An exclusive interview with NCAA Division III Committee Chairman Vincent Eruzione revealed the decisions that led to the selection and seedings of the 2007 tournament field.
“It was an arduous process,” said Eruzione. “There were several teams very close (in the criteria) and we were on the conference call for quite a while. But we did due diligence and selected the 10 most deserving teams.”
Six of the teams won their way into the tournament by capturing their conference titles and the autobid that came with it: St. Norbert (NCHA), Bethel (MIAC), Mass-Dartmouth (ECAC Northeast), Middlebury (NESCAC), Babson (ECAC East) and Fredonia (SUNYAC). Manhattanville, the ECAC West Champion, received the Pool B bid, available to teams from conferences without an autobid.
That left three at-large bids to be decided, and, according to Eruzione, there were six teams under serious consideration: Neumann, Oswego, Norwich, Wisconsin-River Falls, Wisconsin-Stout, and Wisconsin-Superior.
“All were close in the criteria,” said Eruzione. “We looked at all the numbers. Looked behind them and around them. It was a long call.”
Oswego and Wisconsin-River Falls were the two top choices from the East and West respectively, and were consensus choices. That left the remaining four teams under consideration for the final slot.
There was some speculation that if the numbers were close, a Western team would have been selected because the semifinals and finals will be held in the West (Superior, Wis.) for the first time since 2000. Since then, at most three Western teams have been selected for the tournament and played down to a single team, which was flown east. This year, a 6-4 East-West split would have required two Eastern teams to fly, while a 7-3 split meant three teams will fly. It wound up 7-3.
“We really didn’t consider that,” said Eruzione. “We focused on getting the best ten teams we could.”
Eruzione said the committee looked at the ranking done by the respective regional committees, which has been ranking their teams for the pervious four weeks. In the West, Wisconsin-Superior was ranked ahead of Wisconsin-Stout, while Norwich was ranked ahead of Neumann.
“It was very close,” said Eruzione. “Norwich had an advantage over Superior, and over Neumann. We looked at what each had done against ranked teams, and what each team had done in their recent games. Norwich came out on top.”
UW-Stout matched up better against Norwich in the selection criteria than UW-Superior, but Eruzione said since the Western Regional Committee had put Superior ahead, that was the primary comparison. This was a reverse of the previous week, when Stout had been placed ahead of Superior. Neither team played last week as both had been eliminated from the NCHA playoffs.
“Its up to the regions to seed the teams,” he said. “We looked at the numbers behind that to see why teams are placed where they are. Superior was (the Western Committee’s) third choice (behind St. Norbert and UW-River Falls).”
Eruzione acknowledges that it is not a perfect process and that some teams will be disappointed.
“We take this very seriously,” he said. “During the meeting we talked about how important these decisions are, because they affect seniors playing their last games, teams playing their last games of the season.”