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NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology: February 14th, 2018

The ideal bracket for the Eagles

The regular season ends this weekend, which is a little nuts and a lot exciting. The conference tournaments start next weekend, and the Eagles have just about mathematically clinched a home ice spot in the NCAA quarterfinals on March 10th.

Interestingly, the Eagles lost this past weekend 2-1 to New Hampshire but managed to move up in the rankings thanks to Clarkson’s even worse loss to Princeton.

Pairwise, man...

Here is the selection criteria as set forth in the women’s hockey handbook:

The Women’s Ice Hockey Committee will seed the selected participants as follows:

1. The top four teams according to the selection criteria will be seeded 1-4 at the time of the selection call. The remaining four teams will be placed in the bracket based on relative strength as long as these pairings do not result in additional flights. These teams will not be reseeded and the committee will not change the bracket once the tournament has begun.

2. Assuming it meets the committee’s hosting criteria, the highest seeded team will be given the opportunity to host the quarterfinal game.

Pairings in the quarterfinal round shall be based primarily on the teams’ geographical proximity to one another, regardless of their region, in order to avoid air travel in quarterfinal-round games whenever possible. Teams’ relative strength, according to the committee’s selection criteria, shall be considered when establishing pairings if such pairings do not result in air travel that otherwise could be avoided. The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee shall have the authority to modify its working principles related to the championship site assignment on a case-by-case basis.

There are a few key differences between the men’s hockey criteria and the women’s hockey criteria. In the men’s tournament, the selection committee primarily avoids intraconference first round matchups and tries to improve attendance, and the 16 teams are seeded 1-16.

Women’s hockey only seeds the top 4 of 8 teams, and the primary consideration is minimizing the number of flights (a flight being anything over 400 miles according to the NCAA’s official calculator), with bracket integrity the secondary consideration.

One last caveat is that this year, the women’s hockey handbook added in language stating that “during the selection process, each team’s full body of work will be evaluated.” Presumably, this was added to give the committee some leeway in whether or not the newly-eligible D-I/D-II independents would be selected for the tournament regardless of any top 8 ranking.

Here are the current autobids, chosen based on best in-conference winning percentage:

WHEA: Boston College
WCHA: Wisconsin
ECAC: Clarkson
CHA: Robert Morris

Now let’s take our conference autobids and fill in the rest of the top eight using the Pairwise Rankings, seeding only the top 4 teams. While we have no inside information, it is our best guess that D-II Saint Anselm will not be included in the tournament despite sitting 5th in the Pairwise. So we’ll take a look at the bracket without the Hawks first.

(1) Wisconsin — WCHA Champion
(2) Boston College WHEA Champion
(3) Colgate
(4) Clarkson ECAC Champion
Ohio State
Cornell
Minnesota
Robert Morris CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Minnesota @ (2) Boston College
Cornell @ (3) Colgate
Ohio State @ (4) Clarkson

That’s three flights, which is bad. We can only get rid of one of them, though, because both Ohio State and Robert Morris will be flying no matter who they get matched up with in the top 4. We can send Minnesota to Wisconsin, though, which is a bus trip, by swapping the Gophers with Colonials or Robert Morris.

Minnesota @ (1) Wisconsin
Robert Morris @ (2) Boston College
Cornell @ (3) Colgate
Ohio State @ (4) Clarkson

Two flights, but that’s the best we can do. Bracket integrity isn’t too bad, with 1v7 and 2v8 being the only imperfections. So that’s our bracket.

This is the ideal bracket for BC. Clarkson and Wisconsin appear to be the top two teams right now, so being on the opposite side of them in the bracket is great. Even better, though, is that the Eagles would be matched up with Robert Morris in the quarterfinals, who are certainly a step below the rest of the tournament field and would only make it into the field by winning their conference tournament.

Since our best guess is that Saint Anselm will not be selected to the tournament, this is our official prediction for today’s Pairwise Rankings.

Just for fun, here is our Bracketology with Saint Anselm included:

(1) Wisconsin — WCHA Champion
(2) Boston College — WHEA Champion
(3) Colgate
(4) Clarkson — ECAC Champion
Saint Anselm
Ohio State
Cornell
Robert Morris — CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2) Boston College
Ohio State @ (3) Colgate
Saint Anselm @ (4) Clarkson

Two flights in this bracket, but we can’t do any better than that. Robert Morris is a flight everywhere (it’s 407 miles to Colgate, its closest option), and so is Ohio State, so there’s no need to move things around. Badger fans would be happy about this, because Wisconsin would avoid a WCHA opponent, and Clarkson fans would be pleased as punch to get Saint Anselm, a D2 team.

But, as we said before, we don’t anticipate this happening. The Gophers had better hope so, and as the rankings currently sit they’ll be praying that no surprise autobids make the tournament as it is.