D-III Playoff Predictions

The NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Committee usually has some tough choices to make in terms of selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament field, and this year is no exception.

While we wait for the announcement to be made, let’s explore what decisions the committee is mulling over, and predict what they’ll come up with.

Who Are These Guys?

The NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Committee consists of:

Russ Reilly, Athletic Director, Middlebury — chair
Chris [nl]Brown, Coach, Hamline
Vince Eruzione, Assistant Athletic Director, Curry
Steve Nelson, Athletic Director, Wisconsin-Superior

Chris Schneider, NCAA Assistant Director of Championships, facilitates.

It’s their responsibility to, in order, award the single Pool B bid, award the two Pool C bids, and then to seed the teams in the East and West. After that, they’ll put the bracket together by assigning the pairings.

First, the Easy Part

With the final results now in the books, the six automatic bids are set. They are:

ECAC East: New England College
ECAC Northeast: Curry
MIAC: St. Thomas
NCHA: St. Norbert
NESCAC: Middlebury
SUNYAC: Geneseo

Now the Fun Starts

The committee will assign at-large bids and then seed the teams based on five main criteria:

1. Winning percentage within region
2. A strength of schedule index that awards points for wins and losses
based on your opponent’s in-region record. The name of this will be
changed next season to “Quality Wins” index, which is more
3. Head-to-head results
4. In-region results against common opponents.
5. In-region results against regionally ranked teams.

USCHO’s PairWise Rankings (PWR) tracks the East , West, and does a combined analysis in attempt to rank teams based on the above criteria. However, the NCAA may apply different weights to the various criteria, and/or may look at the size of the difference of each when comparing teams. For example, a huge advantage in winning percentage may have more weight than a slight lead in common opponents.

Everybody Into the Pool

Manhattanville’s 3-1 victory over Utica in the ECAC West championship game makes for an easier decision for the Pool B bid. If Utica had won, the committee would have had to weigh a 3-0 head-to-head advantage for Utica over Manhattanville’s lead in three of the other four categories. The Valiants’ win clinches Pool B.

Moving on to Pool C, the top two teams in the PWR that did not get autobids were St. John’s and Trinity. The other teams that are close, Bowdoin, Oswego and Wisconsin-Superior, can’t match up to either. The tenth team would have been Oswego, based on the criteria, assuming an equal weight to all. The Lakers match up better against the other contenders.

Pairing Up

Based on the PWR, it looks like the committee will assign the following seeds:

#1 West: St. Norbert
#2 West: St. John’s
#3 West: St. Thomas

#1 East: Manhattanville
#2 East: Trinity
#3 East: Middlebury
#4 East: Geneseo
#5 East: Curry
#6 East: New England

The fourth seed isn’t a slam dunk for Geneseo. Looking at the criteria:

    Curry vs. Geneseo
WIN      0.7174  1           0.7143  0
SOS      9.3913  1           9.0357  0
H2H     0- 0- 0  0          0- 0- 0  0
COP     2- 1- 2  0          5- 3- 1  1
RNK     1- 5- 2  0          7- 4- 1  1
PTS              2                   2

Curry leads in winning percentage and SOS Index, while Geneseo leads in common opponents and head to head. The question is the weighting of a huge Geneseo lead in record against ranked teams vs. a less sizable lead for Curry in the SOS Index.

I won’t be shocked if Curry gets fourth seed, but my gut says it’ll be Geneseo.

The parings would therefore be:

First Round: #3 St. Thomas at #2 St. John’s — a rematch of yesterday’s
MIAC final.

First Round winner at #1W St. Norbert
#6E New England at #1E Manhattanville
#5E Curry at #2E Trinity
#4E Geneseo at #3E Middlebury

I’m confident of everything here except for the Curry and Geneseo seedings. We’ll know for sure in a few hours.