D-III Bracketology, Verson 1.0

The conference playoffs are in full swing, which can mean only one thing: It’s time to play Bracketology.

As was the case last year, we know the criteria used by the NCAA Division III Men’s Committee to select and seed the teams, but not the weighting used in their evaluation.

Starting last week, the NCAA has produced rankings based on the process it will use to select the Division III field. Using those rankings, let’s look at each eligible team’s chances of making the tournament.

Eleven teams will get their tickets punched: 7 Pool A teams, 1 Pool B Team, and 3 Pool C teams. Pool A consists of the seven teams that will win playoff championships in leagues with an automatic qualifier: ECAC East, ECAC Northeast, NCHA, NESCAC, MCHA, MIAC, and SUNYAC. One Pool B slot is reserved for an independent team or team from a conference that does not have an AQ: ECAC West and MASCAC. Pool C bids will be handed out to the highest remaining teams according to the NCAA rankings.

The rub here is that there are East and West rankings, but not a combined one. So when the rubber hits the road, the committee will be combining the separate rankings on Selection Sunday.

Here’s my guess as to where the teams still in the running stand:

A lock: Oswego, Norwich, St. Norbert .These teams can at most lose one more game, and are comfortably ahead in the key criteria. They’re in no matter what happens from here on out. They can also claim autobids if they win their respective conference tournaments.

Bet On It: Plattsburgh, Middlebury. These teams fare well in most head-to-head matchups with other contenders.

Good Chance: Elmira, Gustavus Adolphus, St. Scholastica: Elmira is in the lead for the Pool B slot right now, but that could change – Manhattanville could jump over Elmira based on the results of the ECAC West playoffs. Right now, Gustavus is ahead of St. Scholastica in the West NCAA Rankings, but it’s very close.

On the Bubble: Bowdoin, Amherst, Manhattanville: If neither wins the NESCAC, they need Middlebury to do so, as well as Gustavus to win the MIAC, Norwich the ECAC East, etc. Manhattanville needs to win the ECAC West.

Probably Not: Neumann, Hamline. The ECAC West champ as never been left out of the tournament. Case in point: Neumann who won its way in last year, grabbing the last at-large bid. Maybe the committee will smile on Neumann again. If Hamline makes it to the MIAC finals and a lot of other things break its way, there’s a slim chance.

Must Win Their AQ: Colby, Trinity, Tufts, Hamilton, Salve Regina, Wentworth, W. New England, Curry, Brockport, Morrisville, UW-Stevens Point, UW-River Falls, Mass-Boston, Babson New England, Castleton, U of New England, Skidmore, S. Maine. St. Olaf, Augsburg, St. Thomas, Northland, Lawrence, Lake Forest, MSOE, Johnson & Wales. Suffolk, Nichols, Becker,

Playing Out the String: These teams are from conferences that don’t have an AQ, so even if they win their league championship, it won’t raise them high enough in the criteria to get an at-large bid: Hobart ( see Neumann, but much less of a chance) and the MASCAC: Fitchburg State, Salem State, Plymouth State, Westfield State, Mass-Dartmouth, Worcester State, Framingham State.

Thank you Seniors: These teams have already concluded their seasons: Utica, Lebabon Valley (forever?), Bethel, Concordia (MN), St. John’s, St. Mary’s, Finlandia, Concordia (WI), UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Superior, Conn College, Wesleyan, Geneseo, Potsdam, Cortland, Buffalo State.

OK, so let’s take a shot at a possible bracket, assuming the team in first wins its respective league:

ECAC East: Norwich

ECAC Northeast: Wentworth

MCHA: Adrian

MIAC: Gustavus Adolphus

NCHA: St. Norbert

NESCAC: Bowdoin

SUNYAC: Oswego

Going into the ECAC West semifinals, Elmira gets pool B. Who gets the three Pool C bids? Right now I think it’s Plattsburgh, Middlebury, and St. Scholastica, which would mean a 7-4 East-West split.

