by Matthew Webb
Senior Writer, D3hockey.com
The second NCAA regional rankings were released on Tuesday which means we'd like to welcome you back for the second edition of 2018 Men's Bracketology, where we will again use the published process the NCAA National Committee should be using to select and seed the NCAA tournament to project a tournament field were the season to end today.
|Will Utica's two-spot bump in this week's East Region rankings be enough to land it the Pool B bid or to get it into the Pool C mix?
Photo: Utica Athletics
So what's changed between this week and last? As it turns out, not much, though we'll note a few things:
- The same ten teams are ranked in the East Region, though the order has changed a bit. Most notably, Salve Regina has taken over the No. 1 spot while another has worked its way into the Pool C discussion.
- The top four in the West Region remain unchanged though Augsburg has replaced Saint John's in the five spot.
- No ranked teams have yet to be bounced from their conference tournaments though St. Thomas did pass Saint John's for first in the MIAC so the Tommies will become the projected Pool A MIAC bid.
And we think that's it for now as far as notable changes go. Last week we settled on a tournament field we were quite confident with in pretty rapid fashion and a quick sizing up of things this week inclines us to believe the same will again be the case, which means our only potential stumbling block will again be the arrangement of the bracket.
So, putting last things first...
If you recall, last week we cited a line from the Men's Pre-Championship Manual that related to bracket alignment. As a refresher, it stated: "The committee will pair the teams regionally, based on geographic location of all participants and final seeding."
Taken literally, this implies teams must be paired...regionally. So that's what we did. However, our best investigative efforts have led us to believe this is not the case and that in this instance "regionally" is interchangeable with the term "geographic proximity." More on that in a moment. Now, is this lazy wording? Yes, as "region" is a defined term by the NCAA we think there's little doubt that in a theoretical situation a moderately capable lawyer could nail them down on having to pair teams "regionally," but as that's not exactly a concern here we're simply going to interpret the language and process in the manner we best believe it is interpreted in reality. Long story short, this means we will not be locked into forcing two West Region quarterfinals. Will it matter this week? Maybe.
As a side note, the men's hockey manual really should just use the same language the 2017-18 Division III manual and a plethora of other DIII sports' (including women's hockey) do when it comes to "pairings and site selection." Notice that "regional" appears mainly in reference to seeding whereas "geographic proximity" is used in the relevant portions of 18.104.22.168, subd. (a), which is the important one here. Note that it also states that a team may be moved to "numerically balance the bracket if geographic proximity is maintained."
Makes sense to us, and it's a more common-sensical approach anyway relative to the ambigous wording in the men's hockey manual. Throw in that we have good reason to believe the above is how the process is actually implemented, and away we go...
- The 2018 Men's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of 12 teams.
- Seven conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. These conferences are the: CCC, MASCAC, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC, NESCAC & SUNYAC.
- One team from a conference that does not possess a Pool A bid will receive a Pool B bid. This will be awarded to an independent, UCHC or WIAC team.
- Four teams that do not receive Pool A bids nor the Pool B bid will receive at-large (Pool C) bids into the tournament. Every team that did not receive a Pool A or Pool 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 on what it refers to as its Primary Criteria, which are as follows:
- 1/3 Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage (OOWP)
There are also four Secondary Criterion the committees may look at if they are unable to come to a determination by using only the primary criteria, 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 13, 20 and 27. A fourth will be generated on Selection Sunday (March 4) and is slated to be released to the public on March 5.
- The East Region rankings will contain ten teams, the West Region five.
- For the sake of RNK, the NCAA considers a team ranked only if it is ranked in either of the final two regional rankings (February 27 & March 4)
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 20
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Salve Regina||1. Adrian|
|2. U. of New England||2. St. Norbert|
|2. Hobart||3. UW-Stevens Point|
|4. Oswego State||4. Marian|
|5. Trinity||5. Augsburg|
|6. SUNY Geneseo|
|8. Plymouth State|
|10. Buffalo State|
Analysis: Aside from some shuffling around that will ultimately impact seeding, we don't see anything of too much consequence here. Perhaps the most notable is Utica popping up the two spots to seven, which could be enough to pull it into the Pool C mix should it not obtain the Pool B bid.
- Pool A
As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end today, we will use the teams leading the seven Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. Thus, the seven Pool A bids go to:
- Pool B:
As only UCHC, WIAC, and independent teams are eligible here, this should be easy enough. No independent teams are anywhere near the mix so we'll compare the highest-ranked UCHC team, Utica, with the highest-ranked WIAC team, UW-Stevens Point:
|RNK||.500 (1-1-1)||.400 (2-3-0)|
|COP||.000 (0-1-0)||1.000 (2-0-0)|
Analysis: Utica helped its case a bit last week with two wins but its already poor SOS got even worse. Meanwhile, Augsburg replacing Saint John's in the West Region rankings changed Stevens Point's RNK from 3-2 to 2-3. Is any or all of that enough to give the bid to the Pioneers this week? No.
Utica's only advantage is a half-game edge in RNK, and it's just not enough. The Pioneers' real issue here is, and will continue to be, a SOS that's downright dismal by NCAA selection standards. While every committee is going to interpret things a bit differently, a good historical reference here is the 2010-11 Castleton team that finished 22-4-1 with a SOS a tad over .480 and was left out completely in lieu of a UW-Superior team that finished 16-12-1. That's how low this SOS is. To be fair to Utica, it did play non-conference games against Salve Regina, Oswego State and Adrian, but the overall weakness of the UCHC is a complete anchor here and that's not likely to change barring a complete collapse by Stevens Point.
