A New Number One (Again)
Lately, it seems like being Number One in USCHO’s Division III men’s poll is akin to being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Manhattanville lasted less than a week in the first position, and now Wisconsin-Superior had a short stay, going 0-1-1 after achieving the top ranking.
St. John’s, the last unbeaten team in all of college hockey, moves to Number One. They’ll try to hold the top spot in games this Thursday and Friday against Bethel.
The NCAA will release their first rankings of the season on Tuesday, February 8, and then for the following three Tuesdays leading up to their announcement of the 2005 NCAA bracket on Sunday, March 6.
USCHO’s D-III PWR mimics the process that the NCAA uses to rank teams, so it will be interesting to see how they compare once the NCAA rankings come out. The criteria used in the PWR are:
In the meantime, we can play the Bracketology game and use the ranking and seeding process as if the season ended today.
Here’s what we’ll do:
1. Assign automatic qualifiers to the league champions. The tournament winner of each of the six conferences eligible for an AQ (ECAC East, ECAC Northeast, MIAC, NCHA, NESCAC and SUNYAC) gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs. Our big assumption here is the team currently in first place will win the league title. In the event of a tie, league tiebreakers are used. If it still can’t be resolved, then the team with the highest PWR rating will be chosen.
2. The remaining three NCAA bids will be handed out using the PWR. Pool B, which consists of teams the ECAC West and MCHA, is guaranteed one of the three spots, so the highest team currently among those teams will get the nod here. The remaining two at-large teams (Pool C) will be the next two highest teams in the PWR.
3. We will be using USCHO’s national PWR. There are also regional PWRs, since that’s the way the NCAA will do their rankings. However, come Selection Sunday, the NCAA does compare teams from the East and West regions to select the Pool B and Pool C teams, so we’ll use a similar process here.
4. Once the nine teams are selected, we’ll seed them using the PWR and then use the same guidelines the NCAA uses concerning travel restrictions, etc. to make the brackets.
5. The standings, PWR, etc. we’ll use include games played through Wednesday, February 2.
Based on the current standings, AQs would be handed out to the following teams:
ECAC East — Norwich
ECAC Northeast — Curry. This one is tricky, since the teams are tied
and remained tied through all tiebreakers, down to a coin toss. We’ll
use the PWR instead. Curry is 17th place; Wentworth is 30th.
MIAC — St. John’s
NCHA — St. Norbert
NESCAC — Trinity
SUNYAC — Geneseo. The Ice Knights are tied with Oswego in the standings, but as of now, the teams have met head-to-head only once, and Geneseo won that game. The two teams play again this Saturday.
Using the PWR:
The Pool B bid goes to Manhattanville, but it’s closer than it looks. While the Valiants have an overall PRW ranking of 5th, the NCAA uses an individual matchup of criteria in selecting teams, so Manhattanville will be compared to all the other Pool B teams that are close. RIT actually ties Manhattanville right now in an individual comparison, with the Valiants holding the advantage in head-to-head games and winning percentage, while RIT gets the nod in strength of schedule and record vs. common opponents. Hobart is above RIT in the overall PWR, but does not fare well against the Tigers in a direct comparison, ahead in only the winning percentage criterion. Utica currently loses in all the comparisons to Manhattanville, RIT and Hobart. Manhattanville gets the bid here because the NCAA does not have to weigh the criteria equally, and typically head-to-head gets a higher weight. Manhattanville defeated RIT in the only meeting so far between the two this season. They square off again on February 19.
The Pool C bids go to Wisconsin-Superior and Oswego. Other teams in the running are Colby, Bowdoin and Middlebury, but none win matchups with the YellowJackets or the Lakers.
That leaves us a field of (ranked by PWR):
The West stays the same once you look at individual matchups in the PWR (i.e. St. Norbert beats both St. John’s and Superior, and St. John’s beats Superior). In the East, Trinity is slightly ahead of Manhattanville in the PWR, but the Valiants do better in the individual matchup, having the advantage in both winning percentage and common opponents. We’ll assume the committee would switch them, giving Manhattanville the overall top seed in the East.
Now comes the controversial part. Wisconsin-Superior is ahead of all the Eastern teams except for Trinity in the PWR, but due to restrictions on travel in the first rounds of the tournament, in the event of a 6-3 East-West split the NCAA will make the West play down to one team, while the East holds three quarterfinal games. This will require only one team to fly for the semifinals — the surviving Western team will be shipped East for the semis and finals. In the event of a 5-4 split, the bottom two seeds in the East will play down and then we’d have two quarterfinal games in each region. The semifinals then have an equal chance of being in either region, since two teams will have to fly either way.
This all changes next season, when a tenth team will be added, and the semifinals and finals held at a predetermined site — in the case of 2006, Elmira. Wisconsin-Superior will host in 2007, followed by Lake Placid in 2008.
But for now, assuming the season ended today, we’d have St. John’s hosting Wisconsin-Superior in the play-in game, with the winner traveling to St. Norbert for a quarterfinal game. Other quarterfinal games would be Geneseo at Manhattanville, Curry at Trinity and Norwich at Oswego.
Things will change with every game played, so I’ll update this weekly until the end of the season.
Raider Nation Rejoices
One league has already crowned its regular season champion. Milwaukee School of Engineering defeated Lawrence 4-3 last Saturday to clinch first place in the MCHA. It was the first ever regular season title for the Raiders, who also set a school record for wins in a season (14).
As it turns out, MSOE actually had the title won the weekend before. Marian and MSOE split a pair of games on January 21 and 22, but the Sabres were later forced to forfeit their 5-4 win on that Saturday due to the use of an ineligible player. Sources close to the league indicate that the player in question had withdrawn from classes on that Friday but did not inform the team that he had left school until after that weekend’s games.
But the Raiders took care of business anyway, clinching the title with one week left in the regular season.
“It was nice to win it on the ice,” said MSOE coach Mark Ostapina. “We wouldn’t have wanted to clinch on a forfeit.”
Things are looking up at MSOE, with a new on-campus facility and a bevy of young talent. MSOE skates seven freshman and eight sophomores most nights, and its two leading scorers are freshman.
“We’re definitely getting better. I think the whole league is getting better,” said Ostapina.
The $31 million Kern Center, which opened at the beginning of this season, has been a boon for recruiting, according to the coach.
“The building has been a tremendous asset to us,” said Ostapina. “Some of the guys that we got this year, we would have lost if not for the facility. It’s not only great for the fans, it allows us to practice when we want. Before we were practicing at 7:00 am at a rink 25 miles away. Guys were burning the candle at both ends.”
Now MSOE can focus on the playoffs, which has changed to an old-school format. Each round of the playoffs will be a two game series with a possible minigame after the second night if the teams split or tie both times. The top two seeds get a bye in the first round, and the finals are the weekend of February 25 and 26.
Tune in next week when we’ll revisit the Bracketology based on this weekend’s games, and premier a BCS(gulp!)-type rating system to see if the selection process can be improved.