Selection Sunday

I’ve been covering college hockey for USCHO since 2006. Since I live in Colorado and cover Denver and Colorado College, I’ve become very familiar with both the WCHA and its rabid fanbase. Since the all-WCHA Frozen Four in 2005, fans of the league have enjoyed pumping out conspiracy theories about how the NCAA is determined, at all costs, to avoid having too-heavy a WCHA representation in the men’s tournament.

Boys, let me tell you, you ain’t got nothing on the girls.

How else to view today’s selection and placement of teams for the final eight in the NCAA tournament. No. 1 Wisconsin, riding a 24-game unbeaten streak and winner of a dramatic overtime game with No. 3 Minnesota, one of the hottest teams in the country, draws defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in the first round. Should they win that, they will most likely face Minnesota in the semis, barring an unlikely not-by-seed-but-by-paper upset of the Gophers by Boston College.

On the other side, No. 2 Cornell draws No. 8 Dartmouth in the first round. No disrespect to the Big Green, who were the only ECAC team to beat Cornell this season, but Dartmouth is not in the same league as Minnesota-Duluth, and has an RPI that is .300 lower than the Bulldogs.

The last bracket features Mercyhurst and Boston University, two teams that have struggled of late. The Terriers lost in the Hockey East tournament to Northeastern and have gone a pedestrian 4-4-1 since the beginning of February. Mercyhurst has only lost two games since January, but they were to Cornell and Wisconsin, and they didn’t look good in winning the CHA tournament.

Several things are at work in this tournament field that probably makes all the WCHA coaches upset. First of all, the NCAA only seeds the top four squads. The rest of the teams are placed by geography, so that the NCAA doesn’t have to pony up funds to fly teams all over the country for what they view as a money-losing tournament, and to hell with bracket integrity.

More important however, is the flawed nature of the PairWise when it comes to women’s hockey. For all the griping about the PairWise when it comes to men’s hockey, there are usually some out-of-conference games between top teams that can form a basis for comparison. For instance, Boston College played two against Denver and one against Notre Dame this year, North Dakota played two against Notre Dame, Boston University played Notre Dame and Wisconsin, Michigan played Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and Miami played New Hampshire and St. Cloud.

Contrast that to the women’s game. Cornell played two games against Mercyhurst and none against WCHA or Hockey East squads. Boston University played North Dakota, and Mercyhurst, to its credit, played Wisconsin (and lost 7-4). Boston College played no WCHA squads, picking off ECAC teams for its out-of-conference schedule.

To get a better PairWise, top eastern squads need to start playing games against the WCHA. It would create a far more accurate base of comparison than what is currently in place.

I don’t think you can watch the intensity of the Wisconsin-Minnesota WCHA final and doubt that when it comes to the top squads in the conference, the WCHA is stronger in the women’s game. It is also deeper. In addition to the big three of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Minnesota-Duluth (the only teams ever to win an NCAA championship), there are teams like North Dakota and Bemidji State who can threaten the top squads, and would probably have a shot at a championship in any other division. Ohio State won only eight WCHA games, but went 6-0 against the CHA.

Looking at the tournament, I see several things at play. Mercyhurst is the host. They finished fourth in the PairWise, but were not seeded, and instead get to play BU, a team they likely can beat and advance to the Frozen Four, with a likely shot at the final. If they had been seeded fourth, they would have had to go through Wisconsin to get to the final, a far more daunting proposition than Cornell, whom they have beaten this year.

If the committee had simply gone by the PairWise, Wisconsin would play Dartmouth, Cornell would play Minnesota-Duluth, Boston University would play Minnesota, and Mercyhurst would play Boston College, with, if seedings held, semis of Wisconsin-Mercyhurst and BU-Cornell. That tournament seems a far more accurate representation of the women’s game as it is now than what the tournament actually is.


  1. There is no argument with what you say. As you are well aware (and alluded to in your column), however, money rules all when it comes to the NCAA. Why do think there is still no playoff in Division 1 college football? As much as you may be frustrated, I suggest that you get over it, because it is unlikely to change anytime soon!

