by Mathieu Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
Well that was certainly an interesting Sunday, not only because it offered up a couple of incredible games but also because the results thereof had a big enough impact on the NCAA Pairwise Rankings to directly affect where this, our final 2019 edition, of Men's Bracketology is headed.
|We didn't even need to change the picture this week. Why? Because it looks like the Beacons are in...
So what happened?
After last night's results were all in, it was clear the final spot in the field was going to come down to Adrian and UMass Boston, and at that point Adrian held a three ten-thousandths of a point edge in RPI. That's .0003.
Then Sunday's game two of the UCHC championship series happened, and with just five seconds to go in regulation Manhattanville's Eric Berglund scored to give the Valiants a 4-3 win over Utica -- the same Utica that Adrian played twice this year.
Once the effect of that outcome was in, UMass Boston was ahead of Adrian by a mere .0006.
Then Trinity topped Amherst in overtime to win the NESCAC, which further (albeit barely) altered the Pairwise, and when the dust settled from that UMass Boston still held a .0004 edge in RPI and sat one spot ahead of Adrian.
The end result: per all information available, UMass Boston is in.
One quick note on this is that these Pairwise estimates are not from the NCAA itself but rather those calculated by USCHO (which we probably trust more than the NCAA anyway), which is a fantastic tool as it updates in real-time as opposed to once per week (assuming the NCAA even posts them on time, which it didn't last week). So it's the best tool any of us have and will be what we use in this this final edition.
Which we'll now walk through in the most efficient manner possible, and while we do please always recall that our goal is always to yield the best NCAA tournament bracket possible by using the published criteria the committee must follow to do so itself.
Or at least that's what we usually do, but we'll find out what that's all about a bit later...
- 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 - March 3
|11||University of New England||20-6-2|
Analysis: The final version, and it is what it is. This alone will dictate team selection and seeding.
- Pool A
Our eight Pool A winners are now known as a result of them winning their Pool A-eligible conference tournaments. Thus, the eight Pool A bids go to:
|CCC:||University of New England|
- 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:
|11||University of New England
Analysis: Obviously this big one here is the apparent move by UMass Boston to just edge out Adrian. This means that per all that is known, the Beacons are in.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: UW-Stevens Point, Oswego State, Hobart, UMass Boston
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|CCC:||University of New England|
|Pool C:||UW-Stevens Point|
|Pool C:||Oswego State|
|Pool C:||UMass Boston|
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||St. Norbert (4)|
|5||Oswego State (5)|
|9||UMass Boston (9)|
|10||University of New England (11)|
|12||Plymouth State (27)|
Setting the Bracket
Well, this should be easy as we can toss out all the riff raff we went through last week regarding how best to handle things with Adrian in the field. We're now looking at a 9-3 split with no Adrian, which means -- seemingly -- the 500-mile travel restriction for early round games locks things in all nice and tidy. Meaning, the three West Region teams have to stay together in a group of three and we can simply make three more groups of three out East and drop all teams in by seed. Easy enough.
If that's the only option, there isn't even anything to discuss and here's your bracket, and this will surely be the most popular option of those people are looking it, if not the only one:
|click to view in full screen|
8 Augsburg @ 4 St. Norbert
12 Plymouth State @ 6 Hobart
11 Manhattanville @ 7 Trinity
10 U of New England @ 9 UMass Boston
Augsburg/St. Norbert @ 1 UW-Stevens Point
U of New England/UMass Boston @ 2 Geneseo
Manhattanville/Trinity @ 3 Norwich
Plymouth State/Hobart @ 5 Oswego State
For the semifinals we'll line up 1v5 and 2v3, so the winner of the Stevens Point group will face the winner of the Oswego State group and the winner of the Geneseo group will face the winner of the Norwich group.
This certainly has its downsides as it potentially pits 1v4 against each other in the quarterfinals, but if the 500-mile rule is interpreted as is seemingly stated there's nothing us or anyone else can do about it.
Or is there?
To find out we're going to turn the clock back a bit and we're going to head back to March of last year. When the bracket was released, we saw a potential quarterfinal match-up between Colby and Geneseo, which are a cool 584 miles apart according to the trusty NCAA mileage calculator. As it turned out, both won in the first round and actually played in the quarters. But when we saw this we wondered whether this was done knowingly or was just an oversight by the committee.
We pursued this with the NCAA, and we won't bore you with details and NCAA bylaws, but the short of it is that it comes down to the interpretation of "early round" games as it pertains to travel limitations. Is a quarterfinal an "early round" game or not? Considering the small nature of the hockey bracket it always appears so visually, but perhaps for once the NCAAs black-and-white, rigid interpretation of its own sometimes ambiguous language works in our favor as a quarterfinal isn't necessarily an "early round" game. It's a quarterfinal.
While we still don't know with certainty whether the committee has this sort of wiggle room all the time, or whether these things get interpreted the same way every year, or even whether the people we talked to last year had know idea what they were talking about and just wanted to mask a mistake, what we do know is that last year there was a quarterfinal played between teams over 500 miles apart that was not forced by geography.
So, if it was good enough for the NCAA in 2018 it's good enough for us now, so we're setting up one quarterfinal between teams that are more than 500 miles apart. Keeping the goal of the top four teams hosting quarterfinals in mind, there are two ways to achieve this: The first is to send the five-seed, Oswego State, right to four-seed St. Norbert for a quarterfinal. This one ends up seeding the field perfectly but also puts all four first round games in the East, which is never ideal. The second option sends the winner of an East Region first round game between (11) Manhattanville and (5) Oswego State to St. Norbert for a quarterfinal. We like this one better as while it very minorly infringes on seed perfection it also keeps Geneseo out of the first round, and that's a price we're willing to pay. Another way to look at it this is that the first option moves seeds 1,4,5,8 right to the quarterfinals while the second puts 1,2,4,8 through and therefore seems marginally better to us. Both options do set up 1/8, 2/7, 3/6 and 4/5 quarterfinals and in both cases the top four seeds would host them, so to us these come out looking to be about as good as it can get:
|Click to view full-size|
12 Plymouth State @ 3 Norwich
11 Manhattanville @ 5 Oswego State
10 University of New England @ 6 Hobart
9 UMass Boston @ 7 Trinity
8 Augsburg @ 1 UW-Stevens Point
Trinity/UMass Boston @ 2 Geneseo
Hobart/University of New England v. Plymouth State/Norwich
Manhattanville/Oswego State @ 4 St. Norbert
For the semifinals, it's a tough call. We'd probably prefer to see two potential E-W match-ups for a few reasons but we'd straight up have to ignore the seeds to do so. We'll leave it straight by seed for now but really wouldn't have much issue flipping the St. Norbert and Norwich groups if someone wanted to do it. Plus we can find no written guidance that addresses our flexibility in this regard.
The very first option with the three West Region teams staying together in one quarter of the bracket seems to be the forced bracket per a rigid interpretation of the travel rules. But based on last year as well as our follow-up it seems there may be a bit of flexibility. If so, and by granting ourselves that same flexibility, we managed to attain almost perfect seed integrity while getting three of the top four seeds straight to the quarters, while also avoiding a quarterfinal between the one and four seeds.
So we like the final option best -- the only real downside of it is that it dumps (3) Norwich into the first round but considering some of the things we've seen in past years it up that really doesn't seem too bad. The Cadets would face the lowest seed in the field in the first round and still be in line to host a quarterfinal. Is the committee crafty enough to come up with such a solution or will they stick to the very first one we presented? Who knows, but we, just like you, will find out Monday morning...