clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tears Of Unfathomable Sadness, Volume 19: Maybe Don't Lose To UMass Next Time

UMass-Lowell tears?? What a world.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

We are pretty big UMass-Lowell fans over here at BCI. They're a great team, they have a great coach, and they're just generally a respectable program. We were pulling for them hard to beat BU in the Hockey East title game, for obvious reasons, and we think that if they did make it into the NCAAs, they probably would have had a good chance at making the Frozen Four. So it takes something pretty asinine for us to have an entire feature of the Tears about the River Hawks.

Shout out to Scott McLaughlin for tweeting this one out.

UMass Lowell hockey team victim of computer

I started this off by doing a Google image search for "computer monster" but realized the joke wouldn't be that funny. It doesn't matter. Dennis Whitton of the Lowell Sun makes all the humor for us.

In journalism, we have what is known as the "nut graph" -- a paragraph, normally high up in the story, that summarizes what the reader can expect to get out of the article.

I see we are off to a compelling and rich start.

Here's the nut graph for this column: The UMass Lowell hockey team got screwed.

Well, nut sentence would be more accurate.

Nut sentence! HA! Quality.

More to the point: UMass-Lowell got "screwed"? There is really no screwing to be done, given that this is all a very transparent process, with a mathematical formula determining who makes the field. There is nobody who can do the screwing, who can look at the list of teams and say "sorry Lowell, not your year."

The NCAA hockey selection committee filled its 16-team bracket on Sunday and there were a number of teams on the list that, at least in the opinion of this correspondent,

THIS correspondent!

did not have nearly


as good a year as the River Hawks.

Please enlighten me with your infinite wisdom on this subject.

Let me just add really quickly that this article, which ran in Tuesday's Sun, came on the heels of a similarly pathetic blog post that went up shortly after the field was selected, in which our pal Dennis wrote the sentence:

I don't know squat about the "pairwise rankings." but...

Let it be pointed out here that Dennis Whitton is the sports editor of the Lowell Sun. UMass-Lowell Hockey is almost inarguably the most important sports team in the Sun's circulation area, so it would behoove him to have some working knowledge of how the sport they play in works. I could forgive, for instance, the sports editor of the Boston Globe for not knowing the intricacies of college hockey, given the paper's focus on the major pro sports. At the Lowell Sun, I don't think it's unfair to expect that the sports editor can take literally 3 minutes to read the helpful explainer pages on either USCHO or College Hockey News that outline in plain and simple English precisely how the rankings work and how the teams are selected.

Given that Mr. Whitton does not seem to think understanding how the system works is within his scope of responsibilities, it's fair to say that I doubt he has a well-informed and thoughtful opinion on who among, say, UMass-Lowell, Bowling Green, Colgate, Yale, and St. Cloud State had a more impressive season.

Moving along:

That opinion is shared by some others. We think.

What is the literary purpose of that "We think"? Are you having doubts about this article? Too late, you're 105 words in; it's full speed ahead at this point.

"Because I run the institution I'm held to a higher standard with regard to criticizing the NCAA," said UML Chancellor Martin Meehan, dodging the inquiry as to whether his school got dissed.

Guy from the Lowell Sun who thinks Lowell got screwed asks Chancellor of UMass-Lowell if Lowell got "dissed."


Before we go any further, we need to explain how the NCAA Tournament field is picked: out of a hat.

No it...

No, not really.

That's obnoxious, bruh.

There are six Division 1 conferences in college hockey and each of the tournament champions from those conferences gets an automatic berth.

That leaves spots for 10 "at large" teams. They are chosen by a committee that leans exclusively on a mathematical formula that takes into account, among other things, winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage and opponents' opponents' winning percentage, believe it or not.

Believe it or not! It factors these absurd things into consideration like winning games and how good the teams you play are. Can you believe that shit??

Road wins count, too, as do common opponents and nonleague records, but the polls conducted by coaches and media do not.

Yes, these things that are objective and reflect the quality of a team's season count, and the opinions of biased people like Lowell guy writing a shitty article about Lowell for the Lowell Sun do not.

And here's the clincher: No greater value is placed on a win in the conference tournament than on a win on a Friday night in January. They are equal in value.

1. This is not correct, because if you win the tournament, you win an autobid.

2. Usually tournament games are against quality opponents, earning a Quality Win Bonus.

3. A conference quarterfinal or semifinal game and a game in January are both just one game. The idea that a home conference quarterfinal game against a team ranked somewhere around #28 in the pairwise should count more than beating a BU or a Providence on the road in January makes a mockery of the long and grinding college hockey season.

That's preposterous.


I mean, why even play the tournament games?

Because the conference champion gets an autobid. You knew the answer to this.

And why even have a committee? Just let some computer geek in Palo Alto print out the spreadsheet.

Ohhh my God, this is like banging your head against a wall.

The committee isn't there to select the field, it's pretty cut-and-dried who is going to make the field. You should know this, because you are the sports editor of a newspaper whose most important area sports team is a college hockey team. The committee is there to arrange the bracket, avoiding intraconference matchups and helping out attendance in the regionals the best they can. This is all literally 30 seconds away from being information you have via a quick google search.

It doesn't add up.

No it quite literally "adds up" because it's math.

The River Hawks finished one point behind Boston College and Providence in the Hockey East regular-season standings. One point.

