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College Hockey:
NCAA West Analysis

Breaking the D-III PWC Down from All Angles

Its that time of the year where once again nearly all discussion has turned to the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Expectedly so, many in the West Region are focused on how many Western teams will make this seasons tournament field.

The first stop in attempting to decipher the madness is to take a look at the most recent, and final public, NCAA West Region Poll. It is:

1. St. Norbert
2. St. Thomas
3. UW-Stout
4. UW-River Falls
5. Adrian
6. Hamline
7. Wis.-Superior

The West has not landed four teams in the field since the 1997-98 season, despite the tournament expanding from eight teams that year, to nine, and now to its present configuration of 10. The magic 6-4 East-West split it something the region heavily desires, though for all intents and purposes it is once again looking like a pipe dream this year.

In fact, its looking questionable as to whether the West will even land a third team in this years field. Before getting into why, however, lets take a look at what we know.

What We Know

As a quick refresher, the tournament field is comprised of six automatic Pool A bids which go to the conference tournament champions of the MIAC, NCHA, ECACE, NESCAC, SUNYAC and ECACNE.

There is one Pool B bid, which goes the top-ranked team from the ECACW or MCHA, as the bid is reserved for conferences who do not own a Pool A bid.

The final three bids are Pool C bids, which every team in the country who did not win a Pool A bid is eligible for.

With that in mind:

St. Norbert is in and will be the top seed in the region. A win over Stout on Saturday will land them the NCHA Pool A bid. A loss and they are a lock for one of the three Pool C bids.
St. Thomas is in. The Tommies have won the MIAC Pool A bid and will be the second seeded Western team in the field.
Stout, the next highest ranked Western team, will earn the NCHA Pool A bid with a win at St. Norbert on Saturday. Otherwise, they will need a Pool C bid to make the field.
River Falls needs a Pool C to make the field.
Adrian needs a Pool C to make the field.
No one else has even a remote chance.

Taken directly from the USCHO.com D-III PairWise Comparison page, we know that:

The NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey championship manual states that at-large teams shall be selected by winning percentage, opponents winning percentage, opponents opponents’ winning percentage, head-to-head record, record against common opponents, and record against ranked teams, but not necessarily in that order.

The NCAA championship manual does not specify any weighting for each of the criteria. Therefore, the selection committee may exercise the authority to weigh each of the criteria arbitrarily during any given season’s selection process. The committee has chosen not to reveal publicly how it weights the criteria.

It should also be noted that only in-region games against Division III opponents are taken into consideration by the preceding criteria.

And finally, we know that due to the NCAAs refusal to make the process transparent, as it is in Division I, analysis can prove a dubious and painstaking task. Confusion over the way the committee may interpret the new two-tiered strength-of-schedule criteria increases the difficulty of analysis, but more than one NCAA representative last week iterated that opponents opponents winning percentage is supposed to be used to validate opponents winning percentage. Take it for what its worth, as we must also, but suffice to say the unnecessary smoke and mirrors wont stop us from trying to sort this all out.

Stout

If the Blue Devils win the NCHA championship they will be in the field along with St. Norbert and St. Thomas.

That much is easy, but the question as to what happens if Stout loses Saturday is a much more difficult one to tackle. A loss would drop them into the Pool C mix, and as the Blue Devils are currently the highest ranked Western team in that fold, its worth taking a look at them first.

The first thing to note is that based on the current East Region rankings, a loss by Middlebury or Norwich would doom the Blue Devils hopes. In order to figure it out why, lets look at how Stout matches up with those two.

Middlebury vs UW-Stout

WIN 0.6667 0 0.6964 1
OWP 0.5383 1 0.4980 0
OOP 0.5262 1 0.5145 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 5- 4- 0 1 1- 6- 3 0
============================================
PTS 3 1

Norwich vs UW-Stout

WIN 0.7500 1 0.6964 0
OWP 0.5614 1 0.4980 0
OOP 0.5197 1 0.5145 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 8- 3- 0 1 1- 6- 3 0
============================================
PTS 4 0

Its nearly inconceivable Stout would be selected over either, so if one were to lose and pick up one of the three Pool C bids, lets look at the next two teams Stout would be compared to as of now.

Manhattanville vs UW-Stout

WIN 0.7115 1 0.6964 0
OWP 0.5457 1 0.4980 0
OOP 0.5368 1 0.5145 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 7- 5- 3 1 1- 6- 3 0
============================================
PTS 4 0

Hobart vs UW-Stout

WIN 0.7037 1 0.6964 0
OWP 0.5530 1 0.4980 0
OOP 0.5298 1 0.5145 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 6- 7- 2 1 1- 6- 3 0
============================================
PTS 4 0

In that case, it is lights out for the Blue Devils and it will be an 8-2 split.

Now, what happens if Norwich and Middlebury both win? Stout clearly loses comparisons with Hobart and Manhattanville, but who would be compared with the Blue Devils for the final Pool C spot? As of now, none other than defending champion Oswego.

Oswego vs UW-Stout

WIN 0.7308 1 0.6964 0
OWP 0.5443 1 0.4980 0
OOP 0.5057 0 0.5145 1
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 3- 6- 2 1 1- 6- 3 0
============================================
PTS 3 1

Once again it is not looking good. There is possibly a way the West committee could help out the Blue Devils if it comes down to this comparison, but well get to that a little later. As it stands now, however, it looks like Stout needs to win at St. Norbert on Saturday to make the field.

River Falls

Seemingly left for dead following an opening round playoff loss to St. Scholastica, some may be surprised to see them here.

We arent.

If Stout does lose at St. Norbert Saturday is there a chance the Falcons could slide into the third spot in the region and become the first Western team considered for Pool C?

We think there is, but well let the numbers do the talking. River Falls is in the exact same boat as Stout in terms of comparisons against Middlebury, Norwich, Manhattanville and Hobart.

Middlebury vs UW-River Falls

WIN 0.6667 0 0.6667 0
OWP 0.5383 1 0.4989 0
OOP 0.5262 1 0.5154 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 5- 4- 0 1 4- 4- 1 0
============================================
PTS 3 0

Norwich vs UW-River Falls

WIN 0.7500 1 0.6667 0
OWP 0.5614 1 0.4989 0
OOP 0.5197 1 0.5154 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0 0- 0- 0 0
RNK 8- 3- 0 1 4- 4- 1 0
============================================
PTS 4 0

Manhattanville vs UW-River Falls

WIN 0.7115 1 0.6667 0
OWP 0.5457 1 0.4989 0
OOP 0.5368 1 0.5154 0
H2H 0- 0- 0 0- 0- 0
COP 0- 0- 0 0


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