Bracketology: D-III Women

It’s crunch time. This is the final weekend of the Division III Women’s season and there is a lot on the line. With the NCAA selections coming this weekend, let’s do Bracketology: Division III Women’s Hockey style.

What we’ll do here is take a look at who I think is in the tournament, and then possible scenarios with this weekend.

Let’s remind everyone that there are seven teams in the Division III Women’s Tournament.

  • There are four automatic bids — the winners of the conference tournaments for the ECAC East, ECAC West, MIAC and NESCAC. This is Pool A.
  • One bid is for Pool B teams, those teams that are in conferences which do not get an automatic bid. In this case, it’s just the teams in the NCHA.
  • And then there are two bids for Pool C teams. These are teams in the conferences which have automatic bids, but did not get the automatic bid.

    There are five criteria used when selecting teams. These criteria are:

  • Win Percentage
  • Strength of Schedule per the NCAA’s table
  • Head-to-Head Results
  • Record Against Common Opponents Within Region
  • Record Against Ranked Teams Within Region

    You can take those five criteria and create a PairWise Comparison table with them.

    Ties are not broken by RPI as in the Division I PairWise, but rather by looking at all the criteria and then deciding — it’s subjective here.

    It’s time for a snapshot of what would happen if the season ended right now. What would the tournament look like?

    Let’s now take a look at the current PairWise Rankings for Division III women and its Top 9 teams.

    In rank order they are:

    1 Middlebury
    2 Plattsburgh
    3 Manhattanville
    4 Elmira
    5 Rensselaer
    6 Bowdoin
    7 Wisconsin-Stevens Point
    8 Gustavus Adolphus
    9 St. Thomas

    Let’s take the top seeds in the tournaments for each of the automatic bid conferences. Those are Middlebury, Plattsburgh, Manhattanville and St. Thomas. We’ll call these the four Pool A teams.

    (We now see our first twist to the process. St. Thomas is number nine and only seven make the tournament. Which means that somebody in the Top 7 will be left out of the tournament.)

    Now that we’ve chosen our Pool A teams, let’s choose the Pool B teams. In the top nine, there is only one eligible Pool B team: Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the NCHA champion. We give our Pool B bid to the Pointers.

    Now it’s time for Pool C. In our top nine, we have three Pool B teams: Elmira, Rensselaer and Bowdoin. We will take Elmira since they are above Rensselaer and Bowdoin. Now we’ll choose between Rensselaer and Bowdoin.

    They each have the same number of PairWise comparison wins at 14. So we have to break the tie by looking at the five criteria. They have not played one another this season, so let’s first see who wins the head-to-head between these two in the comparison criteria.

    Win percentage favors Bowdoin, but Rensselaer wins Strength of Schedule, Record Against Common Opponents In Region, and Record Against Ranked Teams in Region. Rensselaer wins the comparison 3-1. So we take Rensselaer over Bowdoin. The Engineers become the last team in the Tournament.

    Ranking our seven teams:

    1 Middlebury (A)
    2 Plattsburgh (A)
    3 Manhattanville (A)
    4 Elmira (C)
    5 Rensselaer (C)
    6 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (B)
    7 St. Thomas (A)

    Let’s set the field:

    Middlebury receives the bye to the semifinals and gets to host the Division III Women’s Frozen Four.

    The Bracket would then be:

    St. Thomas at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The winner plays Middlebury in one semifinal

    Rensselaer at Plattsburgh, and Elmira at Manhattanville. The winners play each other in the other semifinal.

    What Will The Weekend Bring?

    Well, this is an interesting weekend coming up. The conference championships are taking place, meaning some results can change the whole scheme.

    There are some things that won’t change, and that is that the top four in the PairWise are definitely in the tournament, as is Wisconsin-Stevens Point. That makes five teams in the tournament and only two spots to be decided. One of those spots is the MIAC Pool A winner, so there is only one truly at-large spot left.

    Who gets left out is the question.

    The teams on the bubble, Elmira, Rensselaer and Bowdoin, could help themselves out with two wins this weekend. That would give them Pool A bids and a ticket to the tournament, leaving one of the number-one seeds out of the tournament.

