D-III Bracketology, 2011 Edition

You know it’s getting to be that time of year when the NCAA begins to produce its regional rankings and the conference playoffs kick off. The rankings are a dry run for the final selection of the Division III NCAA tournament participants.
As was the case for the past few 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. This means that unlike Division I, the process cannot be replicated. USCHO produces a PairWise Ranking (PWR) for Division III, but assumes an equal weighting for the criteria, which we know from past experience has not been the case. This opens the door for some gerrymandering (more on this later).
To recap: eleven teams will get their tickets punched: seven Pool A teams, one Pool B Team, and three 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.
Also, based on the current regional rankings produced by the NCAA, it looks like the East and West regional committees have applied the criteria differently. That will make resolving inter-region matchups even more difficult.
For this bracketology, we’re going with the assumption that the NCAA will stay consistent in its process from the regional rankings to the actual selection.
Here’s my guess as to where the teams still in the running stand:
A lock : Oswego,, St. Norbert, Elmira . These teams can at most lose one more game and that won’t be enough to hurt their chances.
Bet On It: Plattsburgh, Norwich. These teams fare well in most head-to-head matchups with other contenders. The only way they don’t get in is massive upsets in the conference championships.
Good Chance: Neumann, Castleton, Utica: Plattsburgh/Oswego will be one of the Pool C choices, and Elmira will get Pool B. That leaves spots for two of these three teams. Neumann and Utica play on Saturday in the ECAC West semifinals.
On the Bubble: I can’t see the West getting an at-large team in unless St. Norbert loses. In the East, Geneseo is a dark horse but I can’t see it happening unless the Knights win this weekend and then the committee changes up the criteria weighting.
Must Win Their AQ: Mass-Boston, Skidmore, Babson, S. Maine, New England, U of New England, Curry, Johnson & Wales, Wentworth, Becker, Nichols, Western New England, MSOE, Lake Forest, Northland, Lawrence, Hamline, St. Thomas, Concordia (MN), Gustavus Adolphus, Augsburg, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior, Wesleyan, Hamilton, Trinity, Williams, Colby, Midddlebury, Bowdoin, Amherst, Fredonia.
Playing Out the String: These teams are from conferences that don’t have an AQ, so even if they win their league championship, it wont raise them high enough in the criteria to get an at-large bid: Hobart, Salem State, Mass-Dartmouth, Plymouth State, Fitchburg State, Worcester State, Framingham State, Westfield State.
Thank you Seniors: These teams have concluded their seasons: Suffolk, Salve Regina, Manhattanville, Finlandia, Concordia (WI), St. Olaf, St. John’s, St. Mary’s Bethel, UW-Stout, Uw-Eau Claire, St. Scholastica, Conn College, Tufts, Buffalo State, Morrisville, Cortland, Potsdam, Brockport.
OK, so lets take a shot at a possible bracket, assuming the higher seeded team wins its respective league:
ECAC East: Norwich
ECAC Northeast: Curry
MCHA: Adrian
MIAC: Hamline
NCHA: St. Norbert
NESCAC: Hamilton
SUNYAC: Oswego
Based on the NCAA rankings, I’m picking Elmira to get Pool B, Plattsburgh, Castleton and the Neumann/Utica winner to get the Pool C spots. That would mean an 8-3 split.
E1: Oswego
E2: Elmira
E3: Plattsburgh
E4: Norwich
E5: Castleton
E6: Neumann/Utica
E7: Hamilton
E8: Curry
W1: St. Norbert
W2: Adrian
W3: Hamline
First Round:
Hamline at St. Norbert (should be Hamline at Adrian, it’s an 11 hour bus ride. Unless the NCAA flies Hamline, they’re going the 278 miles to Green Bay vs. the 628 miles to Adrian).
Curry at Castleton
Hamilton at Utica/Neumann
Hamline will go to Adrian if it wins; Adrian goes to SNC if the Green Knights win.
Utica/Neumann/Hamilton at Oswego
Curry/Castleton at Elmira
Norwich at Plattsburgh
And finally, in the event St. Norbert does not win the NCHA, it will be a 7-4 split.
E1: Oswego
E2: Elmira
E3: Plattsburgh
E4: Norwich
E5: Castleton
E6: Hamilton
E7: Curry
W1: St. Norbert
W2: Adrian
W3: Hamline
W4: NCHA winner
First Round:
Curry at Elmira
Hamilton at Plattsburgh
Castleton at Norwich
And…the West will be TBD based on which team wins the NCHA, travel distances, etc. Someone’s going to have a long drive or a flight.
Check back next week!