by Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
Here we go. One final projection and if you've read this the last time we did it, a quick spoiler alert.... Very little has changed from week-to-week. In fact, we have the same ten teams we had two weeks ago.
We did have big change before the season started. The newly-implemented Pairwise rankings are in use to select and seed the tournament field, so we now have a better idea than we ever would have off hand previously regarding who is going and who is going where.
The weekend's results and minimal changes in the expected Pairwise Order means we make our next attempt to demonstrate the process used to select and seed the tournament field.
But before doing that, a refresher in case you're wondering what this pairwise thing is, and what it's about.
Well, for starters, the selection criteria we've come to know and abide by for several years has gone on holiday. 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 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:
- 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 - Approxmate - Selection Sunday
- Pool A
With tournament play now in the bag, we can glance at our automatic bids with absolute certainty rather than assuming that the top seeded team wins for the first time. While that is a welcome change, our Pool A doesn't change one bit.
- 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 is now at No. 2.
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||St. Thomas (Pool A)|
|2||Elmira (Pool B)|
|3||Plattsburgh (Pool A)|
|4||Adrian (Pool A)|
|5||Hamline (Pool C, Bid 1)|
|6||UW-River Falls (Pool C, Bid 2)|
|7||Williams (Pool A)|
|8||Wisconsin-Eau Claire (Pool C, Bid 3)|
|10||Norwich (Pool A)|
|11||Endicott (Pool A)|
Analysis: Just going to continue to cut to the chase here. We some jumbling that may affect seeding, but the teams that were in Pool C position on our previous edition remain the ones intact to claim the bids here according to the Pairwise. The West is really going to like Pool C as Hamline will get another go at a frozen four run, the Falcons seem to enjoy this time of year, and the WIAC Champion Blugolds are an incredibly tough matchup with the high strength hockey they play, and that's again what we're going with.
Our tournament field does not change.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: Hamline, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|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||St. Thomas (1)|
|6||UW-River Falls (6)|
|8||UW-Eau Claire (8)|
Setting the Bracket
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, your GPS, an Odometer, or any maps, regardless of if they're the Mercator or Robinson projection, 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 experiment 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).
So anyway, we have quite an interesting situation in that we hardly have anything new to talk about as things are almost exactly as they were two weeks ago, and we've had the same at-large teams going since the NCAA Pairwise releases began. That's incredible. So what we're going to do today, finally, is pick the bracket of the two we've talked about that we think will stand as the option they take on Monday Morning.
Here's what we know. They will inevitably pair off Adrian and Elmira again because of the 500 mile rule. That has us on the 5-5 regional split we've been dealing with the entire time, with eight teams going for six quarterfinal spots. Because of travel restrictions, we are going to presume that the teams out of region won't be playing each other before the semifinals unless the NCAA wants to work around some ambiguity in the handbook language that permits a quarterfinal game not to be considered a preliminary round game.
We also went over two options previously. One with the East region getting stuck in the first round, and one in the West. We previously justified the potential for the East region quartet to get stuck in the first round because of their lower overall seeds combined compared to the West's higher seeds, and the West only gained ground there this week as they are seeded 1, 5, 6, 8. Compared to the East region's seeds of 3, 7, 9, and 10 for their remaining teams, we think the West may have gained enough ground where we have a bit more confidence in saying that the West will grab those quarterfinal byes. So we are going with something that closely mirrors what we saw in the second option we presented, especially with the top overall seed now belonging to St. Thomas.
So here it is, our projected bracket.
9 Norwich @ 7 Williams
10 Endicott @ 3 Plattsburgh State
8 UW-Eau Claire @ 1 St. Thomas
4 Adrian @ 2 Elmira
6 UW-River Falls @ 5 Hamline
9 Norwich/7 Williams v. 10 Endicott/3 Plattsburgh State
Plattsburgh section winner v. Hamline quarterfinal winner
St. Thomas quarterfinal winner v. Elmira quarterfinal winner
There you have it. Could they still tilt the byes to the East? Certainly, but the move by St. Thomas and the improved average seed makes us believe that we will see the above on Monday Morning. The West Region gets a break, the top Eastern seed gets a bid into the quarters as well against Adrian, this is the one that fits to us. We'll see if we're right when the selections turn up.