    It comes down to the MIAC championship game for Gustavus and St. Thomas. The loser of that game is out.

    But let’s look at some scenarios individually, and at the bubble teams. Because I have already called Elmira as being in the tournament, the only real bubble teams are Rensselaer and Bowdoin.

    What would be disastrous for both teams is that if they do not win their tourneys and none of the top four win their tournaments. Both teams would then be out. Williams, New England College and Utica come to mind as possible spoilers here.

    If both teams lost their semifinal games what would happen? Rensselaer plays New England College. Rensselaer would still win the comparison 3-1, because it would still beat Bowdoin in the criteria despite the two losses.

    If Rensselaer won and Bowdoin lost, then Rensselaer would obviously be above Bowdoin. If Rensselaer lost and Bowdoin won, and then Bowdoin lost the NESCAC championship, what would happen?

    Tough call. Bowdoin would pick up a loss against a ranked team, as Rensselaer had. That criterion still goes Rensselaer’s way.

    The comparison in Common Opponents would also still go Rensselaer way, as the only team that could affect that in the NESCAC championship is Williams. The strength of schedule criteria would go to Rensselaer as well.

    So Rensselaer is in? Yes and no.

    Should Middlebury beat Bowdoin in this theoretical, then yes, Rensselaer would go. But should Williams defeat Bowdoin for the championship, the Rensselaer is out. That is because Elmira/Plattsburgh and now Middlebury would get the two Pool C bids.

    Should both teams win, then lose in the title game, the numbers still favor Rensselaer. If it’s Middlebury-Bowdoin in the championship game, Rensselaer wins the comparison. If it’s Williams-Bowdoin in the championship, we have the same situation as above.

    If both teams won their semifinals and only one of them won the championship, the other would automatically be out because there are no more Pool C spots left.

    Let’s turn our attention to the bye now, looking at the top four teams.

    Middlebury — Two wins for Middlebury could assure it the bye. It would help tremendously if the Panthers played Bowdoin for the championship and won. That could solidify them for the number-one seed as they would switch the comparison with Plattsburgh by winning the Ranked Teams criterion. Let’s examine that in a little more detail.

    Here is the current comparison:




    0.9000 1 pt

    0.8810 0 pt


    10.200 0 pt

    10.714 1 pt


    2- 0- 0 1 pt

    0- 2- 0 0 pt


    7- 2- 0 0 pt

    6- 0- 0 1 pt


    5- 2- 0 0 pt

    6- 2- 1 1 pt




    Let’s look at the Ranked Opponents line, the last one. Two wins over Williams and Bowdoin would give Middlebury a 7-2 mark there. Plattsburgh with two wins would be 7-2-1, as Neumann is not ranked but Elmira is. That criteria now switches over to Middlebury, giving it the head-to-head comparison win. Two wins by both teams does not affect win percentage, head-to-head or common opponents.

    And Plattsburgh has already won the strength of schedule criterion, so if that switched, it would make no difference; Middlebury wins the comparison.

    Plattsburgh — As noted above, two wins may not be enough to get the bye if Middlebury wins two. Plattsburgh needs Middlebury to lose to continue to win the head-to-head comparison between the two teams.

    Manhattanville — The Valiants’ chances hinge on losses by Plattsburgh and Middlebury. It is almost impossible for the Valiants to get the bye should either of those two win two games this weekend. They lose the comparison to Plattsburgh and are tied with Middlebury. Nothing can change those comparisons unless they both lose. It did not help the Valiants that Mass.-Boston upset RIT in the ECAC East quarterfinals. They would rather have played New England College, a ranked team.

    Elmira — Elmira has a tough go. Even if all three teams above them lost in the semifinals, it would be highly unlikely that the Soaring Eagles could jump to the top seed. The Frozen Four will have a new home for the first time.

    Well, there you go — a quick look at what the field would like today and some of the possibilities after this weekend.

    We’ll be back Sunday afternoon with a final look, including the predicted field for the NCAA Division III Women’s Championship.