By Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
Last week, we saw very little change at the top end of the NCAA regional rankings. It was the changes in the back of the rankings that caused enough upheaval to create a Pool C scenario that raised a lot of eyebrows as Lake Forest's record against ranked opponents bottomed out enough to let a Colonial Hockey Conference team, Endicott, into our projected field.
|Augsburg enters the field as the new projected MIAC Pool A team. Will Gustavus Adolphus' presence in the Pool C mix change the make-up of this week's bracket?
Photo: Ryan Coleman for d3photography.com
Another week has passed, and in it came even more alterations to the NCAA regional rankings that stand to transform the always dynamic Pool C picture. Specifically as Gustavus Adolphus, a Pool A team as of last week, was eliminated from the MIAC playoffs but remained at No. 3 in the West rankings which is going to vault the Golden Gusties directly into the Pool C discussion.
Out East, Utica's appearance in lieu of Connecticut College in this week's rankings boosted the record against ranked opponents of five teams. At the bottom end of the West rankings, Augsburg and Lake Forest traded places and there was also swap at the very top that likely won't affect our ultimate bracket, but it's nevertheless worth taking note of the fact Adrian leapfrogged UW-River Falls for the top spot.
With all of that now on the books, it's time once again for D3hockey.com to project the Women's NCAA Tournament field based on the published process the NCAA National Committee will be using to select and seed the NCAA tournament field.
In case you're new to this or just need a refresher on how this is going to work, we'd like to make a few quick points regarding our methodology: what will be seen here is the tournament field, as it would be set as of the time of the most recent regional rankings, per our best interpretation and implementation of the published tournament selection process. There will be no speculation, tangent theories or conjecture.
Our job is to walk through the NCAA tournament selection process, as it can be confusing enough in its own right -- especially to those who are new to it. If our conclusions come to be different than the actual tournament field, the reasons why will be dealt with in our annual Tournament Selections Explained article that will follow the announcements of the selections. Simply put, our projections will not be based on anything other than the stated selction process. If you're new to the NCAA process, we highly recommend diving into our Selection Process Primer before going any further.
Once you've done that, or if you're familiar with the process already in your travels, it's high time to move forward as we bring you our next version of the tournament field if we were to select it as of Tuesday's ranking release.
- The 2017 Women's Division III Ice Hockey Championship will consist of eight teams.
- Five conference playoff champions will receive automatic qualifying bids (Pool A) to the tournament. Those conferences are the: ECAC West, MIAC, NCHA, NEHC & NESCAC.
- One team will receive a Pool B bid to the tournament. This bid is reserved for independent teams as well as those that participate in conferences without a Pool A bid, which are the CHC and WIAC.
- Two teams that do not receive Pool A bids, or the Pool B bid, will receive at-large (Pool C) bids into the tournament. Every team that did not receive a Pool A or 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 mainly on what it refers to as its Primary Criteria, which are as follows
- 1/3 Opponents' Opponents' Winning Percentage (OOWP)
There are also three Secondary Criterion the committees may look at if they choose to, 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 14, 21 and 28. A fourth will be generated on March 5 but those are not released to the public. It's prudent to note that this differs from the language in the men's championship manual, which now states their final rankings will be released. The tournament field will be announced at 10 a.m. EST on Monday, March 6.
- Both the East and West Region rankings will contain six teams.
- For the sake of RNK, the NCAA considers a team ranked only if it is ranked at the time of tournament selection (in the March 5 final rankings).
NCAA Regional Rankings - February 28
|EAST REGION||WEST REGION|
|1. Plattsburgh State||1. Adrian|
|2. Middlebury||2. UW-River Falls|
|3. Norwich||3. Gustavus Adolphus|
|4. Elmira||4. Augsburg|
|5. Endicott||5. UW-Eau Claire|
|6. Utica||6. Lake Forest|
- Pool A: As Bracketology assumes this would be the tournament field were the season to end now, we will use the teams that have claimed top seeding in the five Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers. Thus, the Pool A teams are:
- Pool B: One bid is reserved for independent teams and teams that participate in leagues that do not possess a Pool A bid. For the third week in a row, the highest-ranked eligible teams are Endicott out of the CHC, and UW-River Falls out of the WIAC:
|RNK||.0000 (0-1-0)||.6000 (3-2-0)|
|COP||.0000 (0-0-0)||.0000 (0-0-0)|
Analysis: You'll notice almost nothing has changed here. Endicott hasn't played a game since February 18, while River Falls swept UW-Superior in its semifinal series, which did nothing to harm the Falcons but did increase their small lead in WIN. The bid still goes to River Falls in a clean sweep across the board. Simple enough. As for Endicott, the Gulls were our last team in a week ago, but will it be the case this time around? Onto Pool C we go...
The Pool B Bid is Awarded To: UW-River Falls
- Pool C:
We now must consider which teams will get the remaining two at-large bids to the tournament. That requires looking at the highest ranked teams in the regional rankings that are not projected to win Pool A or B, and those are:
East: Elmira, Endicott, Utica
West: Lake Forest, UW-Eau Claire, Gustavus Adolphus
As always, we'll construct a table that includes WIN, SOS and RNK to see if we can draw any immediate conclusions.
|Lake Forest||.7960||.4730||.0000 (0-3-0)|
|Gustavus Adolphus||.7120||.5200||.5000 (3-3-0)|
|UW-Eau Claire||.6600||.5180||.4285 (3-4-0)|
Analysis: We're going to cut right to the chase here as we have a much different final comparison on board for you today. Elmira was at the front of the line last week and with another win and improved RNK thanks to Utica becoming a ranked team, the Soaring Eagles case has become even stronger. With a resume that's being driven largely by a huge SOS, we again confidently move Elmira into the field.
