Women's Bracketology, Ep. I

by Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com

Here we go again. The regular season is wrapping up, the march to the national championship is about to kick into an even higher gear, and the regional rankings are out?

Not quite on that last one.

Bre Simon and the Hamline Pipers are again a big part of the national conversation, but where would they land under the new selection process?
Photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

The regional rankings are nowhere to be found now, and the newly-implemented Pairwise rankings that the NCAA will be using this season, and have been using for years in Division I, were formally released by the big blue circle on Tuesday to give us an official picture of where everyone stands for NCAA tournament consideration.

The release of those rankings also means we go back to work attempting to demonstrate the process used to select and seed the tournament field as we dive into Bracketology for the first time here in 2019.

But before doing that, what exactly has changed with the Pairwise?

Well, for starters, the selection criteria we've come to know and abide by for several years has gone on vacation. The NCAA elected to begin using the Pairwise on a two year trial basis this past offseason. The Pairwise is a ranking generated that the NCAA committee will use to select and seed the tournament field. The highest-ranked teams that are not in via automatic bid come selection time will be the at-large teams selected into the NCAA tournament field, and the tournament seeding will be done on the order of those rankings. It's actually that simple, as crazy as simplicity in these exercises may occasionally sound.

So that's probably a big change for all of you, just as it is for us. We now will know week-by-week who will make the field under the status quo without having to guess on how much we believe the committee will weigh each part of a close comparison, and while we have been admittedly pretty accurate, we now believe we will be able to have an even better understanding of who exactly should be in the field and where they may be going before we even get to the selection show.

That sounds straightforward enough, but we'll stick with you here regardless as we're here to inform at this time of year, and we'll inform you about the current process and how we believe it will be implemented even if much of the mystery of years' past is now gone. So with that said, let's do this -- and we'll do it right after we mention the other big change this year: the women's tournament will now be comprised of ten teams as opposed to the nine we've seen in recent years.

 

The Tournament

  • The 2019 Women's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of 10 teams.
  • Six conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. They are: CHC, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, NESCAC, NEWHL
  • One team that does not receive a Pool A bid will receive a Pool B bid. This bid is reserved for independents and teams in conferences that do not possess a Pool A bid. This translates to independents, the UCHC and the WIAC.
  • Three 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 B and C selections the committee will use the Pairwise Rankings and select the highest remaining team(s) for each. The components used to generate the Pairwise comparisons, and thus rankings, are as follows:

 
  • Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) *
  • Quality Win Bonus (QWB) applied to RPI
  • Results versus common opponents
  • Head-to-Head Results
* RPI formula is 25-21-54 (25% winning percentage, 21% opponents winning percentage, and 54% opponents' opponents' winning percentage)

 

NCAA Rankings

  • 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 12 (Top 12 -- see the full rankings here)

1 Plattsburgh 20-2-0
2 St. Thomas 21-0-2
3 Elmira 20-2-1
4 Adrian 18-4-1
5 Hamline 18-1-3
6 Wisconsin-River Falls 19-4-0
7 Middlebury 14-4-3
8 Wisconsin-Eau Claire 18-4-2
9 Williams 14-4-3
10 Norwich 18-5-2
11 Gustavus Adolphus 13-5-5
12 Endicott 15-4-4


Analysis: These are what they are so there isn't too much to say, but it may jump out as bit notable that West region teams account for four of the top six and five of the eight spots in the Pairwise. Will this ultimately lead to a West-heavy field? We'll keep going here in attempt to find out...

 

Pool Selection

  • 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:

CHC: Endicott
MIAC: St. Thomas
NCHA: Adrian
NEHC: Norwich
NESCAC: Middlebury
NEWHL: Plattsburgh State

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Pool B

The Pool B bid goes to the top team among independents and those conferences without an automatic bid in the Pairwise rankings. The conferences without an automatic bid this season are still the WIAC and UCHC, and no independent team was even able to crack the top 15 of the rankings. And the highest-ranked among those is Elmira, which checks in at No. 3.

The Pool B Bid is awared to: Elmira
 

  • Pool C:

We now must determine which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. We again turn to the Pairwise and remove teams already in via a Pool A bid and can also remove Elmira as the Soaring Eagles have already claimed the Pool B bid. So let's take a look at the top of the Pairwise to learn who the fortunate three are:

1 Plattsburgh 20-2-0
2 St. Thomas 21-0-2
3 Elmira 20-2-1
4 Adrian 18-4-1
5 Hamline 18-1-3
6 Wisconsin-River Falls 19-4-0
7 Middlebury 14-4-3
8 Wisconsin-Eau Claire 18-4-2
9 Williams 14-4-3
10 Norwich 18-5-2
11 Gustavus Adolphus 13-5-5
12 Endicott 15-4-4


Analysis: This is going to take nowhere near as much analysis as in the past, which makes our job a lot easier, and makes it far less of an exercise in theoretics for anyone out there to figure out where they stand. With that in mind, we do have somewhat of a groundbreaking item here this week as the West region cleans up the remaining bids with Hamline, River Falls, and Eau Claire all having impressive impressive enough seasons to be the three-highest remaining teams.

