Women’s D-III: A look at how the NCAA tournament is selected

Amanda Conway of Norwich (Mark Collier/Norwich University)
Amanda Conway of Norwich (Mark Collier/Norwich University)

After this weekend, just two weekends of play remain in the women’s D-III regular season. After that, the playoffs start, with berths in the NCAA tournament on the line. This year, there will be seven conference tournament winner automatic qualifiers, with the UCHC gaining that status. Three at-large teams will be chosen after that.

Published rankings will begin coming out on Feb. 18, and  will be published for three Monays after that. The tournament selection date is Monday, March 9. The first round will begin play on Wednesday, March 11, and the quarterfinals are Saturday, March 14. The Frozen Four is March 20-21.

According to the rulebook, the three at-large teams are selected from Pool B, which consists of “independent institutions and institutions that are members of conferences that do not meet the requirements for automatic qualification.” Pool C “is reserved for institutions from automatic-qualifying conferences that do not win their conference’s automatic qualification bid and the remaining teams in Pool B.” The selections from Pool B and C are on a national, not regional, basis.

There is currently only one independent team, Anna Maria, and the one conference without an automatic qualifier, the WIAC. A quick look at the PairWise shows two teams from the WIAC might be in position to qualify for the NCAA tournament, depending on how things shake out. Those two are Wisconsin-Eau Claire (third), and Wisconsin-River Falls (seventh).

Only two teams at this point could consider themselves likely safe no matter what happens in the conference tournament: Plattsburgh and Middlebury. Other teams likely have to win their conference tournament to get in. For instance, No. 9 Adrian is currently sitting at 14th in the PairWise, so the Bulldogs have to be on their guard when the playoffs start and can’t afford a loss like their one to Lake Forest last weekend.

No. 7 Norwich with a 15-4-1 record is currently 11th in the PairWise, so the Cadets will want to solidify their position, but will likely need to win the NEHC tournament to qualify.

Looking to the last three weeks of the regular season, there are still some games that could change PairWise fortunes. For instance, on Feb. 14, No. 4 Elmira travels to No. 1 Plattsburgh. That same weekend, No. 5 Hamline, currently ninth in the PairWise, has a home-and-home with St. Thomas, currently sitting at 18th in the PairWise. On Feb. 18, No. 6 Gustavus travels face Wisconsin-Superior, currently 10th in the PairWise. On the final weekend of the season, Colby, which is currently 13th in the PairWise, faces Amherst, currently eighth in the PairWise, and Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-River Falls faceoff in a home-and-home.

Teams will be gearing up for a stretch run in the hopes of being ready for their conference tournaments, because winning that is still the surest path to the NCAA tournament.