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College Hockey:
All Over But the Shouting

And shouting there will be, mostly by Wisconsin-Superior, RIT and Norwich fans, once they see the pairings for the Division III men’s tournament announced Sunday by the NCAA.

But rules are rules, and the rules were followed by the NCAA selection committee.

So to answer the obvious questions:

Q: Wisconsin-River Falls over Wisconsin-Superior? Are they nuts? After River Falls was 0-2-1 in head-to-head play against Superior, including the Yellowjackets defeating the Falcons 6-3 in the NCHA semifinals? After River Falls lost to Wisconsin-Stevens Point 5-2 in the NCHA consolation game?

A: Yep. Applying the five criteria outlined in the NCAA Division III Championship Handbook:

1. In region winning percentage
2. In region head to head results
3. In region results against common opponents
4. Strength of schedule as determined by in region opponent’s winning percentage
5. Results against teams already in the tournament

In comparing the two teams, UWRF wins on winning percentage (.776 to .759), record vs. common opponents (.818 to .740) and record against teams in the tournament (.333 to .250). Superior wins head to head (2-0-1) and strength of schedule (.551 to .480). That’s 3-2 in favor of River Falls.

Q: Elmira over RIT? The Soaring Eagles have three more losses and one fewer win than the Tigers. RIT was ranked fourth in the last poll, while Elmira was not even ranked. Elmira suffered some upsets (Hobart twice, Marian) while RIT only lost to ranked teams and Elmira, while also beating and tying the Soaring Eagles.

A: Yep. Once again, it came down to numbers, and it was very, very close. Elmira wins on strength of schedule (.591 vs. .566) and record against teams in the tournament (.333 vs. .167). RIT wins on common opponents (.824 to .794). Amazingly, the teams tied in the other two criteria, winning percentage (.783) and head to head (1-1-1). Since only in-region games are included, Elmira’s 1-3 record against Western teams (0-2 against St. Norbert and 1-1 against Marian) doesn’t count.

It’s small solace for RIT that the Tigers tied with Middlebury in the criteria and would have gotten a Pool “C” bid over River Falls if they had been eligible. That won’t happen until the rules change in 2005.

Q: Why does Norwich, the top seed in the East, get a higher seeded opponent in Trinity while Oswego gets Wentworth? After all, Trinity beat Norwich this season, while Oswego swept Wentworth.

A: Who says Norwich is the top seed? If you look at the criteria, it’s a dead heat. Oswego wins on strength of schedule (.586 to .524) and record against teams in the tournament (1.000 vs. .500). Norwich wins on winning percentage (.880 to .783) and common opponents (.857 to .808). The teams did not meet this season. If you include out of region games and games against D-II teams, which the committee is allowed to do to break ties, the numbers stay the same.

It looks like the committee weighed either strength of schedule or record against teams in the tournament more heavily than the rest, which it is allowed to do. They are also allowed to bring travel cost considerations into the equation, but in this case it doesn’t seem to matter, since Trinity and Wentworth are both within busing distance of both Oswego and Norwich.

Q: Why do Middlebury and Wisconsin-River Falls, which did not win their league championships, get to host Elmira and St. John’s, which did?

A: Criteria, criteria, criteria. UWRF wins three of the five, St. John’s two. The same with Middlebury, which also takes three of the five over Elmira.

Numbers don’t lie, but they sure can disappoint.


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