  2. Q. How much of this is a problem of WCHA teams and woman’s hockey teams in general limited travel budgets?
    Also have to take into consideration the woman’s Ivy teams have a lesser number of games due to Ivy league rules. For Cornell to play out west would require a commitment from that western team to travel to Cornell the following or preceding year – hard to schedule. I agree i would like to see more geographic diversity in woman’s hockey schedules, but reality is this will be slow to change.

    • Why is it that when anyone comments about the possibility of eastern bias in any poll or NCAA selection it automatically gets labeled as “whining”? Is name calling all you got? Nice argument.

    • After reading all the posts, it appears you are the only one doing any whining. BTY you are not doing the eastern teams any favors.

  3. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t the NCAA selection committee just mail the trophy to the team they choose to win. This would free up a substantial amount of money they could use for a more important sport

  4. It’s easy to say “To get a better PairWise, top eastern squads need to start playing games against the WCHA,” and place the blame on them. However, it’s a two way street and you can say “To get a better PairWise, WCHA squads need to start playing more games against the eastern squads (and especially top eastern squads).” Here are the nc schedules of the WCHA teams for this season (2010-11):

    2 vs RPI
    2 @ Robert Morris
    1 vs Northeastern (@ St. Cloud)
    1 vs Mercyhurst (@ St. Cloud)

    2 @ Clarkson
    2 vs Wayne State
    2 vs Harvard

    2 vs Connecticut

    North Dakota
    2 vs Boston University
    2 @ Vermont

    Minnesota State
    2 vs Niagara
    2 @ Wayne State
    2 vs Robert Morris

    Ohio State
    2 @ Robert Morris
    2 vs Syracuse
    2 vs Wayne State

    St Cloud State
    2 @ Mercyhurst
    1 vs Wayne State
    1 vs Mercyhurst
    2 vs Northeastern

    Bemidji State
    2 @ Wayne State
    2 vs Mercyhurst

    Of 48 available nc games to WCHA teams 6 are against ECAC teams, 9 are against Hockey East teams, while 25 are against CHA teams and 8 nc games were left unfilled. The ECAC is a 12 team league, Hockey East is an 8 team league and the CHA is a 5 team league, so it seems that WCHA teams are scheduling an unbalanced number of games against the CHA.

    As for Boston University, here are the WCHA games they have played since starting the program in 2005-06:

    2 @ St. Cloud
    1 vs North Dakota (@ Minnesota)
    1 @ Minnesota
    2 vs St. Cloud
    2 @ Ohio State
    2 vs Ohio State
    2 @ North Dakota
    2011-12 (scheduled)
    2 vs North Dakota

    While BU has not yet scheduled any of the Big Three, I think these games show BU’s commitment to playing a series with a WCHA team every season.

    Sean Pickett

  5. Oracle- I’m not labeling it as whining, it IS whining. “Woe is our team” “Eastern bias”. You people west of the Mississippi are embarrassing yourselves. You have the best team? Play who you have to play and win and stop crying. I’m guessing the players on Wisco, Minny et al have much less a problem with the selection process than most of their so-called fans do. By the way, what is an “Eastern bias”?

    • As a father of a player on one of the “Big Three” teams I can tell you the ladies were looking forward to playing the teams from the east. In case you missed it, the WCHA Final Four was held last weekend. Sub BC for ND and you have a repeat of the same tournament, is this to make sure only one team from the WCHA will make it to the championship game? Also please explain why the #2 seed draws the #8 seed. By virtue of their performance all year, Wisconsin should have drawn the #8 seed. The way the brackets are set it guarentees a team who has benefited from a far easier schedule will make it to the championship game.

      • Do you not think Wisco can handle UMD at home? I don’t know exactly how the NCAA determines who plays who, but I’m sure finances and travel figure into it. The men get tweaked a little bit as well for attendance purposes. I don’t like it. As I posted above, I’d like to see strict bracket integrity, but we all know going in it’s unlikely to go completely by the numbers. Just play who you have to play. You win, you’re the best. You don’t, see ya’ next year. What’s wrong with that?

        • Its not a matter than WI can’t handle UMD, it’s that they are getting a draw with a conference foe that blows any sort of bracket integrity out of the water.