That's right, they finished behind two teams who themselves barely made it into the NCAA tournament by the skin of their teeth. If either of them had, say, lost to UMass at some point during the season, they probably would be sitting on the sidelines this weekend.

They were a respectable 5-3-1 against D1 nonleague opponents.

And being 17th in the Pairwise is a respectable result.

Let's talk about this non-league record for a second. Lowell's 1-0-1 mark against Quinnipiac was impressive, but they also lost to Michigan, lost to Harvard, and split with a mediocre Penn State team. By contrast, BC beat Michigan, split with #5 Denver, and split with #11 Harvard, while running the table against lower-tier non-conference teams. The difference between the two is marginal, but so was the PWR gap between the two teams.

They went from there to beat fifth-place Notre Dame in the HE playoff quarterfinals while both BC and Providence were losing to the sixth and seventh seeds. Count for anything with the committee?

In the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden, Lowell routed Vermont, 4-1, on Friday. It was through to the championship game against top-ranked Boston University. Count for anything?

Yes, those counted as a win, a win, and a loss, respectively, and those wins helped their Pairwise position which was in serious danger after having a loss and a tie to effing UMass.

Lowell gave the Terriers all they could handle, losing 5-3 in a game that was in doubt most of the way.

"...In doubt most of the way" ...Please, it was 4-1 at the end of the 2nd period. The River Hawks had already received the Eicharist and were on their way back to their respective pews.

This seems like a good time here to point out that Lowell went a combined 0-5 against the top two teams in the league this year, BU and Providence. Both BC and Providence managed to beat BU, providing a huge PWR boost. I know, those were in the regular season, so they don't count. But yeah.

Actually, my main beef isn't that BC and Providence made it. Heck, they did finish one point ahead of UMass Lowell in the standings. Tip o' the fedora to the lads.

That's mighty big of you.

It's not even the fact that RIT was an automatic selection from the Atlantic League, which is nothing more than a glorified Division 2 conference, with Bentley, Sacred Heart, AIC and Mercyhurst among its members. (Quickie quiz: Where the hell is Mercyhurst?).

"The Atlantic League" is an independent minor league baseball league. Presumably you are referring to the Atlantic Hockey Conference, which is definitely a weak league, hence why it only sends one team to the tournament. Though perhaps before ragging on Sacred Heart, you should fire up the way-back machine all the way back to one season ago when Sacred Heart beat UMass-Lowell on their "raise 6 banners for making the Frozen Four night" in 2013. That loss probably prevented UMass-Lowell from being a 1 seed, which would have allowed them to avoid BC in the tournament last year. Womp womp.

Also, Mercyhurst is in Erie, Pennsylvania. Google could have told you that, as could anyone who follows college hockey reasonably closely.

No, my beef is that six out of the eight teams in the self-righteously named National Collegiate Hockey Conference got in. Wow. ...


Wait, you mean the tournament includes a non-flagship state university whose only well-known Division 1 sports team is its men's hockey team? PREPOSTEROUS! BALDERDASH!

Here's the dope on the NCHC: ...

Don't do drugs, kids.

I'm going to skip his entire section where he complains that other teams with tougher schedules got in with slightly worse records than Lowell (none of whom lost to UMass) because it's entirely pointless.

The other head-scratcher is Yale. Third in the ECAC standings, 18-9-5 overall (the only at-large choice with fewer than 20 wins) and a loser in the conference quarters. And they get BU in the first round in Manchester? Heck, that's gotta be a typo.

Now this guy seems to have completely lost his narrative. I'm not the one here looking at records in a vacuum, but while we're going down that road, Yale had the 10th best winning percentage in the country and plays in the ECAC, the conference that has won the last two national titles. They may have less than 20 wins, but they also have fewer than 10 losses—only four other tournament teams can say that.

I know the Ivies play fewer games, but this guy obviously doesn't know that. Shhh!

The other perplexing part of this is "And they get BU in the first round in Manchester? Heck, that's gotta be a typo." Um...what? BU is one of the four best teams in the country. You could make the argument that they are the #1 favorite going into the tournament. They won the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournament and have the guy who is probably going to both win the Hobey Baker and save humankind from sin. This seems like a pretty reasonable matchup for Yale to be placed in given that they were one of the lowest-ranked teams in the field. What were we complaining about again?

Also...are you seriously ripping on Yale?

OK, OK, that's enough griping. We'll let Chancellor Meehan have the last word:

"It was a good season for us, we got to the final game again, attendance was strong and we've got a great freshman class and a great coach," he said Monday.

Cool story, bro. Cool story.

"It's always been a challenge for us to get the respect we deserve, even winning two championships. But that's OK. It's made our hockey team more intent on proving people wrong," he said.

You know, Chancellor Meehan is totally right about this. It is a challenge for a school like UMass-Lowell to get the kind of respect and attention they deserve when they are competing against bigger name schools like BC, BU, Michigan, Minnesota and the like.

This is all the more reason why a school like UMass-Lowell is likely thankful that the days of a "smoke filled room" subjectively picking the tournament field are over.

Another team sitting at home this weekend in addition to Lowell is Michigan, a team that won 22 games to Lowell's 21, beat Lowell head-to-head, made the Big Ten tournament final, and would undoubtedly put more butts in seats and bring in more TV eyeballs to the tournament than Lowell would. What do you think would happen in a world where a subjective committee gets to choose between a Michigan and a Lowell? Something tells me this guy would end up with something legitimate to complain about.