That would give us:

E1: Norwich

E2: Oswego

E3: Middlebury

E4: Plattsburgh

E5: Bowdoin

E6: Elmira

E7: Wentworth

W1: St. Norbert

W2: Gustavus Adolphus

W3: St. Scholastica

W4: Adrian

First Round:

Wentworth at Oswego

Elmira at Middlebury

Bowdoin at Plattsburgh

Quarterfinal Pairings:

Bowdoin/Plattsburgh at Norwich

Elmira/Middlebury at Oswego/Wentworth

Adrian at St. Norbert

St. Scholastica at Gustavus Adolphus

Adrian is 400+ miles away from every other school in the projected field, with St. Norbert and ElmiraOswego being its closest opponents.


  1. I agree that the ECAC has not fared great against other Big 4 conferences.  However, I think it is worth considering that many of these games are played on the road because major CCHA and WCHA teams won’t travel and the Ivies (who make up half of the ECAC) often play non-conference games early in the year against teams that already have 5-7 games under their belts. 

  2. Agreed, it’s the Big Three.  It seems each year there are perhaps 2 ECAC teams that are worthy of national recognition, after that, a bunch of relatively poor to okay teams.

  3. Last week you said no one needed a win more than Minnesota, I would say that this week that distinction needs to go to Minnesota Duluth, not only have they not won in the WCHA, they have been beaten handily, with a close second going to Michigan Tech. At 1-5 they need to prove last year was not a fluke.

    As for UAA, they have played some good games, yes, but doesn’t every team have a *chance* to get to the Final Five? I guess I would wait until they actually win a game before making this statement.

  4. Contrary to early reports, Denver appears the team to beat this year. Good scoring and an abundance of goaltending make them very formidable. Minnesota has got to get a fire lit under them. They have been readingpress clippings too much.

    • Denver has solid goaltending for sure. I question whether or not their scoring will continue at their current pace, for the entire season.

      The one area that was considered a concern for Minnesota going in was goaltending and that has been the bright spot so far. Wilcox has played great. The offense has sputtered, part of that may have been due to the fact that none of their lines remained intact from last year. Now their #1 line is back together, but they are still consistently playing two defensemen at forward and don’t really have 4 complete lines. These are issues. The defense has been on and off all season. They will be stellar one night giving up nothing of any quality to their opponent one night and then next night cough up the puck in their own end on a consistent basis. All of this seems to have less to do with reading press clippings and more to execution and consistency on the ice. Fortunately it is still November so there is time to get it figured out…….but not too long.

    • hard to argue with that thus far. shaping up to be quite a battle for macnaughton this year. denver does look tough. minny is underperforming. (but…with the talent they returned, its not hard to imagine they’ll win IF they put it all together.) and watch out for nodak, st cloud, CC, and UNO — all 4 look tough. this is going to be a great season of wcha hockey!

    • Denver is hands-down the best team in the league right now.

      I expect NoDak will get hot after the New Year, as per usual.

      If MN doesn’t get their first 3 lines sorted and locked in by Christmas, people will stop wondering where the “real” Gophers are, and just resign ourselves to the fact they’re simply not that good this year. T’would be a shame. Ultimately, it makes little difference how amazing the individual players are, if they can’t make a great team.

      In many respects, this is a true test of how good Lucia and Guentzel are as coaches. They should be able to find a way to win 90% of their games with that level of talent.

  5. I would tend to agree with you two for the most part, however, I must ad that even with Denver, Phil, Omaha is looking great so far. I am very surprised by them. Though a Blais team plays best when expectations are below average. Hard to imagine them not getting 2nd or 3rd in WCHA by the end of the season

    • I have to respectively disagree. They have played well in the last two series but I see Minnesota, UND, Denver, and CC finishing above Omaha. I think they will finish the season fighting with SCSU for the 5th spot.


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