If the season ended today, 1998 March 2

© 1998, Joe Schlobotnik (archives)

URL for this frameset: http://www.elynah.com/tbrw/tbrw.cgi?1998/pairwise.980302.shtml

Want to play along at home, kids? Check out "You Are The Committee", an interactive script which lets you go through the decision-making process of tournament selection.

Three weeks from now, the NCAA tournament seedings will be set. In the mean time, let's use the results through this weekend to see how the NCAA Tournament selection procedure will work itself out. Starting with game results from US College Hockey Online's Division I Composite Schedule, the pairwise comparisons among the 24 teams with .500 or better records are (see USCHO for the current pairwise rankings and Ratings Percentage Index, independently calculated):

    Team         PWR  RPI                  Comparisons Won
 1 Mich State     23 .621   NDBUMiNHBCYaCkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 2 North Dakota   22 .621 __  BUMiNHBCYaCkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 3 Boston Univ    21 .616 ____  MiNHBCYaCkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 4 Michigan       20 .589 ______  NHBCYaCkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 5 New Hampshire  19 .581 ________  BCYaCkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 6 Boston Coll    17 .570 __________  Ya__OSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 7 Yale           17 .560 ____________  CkOSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 8 Clarkson       17 .559 __________BC__  OSWiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
 9 Ohio State     15 .548 ________________  WiCCMmNESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
10 Wisconsin      13 .538 __________________  CC__NESCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
11 CO College     12 .544 ____________________  MmNE__MDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
12 Miami          12 .541 __________________Wi__  NE__MDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
13 Northeastern   11 .530 ________________________  SCMDCgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
14 St Cloud       10 .556 ____________________CCMm__  MDCgNt__NM__PnCrPvDa
15 Minn-Duluth     9 .519 ____________________________  CgNtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
16 Colgate         8 .508 ______________________________  NtLSNMRPPnCrPvDa
17 Notre Dame      7 .513 ________________________________  LSNMRPPnCrPvDa
18 Lake Superior   6 .507 __________________________SC______  __RPPnCrPvDa
19 Northern Mich   5 .510 __________________________________LS  RP__CrPvDa
20 RPI             5 .504 __________________________SC__________  PnCrPvDa
21 Princeton       4 .501 ____________________________________NM__  CrPvDa
22 Cornell         2 .494 __________________________________________  PvDa
23 Providence      1 .500 ____________________________________________  Da
24 Dartmouth       0 .468 ______________________________________________  

The first thing to do is give out automatic bids to the conference champions. North Dakota has become the first team to clinch a regular season title, but for the sake of this exercise, we'll assume that the current leaders, Michigan State, Yale and BU, win their respective conferences as well. Next come the at large bids, and for the first time the selection procedure does not tell us to send the top twelve teams in the pairwise rankings. Instead, we're supposed to identify the teams on the bubble and consider pairwise comparisons among them. Michigan, New Hampshire, Clarkson, BC and Ohio State are all clearly in, leaving three more bids to be determined. A reasonable definition of the "bubble" would be Wisconsin, CC, Miami, Colgate and St. Cloud, and looking at the comparisons among these teams:

  Team         lPWR RPI Comps Won
1 Wisconsin      3 .538   SCCC__NE
2 St Cloud       2 .556 __  CCMm__
3 CO College     2 .544 ____  MmNE
4 Miami          2 .541 Wi____  NE
5 Northeastern   1 .530 __SC____

Wisconsin gets one bid, since they have the highest "local PWR", and Northeastern is out, with the lowest. Of the remaining three teams, SCSU and CC both win their comparisons with Miami, and thus grab the last two spots. Thus St. Cloud, despite having a total PWR two lower than Miami's, grabs the last tournament spot from the RedHawks. This conclusion is inescapable unless we extend the "bubble" all the way down to #18 Lake State or #20 RPI.

With that settled, we move to ranking the teams within the regions. Once again we have seven Western teams, so we move Colorado College to the East, giving regions of:

      West                                  East
1 Mich State     5 .621 NDMiOSWiSC | 1 Boston Univ    5 .616 NHBCYaCkCC
2 North Dakota   4 .621   MiOSWiSC | 2 New Hampshire  4 .581   BCYaCkCC
3 Michigan       3 .589 __  OSWiSC | 3 Boston Coll    2 .570 __  Ya__CC
4 Ohio State     2 .548 ____  WiSC | 4 Yale           2 .560 ____  CkCC
5 Wisconsin      1 .538 ______  SC | 5 Clarkson       2 .559 __BC__  CC
6 St Cloud       0 .556 ________   | 6 CO College     0 .544 ________

Michigan State, North Dakota, BU and UNH get the byes (unless Yale happens to be the tournament champion as well as the regular season title-holder in the ECAC). The pairwise comparisons tell us to send Wisconsin and St. Cloud East and CC back West. (If the committee is trying to maximize attendance at the West Regional, they might put Wisconsin in the West regional instead of CC, but substitution won't affect any of the other manipulations.) As for the other Eastern team to get shipped out, BC, Yale and Clarkson are all even on comparisons, but Clarkson has the lowest RPI of the three. However, with two Hockey East teams holding the Eastern byes, the committee will probably keep the ECAC teams in the Eastern regional and ship out Boston College to avoid a possible intra-conference matchup. The regionals then look like:

      West                                  East
1 Mich State (C)     1 .621 ND     | 1 Boston Univ (H)    1 .616 NH
2 North Dakota (W)   0 .621        | 2 New Hampshire (H)  0 .581

3 Michigan (C)       3 .589 BCOSCC | 3 Yale (E)           3 .560 CkWiSC
4 Boston Coll (H)    2 .570   OSCC | 4 Clarkson (E)       2 .559   WiSC
5 Ohio State (C)     1 .548 __  CC | 5 Wisconsin (W)      1 .538 __  SC
6 CO College (W)     0 .544 ____   | 6 St Cloud (W)       0 .556 ____

Using the comparisons to fill out the brackets in "natural" seeding order gives

5W Ohio State (C)                  6E St Cloud (W)
4W Boston Coll (H)                 3E Yale (E)
     1W Mich State (C)        2E New Hampshire (H)
     2W North Dakota (W)      1E Boston Univ (H)
3W Michigan (C)                    4E Clarkson (E)
6W CO College (W)                  5E Wisconsin (W)

Which has no first-round matchups between teams in the same conference and only two possible second-round battles, either of which requires a first-round upset. We could reduce that number to one by swapping Michigan with BC and and OSU with CC, but then the all-CCHA game in the second round would be fairly likely to come up, with Michigan only needing to beat Colorado College. From the point of view of minimizing the likelihood of a second-round conference matchup, the best pairings are:

5W CO College (W)                  6E St Cloud (W)
4W Ohio State (C)                  3E Yale (E)
     1W Mich State (C)        2E New Hampshire (H)

     2W North Dakota (W)      1E Boston Univ (H)
3W Michigan (C)                    4E Clarkson (E)
6W Boston Coll (H)                 5E Wisconsin (W)

This is not really optimal from a seeding standpoint, however, as it has the top two non-bye teams in the West regional meeting in the first round. But there's no way to do any better by placing teams in different regionals, since Michigan, as the host school, must stay West.

The Gory Details

If you want to see the reasons why each of the pairwise comparisons turned out the way it did, here they are.

Last Modified: 2019 July 24

Joe Schlobotnik / joe@amurgsval.org

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