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Why Is Boston College Men’s Hockey Not Making the NCAA Tournament?: A Pairwise Explainer

All your questions about Pairwise, answered

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-National Championship Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Hey everyone!

So if you’re reading this, you are unclear about how we as a blog can be so sure that Boston College is not making the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament.

It’s ok! We’re here to help. That’s why we created this primer on the selection process.


So. How can you be so sure?

It’s through a few factors. The first factor is through an analysis of the Pairwise rankings. Second, we look at the autobids in each conference. Finally, we look at where that leaves BC, and if BC has a chance to enter the tournament.

What is the Pairwise?

The Pairwise ranking is a system of comparisons that evaluate each college hockey team against each other to determine the teams that make the tournament.

How are the rankings determined?

There are three separate comparisons that are used to compare each team.

The first is the team’s RPI, which is probably the part of the comparison most uninitiated fans are most familiar with.

RPI stands for Ratings Percentage Index. It is a number that is made up of three factors. The first factor is a team’s winning percentage. This makes up 25% of the rating. Second, there is the average winning percentage of opponents. This makes up 21% of the RPI. Finally, the most significant portion of the RPI is the average of opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. The last two factors are used to determine strength of schedule.

But Wouldn’t Beating Weak Teams Hurt RPI?

Not in this case. The RPI wouldn’t change because, by rule, any win that negatively impacts RPI would just have no impact.

Are There Other Ways that RPI is Artificially Affected?

I’m glad you asked!

The NCAA also adds a quality win bonus. By beating a team in the Top 20, a certain portion is added to the quality win bonus bank. For example, beating the No. 1 team in the RPI would add .050 to the quality win bonus pool. The bonus is divided by number of games played.

What Other Comparisons Exist?

There’s also record against common opponent. For each individual common opponent, each record against each individual opponent is averaged together to determine who wins the comparison.

There is also the head-to-head comparison, which is self explanatory.

How Does This All Fit Together?

The Pairwise compares each team in Division I hockey by using these comparisons. Each comparison won represents one comparison point, except for head-to-head matchups, where each individual matchup counts as one point.

For example, if Team A has a better RPI and beat Team B twice, and Team B has a better common opponent record, Team A wins the comparison 3-1.

The teams are ranked by number of comparisons won.

But I’m A Real Tightwad, Can I Afford this Remarkable System?

Only if you need snow plowing service.

So Why Do I Care About Pairwise Rankings?

The Pairwise Rankings are used to determine who makes the tournament. In theory, the top 16 teams in the rankings make the tournament.

However, there are also teams that aren’t in the top 16, but win their conference tournament. For those teams, the rankings are only used to determine seeding, as they received their conference’s autobid. So if the No. 30 team in the rankings wins their conference tournament, only the top 15 could hypothetically make the tournament as an at-large.

The important thing to note is that these are the only two things that matter in determining the NCAA tournament field.

What About the Poll?


But My Team Did Well in the Conference Tournament?

Doesn’t matter.

My team has a lot of history so…

That’s just stupid.

What about…






So the Selection Committee Doesn’t Have Any Say In Who Makes the Tournament?


So What Do They Do?

Primarily the selection committee is tasked with the formation of the tournament (i.e. matchups). The committee also has some power in terms of adjusting where teams go in the tournament. But they don’t adjust who does and doesn’t make the tournament.

Is Pairwise the Best Way to Determine Who Makes the Tournament?

Sort of. What Pairwise does a great job of is to remove the subjectivity of the tournament selection process. Each year in the basketball tournament, for example, there’s a lot of frustration amongst the basketball community about who makes the tournament, and the seeding.

Pairwise takes away that question. It takes away potential regional or conference biases. It also allows teams to know what is necessary to make the tournament, and it allows coaches and ADs to make schedules to best serve that goal.

Granted, there are some valid criticisms of the Pairwise. It’s heavily RPI reliant, as a lot of teams don’t have the other comparisons to weigh. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth examining if RPI is the best method. KRACH is one option that could replace RPI theoretically. But even if RPI is flawed, Pairwise is still a way to evaluate teams that don’t necessarily play each other.

So How Do We Know BC Isn’t Making the Tournament?

Using College Hockey News’ Pairwise predictor, we determined that BC would finish 16th in the rankings. Since WCHA winner Michigan Tech is not in the top 16, the cut line moved up to 15, so BC was the first team out.

Can I still be mad online about this?

Go for it, but please let it be known that none of the Mad Online taking place is affiliated with or endorsed by anyone at BC Interruption. “People complaining their team got screwed by the Pairwise” is one of the most popular genres of internet schadenfreude in the college hockey universe each March, and in this case it’s much more fun to be the one pointing and laughing, rather than being the one pointed at and laughed at.