The NCAA Selection Process for 1997-1998: the fine print

© 1998, Joe Schlobotnik (archives)

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Okay, of course life is never completely easy. First of all, a general caveat. I'm not on the selection committee, the current system of seeding the tournament is an inexact science, so even though the NCAA is working to educate the public on the process, we can never be sure what the committee will do until it's announced. But it's my hope that by thinking about these things ahead of time, we can spend the afternoon of March 22, 1998 waiting to find out whether the committee does X, Y, or maybe Z, and not be stunned to learn they've chosen Q.

Tournament Eligibility

The exclusion of Nebraska-Omaha (and Niagara--they don't play quite enough Division I games to qualify for the tournament, but the NCAA has in the past included some ineligible teams in the RPI) from the RPI calculations was announced cryptically in the NCAA News report:

With regard to the rating percentage index (RPI), the committee also voted that games against emerging programs (institutions starting new hockey programs that are not eligible for championship competition) would not be considered. The action was taken in an effort to assist the institutions with emerging programs in establishing quality schedules.

and has been confirmed by the NCAA.

There was some question about the status of the Ice Breaker Cup and Hall of Fame game, but the NCAA does in fact consider them exhibitions and will not count them towards tournament selection this year.


When calculating opponents' winning percentage for a given team, games against that team are not included. However, the opponents' opponents' percentage is simply calculated by averaging the "opponents' percentage" (as specified above), which subtracts games against the intermediate team but not those against the initial team. That is to say, if Vij is the number of times team i has beaten team j, Nij=Vij+Vji is the number of times they've played, Vi=∑jVij is the total number of wins for team i and Ni=∑jNij is the total number of games they've played, then team i's RPI is given by

0.35*Vi/Ni + 0.50 * ∑j(Nij/Ni)*(Vj-Vji)/(Nj-Nji)
+ 0.15 * ∑j (Nij/Ni)*∑k(Njk/Nj)*(Vk-Vkj)/(Nk-Nkj)
Last 20

Another cryptic quote from that NCAA News report:

While voting to retain the current criteria, the committee agreed to evaluate alternatives to the "results of the last 20 games" criterion.

This does mean what it sounds like, that they don't think the last 20 games is the best criterion, but they will use it this year.

Teams Under Consideration

If a team with a losing record earns an automatic berth by winning its conference tournament, they are considered a TUC for all calculations.

When comparing two teams, their head-to-head games are subtracted from each team's record against Teams Under Consideration. I.e., in the comparison between team A and team B, this criterion actually compares team A's record against all TUCs except team B to team B's record against all TUCs except team A.

Common Opponents

Since head-to-head games are not included in records vs common opponents (after all, no team plays itself), one should be careful using conference record as a starting point for record against common opponents when the two teams are in the same conference.

Regular Season Champions

There is only one regular season champion per conference, so if two or more teams are tied for the championship, whichever team is seeded first in the conference playoffs, based on the league tiebreaker system, is considered to be the regular season champion for these purposes.

On Swapping Extra Teams

This is an incredibly silly way to run things, since it almost ensures that the lowest-ranked team(s) in an over-represented region will be shipped back into its own region, while other teams will end up out of their region because they beat out the team(s) in question. It rewards a team for being seventh or eighth, rather than fifth or sixth, in the region. It would be a lot more sensible just to say that the bottom two teams from an over-represented region get shipped out, and an under-reprented region sends its bottom team if it's got five teams, or no one if it's got four.

More on Swapping

Since the committee is basically at its discretion in seeding the eight non-bye teams in the two regionals, The designation of the seventh and perhaps eighth teams in a region as belonging to the other region shouldn't keep them from being kept in their adopted region even if that means that only one pair of teams is technically swapped. I.e., there's probably nothing wrong with, for example,


E1, E2, E3, E4, W5, W7


W1, W2, W3, W4, W6, E5

if attendance or conference matchup considerations make it preferable to the default arrangement of


E1, E2, E3, E4, W5, W6


W1, W2, W3, W4, W7, E5

even though the former arrangement technically keeps five of the six "Eastern" teams (including W7) in the East regional.

Also note that if the committee knows one of the regionals is going to sell out regardless, they won't need to worry about attendance considerations for that regional.

Last Modified: 2019 July 24

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