The Pool C bids are awarded to: Hamline, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire

 

Setting the Field

Thus, our full tournament field is: 

CHC: Endicott
MIAC: St. Thomas
NCHA: Adrian
NEHC: Norwich
NESCAC: Middlebury
NEWHL Plattsburgh State
Pool B: Elmira
Pool C: Hamline
Pool C: UW-River Falls
Pool C: UW-Eau Claire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Plattsburgh State (1)
2 St. Thomas (2)
3 Elmira (3)
4 Adrian (4)
5 Hamline (5)
6 UW-River Falls (6)
7 Middlebury (7)
8 UW-Eau Claire (8)
9 Norwich (10)
10 Endicott (12)

 

Setting the Bracket

If you read the men's bracketology earlier this week, you may have noticed that our esteemed Mr. Webb decided to play around a bit with the men's field and structure the bracket as if it were a Division I regional setup for fun. We won't be doing that here this evening. 

If you've been with us before, you know how the rules generally operate here, but for the newcomers and those who need a refresher, we're here for you.
There are a couple of defining principles that govern how this is done:

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).

And so here we go. With a 10-team field it means will will have two first round games, and we will again have to contend Adrian's presence in the field and its limited travel options for the first round.

We can set one of the matchups already with Adrian in the mix. There is only one team in this field that is even within 500 miles, and it's Elmira. Yup.... again. In addition, the opening round games are now on Wednesday, so we won't have the opening round setup we had last year when the teams played at the home site of the quarterfinal host with the winner playing that host there the next day.

With a 5/5 regional split and Adrian and Elmira set to face one another in the quarterfinals in this scenario, we have four teams left from each region with which to comprise six other quarterfinalists, and there's two ways we think it could possibly shake out under the restrictions. We won't pick one this week, as we believe that neither one is overwhelmingly favorable to the integrity of the bracket with no inter-regional options available outside of the matchup we already know, so there's only two ways this can go under the 500 mile principle. 


Option 1: 

Some of us believe this to be the best option at the moment as it keeps top overall seed Plattsburgh out of the first round, but it's certainly not the only one.

First Round 
8 UW-Eau Claire @ 2 St. Thomas
6 UW-River Falls @ 5 Hamline

Quarterfinals
8 UW-Eau Claire/2 St. Thomas v. 6 UW-River Falls/5 Hamline
4 Adrian @ 3 Elmira
9 Norwich @ 7 Middlebury 
10 Endicott @ 1 Plattsburgh State

Semifinals 
St. Thomas section winner v. Elmira quarterfinal winner
Plattsburgh State quarterfinal winner v. Middlebury quarterfinal winner


Option 2: 

Others of us find this to be a preferable option, as though it ridiculously drops Plattsburgh into the first round the West Region four (2,5,6,8) are seeded collectively higher than the East Region four (1,7,9,10), which means in this version the first-round games go in the East.

Opening Round 
9 Norwich @ 7 Middlebury 
10 Endicott @ 1 Plattsburgh State

Quarterfinals
8 UW-Eau Claire @ 2 St. Thomas
4 Adrian @ 3 Elmira
6 UW-River Falls @ 5 Hamline
9 Norwich/7 Middlebury v. 10 Endicott/1 Plattsburgh State

Semifinals
Plattsburgh section winner v. Hamline quarterfinal winner
St. Thomas quarterfinal winner v. Elmira quarterfinal winner


Analysis: The main takeaway here is that with a ten team field, a 5-5 East/West split, and a forced Elmira/Adrian match-up, these are the only two options that appear to fall within NCAA travel guidelines. After Elmira and Adrian are paired off, four teams remain in each region which mean both first round games must be in the same region. The result is two rather miserable looking brackets that are anything but balanced.

Could the NCAA avoid this by perhaps flying a team for a straight quarterfinal? There may be some gray area there depending on how rigidly one wishes to read NCAA bylaw language, and depending on what happens over the course of the next few weeks is something we might ultimately take a look at.

But there you have it: two options, and in both of them one of the top two seeds ends up in a first round game.

 

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