D3hockey.com Women's Bracketology: Take II

by Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com

Another week goes by, and with another round of games coming and going, we have a new pairwise to dissect. A few teams have swapped positions with the latest set of results, with UW-River Falls and Williams both making big moves, and Middlebury now finds itself in some hot water as it stands as the first team out of the field under our projection. Otherwise, not much really changed this week as you'll find out. 

Is it possible that perennial power Middlebury is in a 'win to get in' situation in the NESCAC playoffs?
Photo: Middlebury Athletics

The newly-implemented Pairwise rankings that the NCAA is using this season, and have been using for years in Division I, were formally released by the NCAA for a second time this week, giving us an official window into where each team currently stands. 

The release of those rankings also 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 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 18 (Top 12 -- see the full rankings here)

1 Plattsburgh 22-2-0
2 St. Thomas 22-1-2
3 Elmira 22-2-1
4 Wisconsin-River Falls 21-4-0
5 Hamline 19-2-3
6 Adrian 19-4-2
7 Williams 16-4-3
8 Wisconsin-Eau Claire 18-5-2
9 Middlebury 14-6-3
10 Norwich 19-5-2
11 Gustavus Adolphus 15-5-5
12 Endicott 17-4-4



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 Pool A eligible conferences as our automatic qualifiers.  Thus, the six Pool A bids go to:

CHC: Endicott
MIAC: St. Thomas
NCHA: Adrian
NEHC: Norwich
NESCAC: Williams
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 remains 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
2 St. Thomas
3 Elmira
4 Wisconsin River Falls
5 Hamline
6 Adrian
7 Williams
8 Wisconsin-Eau Claire
9 Middlebury
10 Norwich
11 Gustavus Adolphus
12 Endicott

Analysis: Not much changed here except for a flip-flop between the two NESCAC teams, and a slight jumbling of the western teams. River Falls moved into fourth and swapped spots with Adrian, who moved down to sixth, and Williams also swapped spots with Middlebury between the seventh place and ninth place spots. The only thing that will change to our field are slight adjustments to the seeding, and Williams would prospectively replace Middlebury as the NESCAC At-Large under our projection here, leaving Middlebury out of the field. Outside of that, our At-Larges continue to carry a heavily Western flavor to them. 

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: Williams
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 UW-River Falls (4)
5 Hamline (5)
6 Adrian (6)
7 Williams (7)
8 UW-Eau Claire (8)
9 Norwich (10)
10 Endicott (12)


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).

With essentially the same field as last week except for one team, we find ourselves right back in the same pickle we've been in. We maintain a 5-5 split, Adrian still has only one opponent it can play inside the 500 mile limit, and that team is Elmira, and we have eight teams through which to fill in the six other quarterfinalist spots. Our seeds will change slightly, with River Falls now hosting Hamline, but otherwise we have very similar options to last week. 

With eight teams and exceptions highly unlikely to be made on quarterfinal travel, we have eight teams for the six spots and won't be able to have any other inter-regional play except Adrian-Elmira before the semifinals. So we have virtually identical brackets, neither of which are perfect. 

Option 1: 

Again, this would be the option that puts the West Region teams in the first round despite the fact that they carry a higher average seed than their remaining eastern counterparts, but gets the top seed, Plattsburgh, a bye into the quarterfinals. River Falls now hosts Hamline with the change in the rankings, and Middlebury is replaced by Williams with no residual changes. Otherwise, the same as option 1 from last week. 

First Round 
8 UW-Eau Claire @ 2 St. Thomas
5 Hamline @  4 UW-River Falls  

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

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

Option 2: 

This is our other option, which respects the higher average seeds of the West group of four (2,4,5,8) vs. the East (1,7,9,10), but if of course carries the unfortunately downside of sticking top-seed Plattsburgh State in the first roun.

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

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

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

Analysis: The main takeaway again is that the travel restrictions force us to do some crazy things, but we feel that these are the best options we have under the NCAA travel guidelines which are our biggest limiting factor in a lot of ways. If the NCAA remains rigid on those in the quarterfinals, we have to limit inter-regional games and thus we have to pair off teams that can prospectively meet in the quarterfinals under the travel restrictions, which yields the strange looking brackets that we have compiled. That said, could the NCAA leverage a gray area in the language of its own bylaws and not classify the quarterfinals as a "preliminary round", then add a flight to help balance the bracket? It's possible. But we don't think it's likely. But in the meantime, we give you the almost exact same two less-than-ideal options to munch on for this week. 


No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.