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College Hockey:
Bracket Reaction

Okay…so there has been a lot of discussion and wondering about how Norwich received the bye into the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships.

Personally, I wasn’t even quite sure the Cadets were going to make the tournament after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Manhattanville in the ECAC East championship game. I thought Plattsburgh’s strength of schedule advantage would be the deciding factor that would push the Cardinals ahead of Norwich in the committee’s mind given that the two teams became tied in the primary criteria after this past weekend’s results.

Plattsburgh moved ahead in record vs. NCAA ranked teams despite the fact both teams lost in their respective tournament championship games. The Cardinals winning percentage was affected less by the loss to RIT than Norwich’s loss to Manhattanville because Plattsburgh has played more games against ranked teams.

Plattsburgh’s new record was 6-4-3, while Norwich dropped to 5-4. Last week, both teams were tied with a .625 winning percentage in record vs. ranked teams.

Plattsburgh pulling ahead in the record vs. ranked teams criteria tied the comparison between the two teams at 2-2. Norwich won winning percentage and common opponents by close margins, while Plattsburgh dominated strength of schedule and narrowly won record vs. ranked teams.

I thought Plattsburgh’s strength of schedule being the toughest in the nation would be the final nail in Norwich’s coffin. However, maybe Norwich’s 9-1 record in last 10 games to Plattsburgh’s 8-2 record, as well as Norwich’s overall winning percentage (with game against D-II and D-I teams counting) as a part of the secondary criteria are what made the Cadets the final selection.

Regardless, Norwich was the selection and then came the process of determining the bracket.

Like it or not RIT fans, Adrian/RIT in a quarterfinal game was a done deal once both teams qualified for the tournament because it was the only possible matchup that didn’t exceed 500 miles in distance between the two schools to force a flight, which the NCAA has strictly forbidden in the past when it comes to D-III sports and opening-round play.

River Falls and Gustavus Adolphus was an easy selection as they were the two remaining western region teams and were within the 500 mile limit.

Now comes the rest of the East and another hot topic debate. With those two quarterfinal matchups determined, the committee was left with Manhattanville, Norwich, and Middlebury. We do not know whether or not Middlebury passed Norwich in the NCAA rankings because the committee does not release its final rankings to the public.

People assumed that Middlebury would probably be the next in line to receive the bye once RIT was unable to get it, but Norwich was still tied with Middlebury in the criteria 2-2 with a head-t0-head win and common opponents. Middlebury won strength of schedule and winning percentage.

However, whether Middebury passed Norwich or not, it doesn’t matter since the committee is advised to avoid intra-conference matchups in the first round when possible. With as close of the comparison was between Norwich and Middlebury, as well as given Norwich’s head-to-head win over the Panthers, the committee gave Norwich the bye and has Middlebury hosting Manhattanville to prevent Norwich from having a rematch with Manhattanville in the first round.

I hope this helps clear things up a little bit for those fans that are still fuming over the selection. If you have any further questions or comments. Please feel free to email me at derek.dunning@uscho.com and I’ll do my best to address them or find the answer to them.

Also, here’s a quick run through of the seven teams selected to the field.

Norwich will make its third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the short four-year history at the varsity level  after compiling a program-best 23 wins this season and winning its first ECAC East regular season title by going unbeaten during the league portion of its schedule. Last year, Norwich made it all the way to the national championship before bowing out in the finals with a 7-2 loss to Amherst.

The Cadets will face the winner of the Wis. River Falls/Gustavus Adolphus quarterfinal game on Friday, March 18 at a site to be determined. 

The host site for the 2011 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships will be determined after the three quarterfinal games this weekend.

ECAC West champion Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will host the NCHA champion Adrian (19-7-3).

RIT (24-1-2) has been the top-ranked team in the country in the USCHO.com Poll for a majority of the season and is coming off winning its first ECAC West title with a 2-1 win over Plattsburgh. The Tigers have made one previous appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, but lost in the quarterfinal round to Amherst, 2-1.

Adrian will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after winning its first NCHA title by upsetting previously unbeaten Wis. River Falls (24-1-4) 4-3 in overtime.

The Adrian/RIT winner will play the winner of the Manhattanville/Middlebury quarterfinal  game in the semifinals.

Middlebury beat two-time defending national champion Amherst, 4-3 in the NESCAC final and returns to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. The Panthers won three straight national championships from 2004-2006.

Out of the seven teams selected, only Middlebury has won a national championship. Manhattanville has made the finals three times in 2002, 2003, and 2008, but lost each time. River Falls has made two trips to the final four in 2003 and 2009, but lost in the semifinals each time.

Gustavus Adolphus will make its eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gusties had made the final four three times and lost in the semifinals each time, including last season when they hosted the final four in St. Peter, Minn., but fell 4-0 to Amherst.

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