Q&A: D-III Tournament Selection

We’ve been getting a lot of email since Sunday night, including quite a few questions on the USCHO.com message board about the recent NCAA Division III Men’s Tournament Committee announcement of selections and seeding for this year’s championships.

So, as a public service, here’s a list the most frequently asked questions.

Answers, too.

Q: How are the teams picked?

A: Six conference champions get automatic bids:

ECAC East: New England College
ECAC Northeast: Lebanon Valley
MIAC: St. John’s
NESCAC: Middlebury
NCHA: Wisconsin-Superior
SUNYAC: Plattsburgh

There are two at-large berths, one available to teams from conferences not eligible for automatic bids (the “Pool B” bid, claimed by RIT this season) and one “second-chance” bid available to a team from the six conferences with an automatic bid (Pool C, awarded to Wisconsin-River Falls).

Q: What are the criteria for selecting the at-large teams?

A: According to the NCAA’s 2001 Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Handbook, the selection criteria are:

  • Winning percentage, head-to-head results and results against common opponents
  • Strength of schedule as determined by opponents’ winning percentage
  • Results against teams already in the tournament
  • Q: Getting more specific, why was Wisconsin-River Falls selected over Amherst?

    A: Amherst had a slightly better winning percentage, but River Falls was ahead in the other criteria. “Strength of schedule was the determining factor,” said Plattsburgh head coach Bob Emery, a member of the D-III selection committee.

    Q: Who’s on the committee?

  • Scott Nichols, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, chair
  • Bob Emery, Plattsburgh
  • Dan Harris, MSOE
  • Tony Fritz, Lake Forest
  • They are assisted by members of regional advisory committees:

  • Glenn Thomaris, Elmira
  • Rick Hazelton, Trinity
  • Al MacCormack, Lebanon Valley
  • Brett Peterson, Gustavus Adolphus
  • Jim Strick, Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Mark Workman, St. Scholastica
  • Q: How were the host sites for the quarterfinals determined?

    A: The top seeds in each region get to host, assuming that they meet the criteria established by the NCAA, which include, in priority order:

  • Quality and availability of the facility
  • Geographic location, which also includes rotating sites when feasible
  • Seeding
  • Attendance history and revenue potential. Not necessarily the biggest rink, but the NCAA wants to “assure fiscal responsibility”.
  • Since all of the top four seeds have good facilities (each has hosted a D-III Frozen Four in the past), it was a no-brainer to award the quarterfinals to RIT, Middlebury, River Falls, and Superior.

    Q: Why was the fifth Eastern seed, Lebanon Valley, kept in the East and the fourth seed, New England College, sent West this year? Last season, the fifth Eastern seed was sent West.

    A: The standard process is indeed to send the fifth Eastern seed West in the event of a 5-3 East-West split. That would have sent New England College to RIT.

    “Because of the distance (more than 400 miles, as specified in the NCAA manual), New England would have had the option to fly to RIT,” said Emery. “We didn’t want to fly two teams, so we instead flew New England out West.”

    Lebanon Valley is less than 400 miles from RIT, so it can bus there.

    Q: Why isn’t New England College playing the top Western seed, Wisconsin-Superior?

    A: Once New England College was sent West, the West was reseeded to make sure that the top seed, Superior, drew the lowest seed. New England is ahead of St. John’s, the third Western seed, in the criteria, so it was moved ahead of the Johnnies, sending them to Superior. NEC gets River Falls.

    Q: How will they decide who gets to host the final four?

    A: According to the NCAA manual, the “committee may award the site to the higher-ranked team if the above criteria, and any priorities established by the respective division championships committee, are met.”

    That means that RIT is probably the favorite, followed by the winner of the Plattsburgh/Middlebury series. The NCAA typically alternates sites between East and West, and it’s the East’s turn.

    Q: Who will win the national championship?

    A: Good question!