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NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology: February 7th, 2018

Not many changes this week

We’re back with our weekly installment of women’s hockey bracketology! Despite changes atop the polls for the first time in several months with Clarkson leapfrogging Wisconsin thanks to Ohio State’s sweep of the Badgers, the top half of the Pairwise is the same has it has been the first two weeks.

Having said that, that top group is now closer than they have been all season, with the top 3 all within one loss’s worth of RPI points of passing each other. Colgate is knocking on the door in 4th as well.

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, 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: Mercyhurst*

*Mercyhurst and Robert Morris are currently tied atop the CHA standings and in the head to head tiebreaker, but Mercyhurst currently holds the second tiebreaker of number of wins in conference play, 10-9.

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) Clarkson ECAC Champion
3) Boston CollegeWHEA Champion
4) Colgate
Ohio State
Mercyhurst CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

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

Not the best situation! We have three flights. We can reduce those, though, by sending Minnesota to Wisconsin (the only bus Minnesota can make to the top 4), and Mercyhurst to the higher ranked team of Colgate and Clarkson (they only two teams the Lakers can bus to), which is Clarkson.

We can keep the 4v5 matchup of Ohio State in place, since the Buckeyes are flying no matter what. That leave Cornell heading to Chestnut Hill to face the Eagles.

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

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
(2) Clarkson
(3) Boston College
(4) Colgate
Ohio State
Saint Anselm

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Mercyhurst @ (1) Wisconsin
Minnesota @ (2) Clarkson
Saint Anselm @ (3) Boston College
Ohio State @ (4) Colgate

Not too messy here, but we can get rid of two of these three flights. Minnesota is bussing to Wisconsin, and Mercyhurst can bus to Clarkson, so we’ll swap those two. That leaves us with only one flight and pretty decent bracket integrity:

Minnesota @ (1) Wisconsin
Mercyhurst @ (2) Clarkson
Saint Anselm @ (3) Boston College
Ohio State @ (4) Colgate

Oh hey, Saint Anselm! If only...

Only minor changes in the bracketology these first few weeks, but things can change wildly if there is some movement in that top four!