The Pool B bid is awarded to: UW-Stevens Point
- Pool C:
We now must consider which teams will get at-large bids to the tournament. This requires looking at the next-highest ranked teams in the regional rankings. However, there may come a time we take liberties here and include a few others. We will explain why if/when that time does indeed come:
East: University of New England, Hobart, SUNY Geneseo, Utica
West: St. Norbert, Marian
Let's begin by constructing a table that shows each of these six teams' relative winning percentage (WIN), strength-of-schedule (SOS), and record against ranked teams (RNK). We'll eye things up and see if we can come to any obvious conclusions.
|Univ. of New England
Analysis: So are we seeing anything different from last week? Yes, by hopping up from ninth to seventh in this week's East Region rankings Utica sneaks into the discussion over Endicott, which was the fourth team from the East a week ago.
As always, are there any teams we think we can confidently move right into the field? Yep. St. Norbert cleans house here as it boasts the best numbers in every criterion. The Green Knights are in.
We actually think we can also take University of New England and Hobart right away as well. They're the next-highest ranked teams in the East and both beat out Marian in our minds. Marian does clip Hobart in WIN, but overall we are rather confident that UNE and Hobart are the best two remaining. We again welcome the Nor'easters and Statesmen to the field.
One spot to go. By virtue of its higher regional rank SUNY Geneseo tops Utica here (with the Pioneers' poor SOS again being the big sticking point), which means it's between Geneseo and Marian. It's close, but the only edge Marian has is a very small .019 edge in WIN, which just isn't going to be enough. For the second week in a row Geneseo grabs the final Pool C spot.
One other note here: While unlikely, if Hobart wins the NEHC and all the other Pool A favorites win out, it creates a legitimate chance of a 7-5 East-West split. Even moreso should Marian upset St. Norbert this Saturday. The favorites never seem to all win out, but it's at least worth noting as a 7-5 split is something no one has ever had to assess before and could create some rather novel situations.
The Pool C bids are awarded to: St. Norbert, University of New England, Hobart, SUNY Geneseo
Setting the Field
Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool B:||UW-Stevens Point|
|Pool C:||St. Norbert|
|Pool C:||University of New England|
|Pool C:||SUNY Geneseo|
Seeding the Field
Now the field must be seeded by region. We do note that UNE and Hobart are currently tied for second in the East. For now we gave 2E to UNE, but as you'll see a in a bit isn't going to make one bit of difference to our final bracket so it's not worth worrying about too much. Anyway, using this week's regional rankings, it looks something like this:
1E Salve Regina
Setting the Bracket
Having gotten the heavy lifting out of the way in the introduction we're left with the all-too-familiar pair of plausible options that fall within the restraints of the process, per our best understanding:
- Two West Region quarterfinals
- Four groups of three in which Adrian hosts a quarterfinal against the winner of a first round game between two of the three East Region teams that are within 500 miles of Adrian.
Which is better this week and with these specific seeds/ranks? If we go with (1) all four first round games are in the East which leads to a bracket that's seeded perfectly by regional rank but has the obvious downside of sticking two top regional seeds in the first round. If we go with (2) we lose some seed integrity but keep the top two ranked teams in each region out of the first round, which is of course a desireable option.
In recent years when the committee has gone with the two West Region quartefinal option it needs to be noted that not doing so would have blown up seeding in rather grand fashion and created some extremely unbalanced quarterfinal sections. Extremely. However, as things stand this week, having Adrian host a team from the East Region doesn't look too bad. It's not perfect, but it's pretty reasonable, and reasonable enough we believe it to be a preferred option relative to sticking 1E Salve Regina and 2E UNE in the first round. It also balances the bracket, which we're allowed to do per the cited excerpt in the introduction and we like that, too. Simply put, we believe balancing the bracket, this time, can be done in an equitable enough way that it's the best choice.
So, which two from the East get lined up with Adrian? By seed/rank the best choices would be 4E Oswego State and 6E SUNY Geneseo, but also contained in the excerpt in the introduction is language that prohibits us from pairing two teams from the same conference in the first round. Now, that language does not appear in the men's hockey manual but we nonetheless believe the language in the Division III manual would hold true here as well. That means we'll have to swap out Oswego for only other option, Hobart.
That gives us Geneseo at Hobart with the winner to Adrian. From there the West lines right up by rank and the rest of the East fills in by rank as well. And that does it. Is this the same thing the committee would do? Who knows, but within the confines of what we're allowed to do while remaining true to the process and the limitations that come with it, we believe it to be this week's best option.
Our bracket is:
4W St. Thomas @ 3W UW-Stevens Point
|Click to view full-size.|
6E SUNY Geneseo @ 3E Hobart
7E Plymouth State @ 5E Trinity
8E Norwich @ 4E Oswego State
St. Thomas/UW-Stevens Point @ 2W St. Norbert
Geneseo/Hobart @ 1W Adrian
Plymouth State/Trinity @ 1E Salve Regina
Norwich/Oswego State @ 2E Univ. of New England
And as far as setting up the semifnals, we'll again put 1W on same side of the bracket as 2E, and 1E on the same side as 2W, and that's that.
It's not perfect, but neither option is. Both have their selling points and both have issues, thanks as always to the NCAA's insistence on travel restrictions that do wonders to muck up a regionally limited sport. Regardless, it's something that always has to be dealt with and our take is that in this instance the benefits of balancing the bracket outweigh the relatively minor infringement on seed integrity. And that's that.
Questions or comments you'd like further explanation on or you simply think we're nuts? No problem, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to jump in with your own questions or ideas in the Bracketology Discussion over on the D3sports forums, comment below, or you can always yell at us on twitter @d3hky, or new this year you can yell directly at me on Twitter @d3hky_webb. I will do by best to answer all questions and keep an open discussion going with anyone who would like to participate.