          Since you admit you don’t know anything about Womens hockey, in the men’s game this would be like a dominant 1 seed having to play a 10 seed from their own conference who happens to be the defending national champs in the first round, instead of getting to play the Atlantic Hockey tourney winner. And if they win, it sets up a match with the 3 seed who just lost to the 1 seed in the conference tourney.

          Throw in the fact that the WCHA has dominated the tourney’s history, the pairwise (which is especially flawed for the women’s game) underranks all the WCHA teams compared to all the other polls and measurements, and that you’ve got a bracket where all 3 WCHA teams are on the same side, forcing them to beat each other up yet again to get to the championship, while an eastern team gets to stroll through their side of the bracket, and its not hard to see why there are a lot of legitimate complains about what the WCHA has done here.

    • I just saw your comments and you are wondering what “Eastern bias” is, maybe I can help you out. Look at the UCHO polls for October 2010.

      Team Rank 1st pl votes Games played
      10/4/10 Cornell 2 1 0
      Harvard 9 0 0
      10/11/10 Cornell 2 7 0
      Harvard 9 0 0
      10/18/10 Cornell 2 8 0
      Harvard 9 0 0
      10/25/10 Cornell 2 7 2
      Harvard 9 0 0

      I hope this helps you out in your quest for knowledge.

        • Your question was regarding “Eastern bias” and that is the question I answered. If you knowledge is lacking in other areas post those questions also and I’m sure someone will be able to help you.

        • No. But they have to go by the poll. I know there are some AD’s on the selection committe as well as people from the NCAA. Anyone know if there are any coaches or writers? Sounds like most people are for 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7 etc. forget geography and travel. As m said stacking the deck against the stronger teams leads to less interest and growth for the game. Spend a few more $ now and I bet it will expand to 12 then 16 teams.

  6. Anyone who has taken a few college statistics courses and examines the methodology used to compute the RPI, pairwise, and KRACH rankings would be able to tell you that the KRACH is easily the most valid measure of the three.

    As such, we have 3 of the top 4 teams in the top half of the bracket.

    North Dakota has a stronger resume than Dartmouth, so the Sioux should be the loudest complainers because they were left out of the tournament.

  7. Candace is correct, as is Todd. KRACH is by far the best. The sioux woman did get burned. It should have been Wisc in one bracket and Duluth and Minny in the other. The 2 MN teams would have played to see who got Wisc.

  8. Todd- There is NO DOUBT the Sioux (fans anyway) will be the loudest complainers. Same as on the men’s side. The best part is the two French chicks that left the Gophers high and dry, bailing out on their commitment, get to sit home and watch the tournament…..

          • I would go strictly by whatever rankings you choose to use- PWR, poll, RPI, etc. 1 v 8, 2 v 7 etc. I’d want complete bracket integrity- no regard for travel, intra-conference matchups, etc. That being said, I understand what the NCAA does regarding travel, etc. and I don’t like it. What annoys me (and I first noticed it after last week’s men’s bracketology) is the constant complaining of this supposed “Eastern bias” and “Why do we have to play this team in the first round?”. Like 3rd graders.. If I felt I had the best team, I’d be happy to play anyone, anywhere, any time. I’d be willing to be the coaches and players on Wisconsin relish the opportunity to beat up Duluth again. It’s unfortunate the fans have to get their panties in a bunch and can’t just enjoy the Final 8. Think Mark Johnson is complaining? Or that, ahem, woman that coaches UMD? (You know, the one who coached the Olympic team? Is she still there?) Doubt it……

          • It pays to do your homework before making statements. Listen to Mark Johnson’s press conference and that “ahem, woman” is Shannon Miller and yes she is the coach of UMD. I was hoping you would actually put names of teams in the brackets, I think everyone knows the 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, etc scenario.

          • Except the NCAA doesn’t go strictly by 1 v 8, 2 v 7, etc. THAT’s my point. Wisco (1) is playing UMD (7).

          • I’ve done my homework. My apologies for assuming Mark Johnson would embrace the situation, being number one and all. Apparently he’s a whiner/complainer as well. Was Candace Horgan asking the questions??? On the other hand, Shannon Miller said all the right things. Full marks to him/her. Would not be surprised to see Miller’s team put a beating on Johnson’s team like they did in the Olympics. The kids take their cues from their coaches and I think Miller’s attitude is much more conducive to winning than Johnson’s. Badger Bob’s probably rolling over…..

