Men’s NCAA: A raw deal?

     Here are a few Monday items as college hockey wraps up in Duluth, Minn.

     For more reading on Sunday’s mega-long and exciting NCAA Division I women’s title game, going three overtimes at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal which was busy with the Cornell basketball men upsetting Wisconsin, also has this on Minnesota Duluth beating the Big Red. And from the Minneapolis Star Tribune here and from the St. Paul Pioneer Press here.

     And in saying farewell to UMD junior left winger Rob Bordson of Duluth it should be noted that Inside College Hockey gave his this recognition:


The preseason bio on Minnesota Duluth forward Rob Bordson said the Duluth native intended to “turn up the volume” in 2009-10. If that’s the case, he was clearly set on “mute” a year ago, playing in just 15 games and going without a point as a sophomore. Then his volume knob got turned up to 11, or more accurately, 28, as in the number of assists he led the Bulldogs with this year, and 12 goals for 40 points in 40 games.

       Also Chris Dilks of Western College Hockey here did some PairWise Rankings chewing after Sunday’s 16-team NCAA men’s field was announced. He had a bit to say about one team getting a raw deal — Minnesota Duluth.

Chris Dilks, Western College Hockey:

     I had kind of avoided looking too deeply at the Pairwise Numbers, because things can change drastically with a couple results, but in looking over the final numbers, there’s plenty of room for outrage. Two things stick out to me: Alaska barely avoided missing the tournament because of the TUC cliff, and in my opinion Minnesota-Duluth got completely screwed out of a tournament bid.

   First up is Alaska, since that’s a fairly simple one. Alaska would have lost a comparison against Massachusetts, for some dubious reasons, if UMass had been a team under consideration, . One fewer comparison win would have dropped Alaska to 10 total comparison wins and into a tie with Ferris State and Michigan State for the last at-large bid. Ferris State had the highest RPI of the three and likely would have gotten the bid. As luck would have it for the Nanooks, UMass finished 26th in the RPI instead of 25th. Not that any of this was Alaska’s fault. It would have been a joke if they missed out on the tournament because of that ridiculous comparison.

     That brings us to Minnesota Duluth. I think they’re the real victim here. Adam Wodon probably does a better job of explaining this, in that old article about the travesty that kept Minnesota State out of the 2008 tournament, but the same situation applies here. Basically, the history is that about 8-10 years ago, the committee didn’t necessarily look at the standings of who won the most comparisons like they currently do, so much as they just looked at the group of teams that was actually under consideration for the tournament and how they did against each other. If that were still the case, I think Minnesota-Duluth makes the tournament.

     Duluth finished the year 12th in the RPI, but 17th in the Pairwise because they lost three comparisons to teams that were under consideration for the tournament in name only: RPI #20 Maine, RPI #23 UMass-Lowell, and RPI #25 Boston University. Ignore those three comparisons and Duluth is a solid three seed in the tournament. Maine is really the only one of the three that you could maybe stretch it to make the argument that they belong under consideration for the tournament, but even that still would have gotten Duluth in.

     I understand that the PWR isn’t going to be perfect top to bottom with the best team winning every comparison on down to the last team winning none. If it exactly replicated the RPI every time, there would be no point to it. But there’s a difference between slightly tweaking the RPI, which measures an entire body of work, and making it altogether meaningless.

     Looking at each of the comparisons, I still don’t have a big problem with the UMD/Maine comparison. They’re fairly close in the RPI–UMD has about a .01 advantage–but Maine is a game over .500 against TUCs while UMD is three games below .500, and Maine leads in common opponents, though UMD has 8 games against common opponents to Maine’s four. But the last two comparisons against Lowell and BU, the ones that keep UMD out of the tournament, are nearly identical and they are laughable. UMD has a fairly significant advantage of over .015 over both teams. But that advantage gets erased because both Lowell and BU are 7-9-3 against TUCs(.4474) while Duluth is 11-14-1(.4424). That’s so incredibly close and it basically cancels Duluth big RPI advantage.

     That means Duluth’s tournament life is decided by their record against common opponents with those schools. Vermont is the only school that played Duluth and either of those two teams. Vermont beat UMD in the one game they played on Vermont’s home ice. That zero percent winning percentage means UMD had to hope those other Hockey East teams went 0-for-the-season against Vermont–an unlikely prospect when you get multiple cracks at a team. Lowell ended the year 1-0-2 against Vermont. BU went the absolute minimum and won the comparison with an 0-2-1 record against Vermont. I’d like to think that with two more cracks at Vermont, one of which on home ice, UMD could also muster at least one tie. I doubt you could find anyone to say that there’s enough data there to draw any sort of reasonable conclusion.

     It’s difficult to find any sort of perfect number system, but there’s just so many holes in this current version and things that make no sense, and it’s frustrating to watch teams get punished because of it.

8 thoughts on “Men’s NCAA: A raw deal?

  1. I don’t think it’s about money. I mean, there are some major non-money-makers that got in.

    I think it’s about transparency. There is no way to justify tUMD being in the way the rules are set up. Chris’ arguments are correct and exactly what I was saying in the earlier comments, but getting tUMD into the tournament would require some number-fudging of the current system, and that is exactly what they are trying to get rid of.

    This is exactly why I harped on that Vermont loss. It wouldn’t be the difference between a good season and a fabulous season, but it was the difference between making the tournament and not making it. Sweeping Tech wouldn’t have even mattered much because they were so bad those wins had to be taken out of calculations.

    But, whatever. This is hockey. Last year we saved our playoff lives with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. This year one loss killed our tournament hopes. Sometimes it’s just that close.

  2. If the number of upsets in mens basketball isn’t a big enough clue these rankings sucks these hockey rankings only add to it!

    Dogs finish the season ranked 14th in the USCHO poll with a 22-17-1 record and their season is over.

    Alabama-Hunstville finishes the season ranked 25th with a record of 12-17-3 and they are in the NCAA tournament. A loosing record in the worst league in college hockey gets you into the NCAAs…nice system!

  3. NCAAs are a Joke –

    UAH won their conference tournament…that’s why they are in. Automatic bid for winning your own tournament.

  4. The Facts –

    What’s a joke is the CHA got an auto bid this year with 3 terrible teams that finished under .500. The NCAA should have pulled the auto bid for the CHA a long time ago. UAH gets an auto bid for beating Niagara and Robert Morris! REALLY???

  5. They wanted to save those programs. Without them, we probably don’t get to keep a 16-team national tournament, and the NCAA didn’t want to get caught backtracking the sport.

    Now we know three of those programs will survive, and I have to think UAH will eventually find a home.

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