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NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology: February 21st, 2018

It’s tourney time!

John Quackenbos, BC Athletics

We’ve reached the conference tournaments!

The regular season is over for every conference except the CHA, and the conference quarterfinals kick off this weekend. Once again, we only have minor differences in the Pairwise Rankings compared to previous weeks, but as we’ve seen, one position change for either the top or the bottom four can shape up the bracket.

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 regular season champion (or in the case of the CHA, the current leader):

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 be looking at the bracket without the Hawks.

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

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

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

Three flights, but we can get rid of one of them by sending the Gophers to Madison, as has been the case of all our Bracketologies so far:

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

And that would be our bracket.

BC’s in a bit of a pickle at the moment. The Eagles are 2nd in the Pairwise, but they don’t control their own destiny to hold on to that spot. Most scenarios have the ECAC champion leapfrogging BC even if the Eagles win the Hockey East title, although there are definitely some reasonably possibilities that would prevent that.

It’s starting to look like, unless there are any surprise autobids from somewhere other than the CHA, the tournament will be:

Minnesota @ (1) Wisconsin
CHA Champion @ (2) BC/Clarkson/Colgate (although BC wouldn’t get Mercyhurst)
Ohio State/Cornell @ (3) BC/Clarkson/Colgate
Cornell/Ohio State @ (4) BC/Clarkson/Colgate

The Eagles wouldn’t get Mercyhurst because the Lakers are a flight to BC but a bus to both Clarkson and Colgate. In the case, Mercyhurst would get send to the higher seeded of those two teams and BC would face the lower of Ohio State and Cornell.

Still a lot of questions to be answered — we’ll know a lot more about how things should shake out after the quarterfinals this weekend!