With just one spot left, we can now use this week's regional rankings to discount all but the highest-ranked team remaining in each region. That means we must bid adieu to Utica, Lake Forest and UW-Eau Claire, which leaves us with a final comparison between Endicott and Gustavus Adolphus:
|| .5000 (3-3-0)
|COP||.0000 (0-0-0)||.0000 (0-0-0)|
Last week Endicott was fortunate enough to be in a position where its dance partner in this decision, Lake Forest, had a once-strong RNK wiped out entirely and was saddled with a dismal SOS. This week, Endicott no longer has that luxury as it must go toe-to-toe with the MIAC regular season champions.
This is a tough call that would quite simply come down to how the committee weighs each criterion. Specifically, is Endicott's WIN advantage enough to overcome a large disadvantage in SOS and zero wins over ranked teams? Historically, we believe the committee would give this one to the Gusties, and presently, we do as well.
If the Gulls win their next two playoff games against the best competition in the Colonial, and the high seeds perform as they should in other conference tournaments, we're likely re-visiting this exact same choice again on Sunday. We'll see how much impact those events, which are now out of Gustavus' control as it doesn't play this week, might have between now and Sunday.
But for now, the final spot is going to the Gusties.
The Pool C Bids are awarded to: Elmira, Gustavus Adolphus.
Setting The Field
- Thus, our full tournament field is:
|Pool B:||UW-River Falls|
|Pool C:||Gustavus Adolphus|
Seeding the Field
- Now the field must be seeded by region. Using this week's regional rankings, it would look something like this:
Setting the Bracket
We begin by reminding you that as we place our teams, there are two considerations that have to be noted.
1. The NCAA 500-mile preliminary round travel limit must be adhered to if possible. Mapquest, Google Maps, or your Rand McNally Atlas 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 the distance measures over 500 miles to the competition site by that calculation, the NCAA must offer a flight to the visiting team. Given the significant expense, they are instructed to avoid that if possible.
2. Per the NCAA Pre-Championship manual, we cannot pair teams from the same conference against one another in the quarterfinals.
With that all set in our minds, our first round matchups are going to be... a bit different than last week as for the first time this year we have arrived at a 4/4 East-West split. Associatedly, this makes it a bit more difficult when it comes to maintaining bracket integrity. What adds complexity to our matters today, as it has in past seasons, is that Adrian is over 500 miles from all other West Region teams. There are also a pair of teams in each region that cannot meet in the quarterfinals as they are from the same league.
We have two ways to solve the problem here, and neither of them are going to be perfect
a) We can slide Elmira back out to Adrian, which fits the limitation for mileage. When we were doing that before, we did so under a 5/3 split that made it the logical inter-regional matchup. Now, we do so with a 4/4 split, and to do this would require a second inter-regional matchup, and that's going to need a flight. This creates an interesting cross section that would let us maximize seed integrity by using the needed flight to create a cross-regional 4v1 matchup on the other side and fill in with regional 2v3 matchups that satisfy both of the stipulations we talked about earlier.
That bracket would look like this:
4E Elmira at 1W Adrian
3E Norwich at 2E Middlebury
3W Gustavus at 2W UW-River Falls
4W Augsburg at 1E Plattsburgh.
b) We could possibly utilize that flight to bring a fellow West Region team to Adrian and keep everything in-region for the quarterfinals. Our issue with this, however, is that it doesn't offer the seed integrity of the first option. We can not have a 4v1 matchup in the East as Plattsburgh and Elmira are both in the ECAC West and thus can't meet in a quarterfinal. Thus we'd have no choice but to send Elmira to Middlebury and Norwich to Plattsburgh.
The quarterfinals in such a bracket would have to come together like so:
3E Norwich at 1E Plattsburgh
4E Elmira at 2E Middlebury
3W Gustavus at 2E River Falls
4W Augsburg at 1W Adrian (Flight)
|Click to view full-size|
With a flight in either scenario, we can't be exactly sure what the committee would do, but we know what we would do, and it's the first option. A flight is a flight, so we're picking the one that lets us seed the field perfectly by regional seed. Sending the lowest-seeded West Region team to play the top-seeded East Region team also happens to be the way the committee has handled this in the past, so that gives us at least some confidence that we're on the mark here.
When it comes to which quarterfinals to put on which side of the bracket we're going to do the same thing we did the first two weeks and put 1E and 1W, Plattsburgh on Adrian on opposite sides of the bracket. From there we believe River Falls is the next highest-seeded team so we're going to line up the Falcons with Adrian and put the Middlebury quarterfinal on the Plattsburgh side. It eliminates the chance of getting two East-West semifinals which is always a nice novelty, but we end up with a perfectly seeded bracket. Not bad when a flight is required and one potential East quarterfinal isn't allowed. This is as good as it can get with this field and the current regional rankings.
Questions, comments, you'd like further explanation or you simply think we're nuts? No problem, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or you can always yell at us on twitter @d3hky.