      • Which of the quarter final games will you be attending? The Wisconsin-UMD looks too be the best match-up so I will go to Madison, and of course I have had tickets to Erie for 2 months. You will be in Erie, won’t you? Forgive me if I regard a non-response as “I have plenty of opinions but not enough interest to attend games”.

        • You couldn’t pay me to go to a women’s hockey game. My opinions only center on you people complaining about the draw, not the games themselves. I’m sure those tickets in Erie were hard to get. By the way, you replied to yourself above……

          • Congratulations on being an expert on something you have never seen. Didn’t I read one of your other posts stating you had attended “many, many” games. I guess that puts you in the same category as “those French chicks”. What are your other areas of expertise? However, opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.

          • Never said I went to many, many women’s games, nor did I say I’ve never been to a women’s game and I’ve never claimed to be an expert on anything. I have attended many, many hockey games, not that going to hockey games should have anything to do with my argument that you people are a bunch of whining, crybabies who should just keep quiet and enjoy the tournament. Again, play who you play and the best team will win. Simple enough? As for a**holes, I’ve got a pretty good idea that you being from Cal find yourself around them quite often….

    • I think everyone knew that the two “French chicks” would only be there 1 year. Their father and all their brothers played and/or are playing for the Sioux. They came here to make a statement to the NoDak womans team. Next year they get that “Warroad chick”. Instead of being the “BigThree” it will be the “Big Four”. The WCHA will continue to win the championships and you people “East of the Mississippi” can still call us whiners and say we’re embarrasing yourselves and sit there wondering what “Eastern bias” is.

      • Did the people of Minnesota know they would only be there one year? Was that discussed before they accepted their scholarships? Would still like to know what “Eastern bias” is. Please enlighten me…..

          • It’s not a matter of the money. It’s honoring a commitment to the school. If they had an opportunity to go pro, as Orleans so brilliantly conjured up, that would be understandable. But to leave one program at your whim for another is completely selfish and devoid of character. And within the same conference to boot! Nice…..

          • But to play in your hometown? Before the family and freinds you grew up with?
            You might want to check your values…..

        • A lot of people here had it figured out. As far as the coaching staff, I wouldn’t know. It’s the same as turning pro. Lots of players only plan on a certain time frame and bolt. Happens every year.

          • You’re likening a “student” transferring from one school to another to one going from college to pro?!? Shockingly dumb. The girls were selfish and are getting what they deserve- no more hockey this year. Last time I’ll ask this, because I’m sure no one has a legitimate answer- What is the “Eastern bias”?

  9. Careful Candace, the easterners will accuse you of being a conspiro regardless how obvious your point is. And it is DAMN obvious….

  10. The ironic thing is that the NCAA is shooting itself in the foot. I was giving some serious consideration about making the trip to Erie. I was thinking of going because I’d like the chance to see the WCHA’s best take on the best of the east, but now, at best I’ll get to see WI and MN play each other again on Friday? Doesn’t really seem worth it to drive all that way, and spend 2 nights in a hotel to watch a rematch, before the championship game, and I’m not going to drive 600 miles to see just one hockey game.

    Ultimately, by stacking the deck against the strongest teams, the NCAA has made for an less interesting tournament, and that’s going to make it even more difficult to grow the sport.

  11. I just hope Minnesota Gophers continue their run. Would love to see Minnesota shut these white trash ND Sioux fandom up. Go Gophers go.

  12. Candace,
    Sounds like you’ve been covering the WCHA too long and you’ve joined it’s “rabid fanbase” and lost some objectivity.
    You predicted Minnesota “one of the hottest teams in the country” would most likely face Wisconsin “barring an unlikely upset… of the Gophers by Boston College”. Wow.
    As you know by now, BC was up 1-0 after 24 seconds, 4-0 after the first period and handily won 4-1.
    If you were writing a column for HE and made a prediction like that, the WCHA rabid fans would have been all over you. No disrespect to the WCHA-great league, great teams, great history. There are also some great teams and a lot of great tradition in the ECAC, and Hockey East.

    Go BC


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