around that.
|click to view in full screen|
This is an option that often didn't make much sense by seed when the tournament prioritized regional seeds, but with those out of the picture this year and with only the overall seeds to look at, it looks like a pretty good way to go.
It's also a good example of why it's better to pay attention to history and remember it than it is to ignore it and just talk aimlessly.
Why do we like this so much? Recall our goal was to come as close as possible to a bracket that's perfectly balanced by seed. This option puts the top three seeds right to the quarterfinals, which is better than any of the alternatives. So hey, three rights make a left and in this case three rights fix a wrong as well as possible. It also gives us the most well-balanced quarterfinal games of all the options, which we will fully break down in our final version this Sunday should the situation warrant it. This is as close as we can get to the ideal bracket while adhering to travel restrictions.
So that locks UW-Stevens Point, St. Norbert and Augsburg together, as well as Geneseo and Adrian. Beyond that, what's left? Three first round games and two quarterfinals, all of which will be in the East. So let's drop the rest in by seed and see what it looks like. And here it is:
12 Pymouth State @ 4 Oswego State
9 Augsburg @ 5 St. Norbert
11 Utica @ 6 Hobart
10 Salve Regina @ 8 Trinity
Augsburg/St. Norbert @ 1 UW-Stevens Point
7 Adrian @ 2 Geneseo
Salve Regina/Trinity @ 3 Norwich
Hobart/Utica v. Plymouth State/Oswego
As far as setting up the semifinals, 1 gets lined up with 4, and 2 with 3. So the winner of the Stevens Point quarterfinal will face the winner of the Oswego group, while the winner of the Geneseo quarterfinal will meet the winner of the Norwich quarterfinal.
The bad: The West takes it on the chin again as its quarterfinal potentially puts the one and five seeds together. Not ideal by any stretch but the only way around it is to put the entire East in the first round, which is even worse in our minds.
The good: Three of the top four seeds go right to the quarterfinals and this is as close as can be possibly mustered to a balanced bracket that sticks within travel restrictions. Parts of it still stinks, but at least the stink is minimized.
If this were the tournament field and seeds come Monday, is this a bracket we could see? Certainly, and it's the one that we should see. Does it rule out any of the other options? Ha, absolutely not.