After all the talk in previous Bracketology columns about tough decisions potentially facing the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey committee, it turns out it was all for nothing. None of the doomsday scenarios occurred, and the committee’s job is going to be fairly straightforward.
There will be no controversy over the No. 8 spot or home ice. The No. 8 spot will go to the winner of the Harvard-Brown game for the ECACHL autobid. The last home ice spot will go to Minnesota.
There will no controversy over what team No. 1 New Hampshire draws in the first round – it is going to be the Harvard-Brown winner. Boston College had a historic season, worthy of congratulations, but the Eagles’ bubble burst with the upsets in the ECACHL semifinals. The committee no longer has to worry about a Hockey East final rematch in the NCAA quarterfinals.
The only potentially difficult decision is whether to force Minnesota-Duluth, No. 5 in the USCHO.com Pairwise Rankings (PWR), to play No. 2 St. Lawrence in order to avoid any WCHA intraconference matchups. The last thing the committee should want is a rematch of Saturday’s WCHA semifinal between UMD and Minnesota in the NCAA quarterfinals, which is what the PWR suggest.
Based on the NCAA selection criteria, UMD is even 2-2 in its pairwise comparison with both No. 6 PWR Princeton and No. 7 PWR Mercyhurst, so there is little harm done in swapping UMD with both. The only reason why UMD would even be ranked above those two teams is the arbitrary use of Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) as the tiebreaker in the comparisons. The minuscule loss in bracket integrity by pairing Minnesota-Duluth with St. Lawrence is a small price to pay for avoiding intraconference matchups.
So here is the best bracket projection, the one that avoids intraconference matchups entirely and optimizes bracket integrity:
Harvard/Brown winner at No. 1 New Hampshire
Princeton at Minnesota
Mercyhurst at Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth at No. 2 St. Lawrence
The only potential complication is if Mercyhurst does not win the CHA tournament, but even then, the committee could still justify the swap. But if not, the committee could pair Mercyhurst with St. Lawrence, and Minnesota-Duluth with Wisconsin. The UMD-Wisconsin intraconference matchup would be one that had not been played since December, so it would be more acceptable.
And there is nothing left to discuss.