Committee Adds New NCAA Selection Criteria
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
This year's process for selecting and seeding has received a new tweak.
According to Division I men's ice hockey committee chair Ian McCaw, a "bonus component" will reward teams for "good wins" by adding percentage points to their Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The RPI is one of the criteria used by the selection committee to select and seed the NCAA tournament field.
"It's a very modest change in terms of how it will play out," McCaw said.
A "good win" is defined as a nonconference victory against a team ranked in the Top 15 of the RPI at season's end. As a result, it may be unknown what qualifies as a "good win" until the conference tournaments are complete.
Any win against a Top 15 RPI team will give bonus percentage point to the winner. How many bonus points depends on the location — more for a road win, less for a neutral-site win, and even less for a home win. There will not be any penalty given to the losing team. (Nonconference games against teams from within a team's conference, also don't count).
"The idea is, we didn't want to discourage better teams from playing on the road, that's why there was no penalty," said NCAA Division I hockey media coordinator Mark Bedics. "Typically, schools at the top become a little bit of a wash. When it factors in a little is when it becomes closer to the 12-14-16 teams, teams on the bubble."
Men's soccer, men's and women's basketball, and baseball also use the bonus system to adjust RPI. Hockey, however, remains the only sport in the NCAA that uses a 100 percent objective system.
For 10 years, the selection committee has used the comparison system (summarized by USCHO with the PairWise Rankings) to select and seed the teams. This systems compares each "Team Under Consideration" to all the others by using a series of set criteria.
Though the system remains objective — because the bonus is precisely defined — the NCAA has not published the exact percentage bonus that will be given.
"This will add a little mystery to [selection] Sunday," said McCaw.
The philosophy behind the bonus decision stems from the feeling that smaller schools get hurt from having to play so many non-league games on the road. As a result, doing something to "level the playing field" has been kicked around for years.
"This is actually a way of keeping it less subjective and still factoring in the road wins," said Bedics. "A lot of sports use the same thing."
This new criteria was not implemented during last summer's meetings, when the committee eliminated the Last 16 criteria, and redefined a Team Under Consideration (TUC) and the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Instead, the committee wanted time to study the impact, and approved it later in the summer after a follow-up conference call. Only now has this addition come to the surface.
"In terms of how it actually impacts the tournament, we looked at last year's and it would've had no impact," McCaw said. "But it's something we wanted, to reward road wins against quality opponents or penalize home losses to weak opponents."
On other matters, the committee recently published its guidelines for seeding the tournament, which include creating four "bands" of four teams. Those bands will be the No. 1-4 seeds, respectively. There can be flip-flopping from region to region within a team's seed, but there will be no more flip-flopping of seeds within regions.
"It won't necessarily be No. 1 playing No. 16," McCaw said. "But a No. 1 seed will always play a No. 4 seed."
The committee will again stress avoiding intra-conference matchups in the first round of the tournament, but did not include language to avoid similar second-round matchups.
"All things being equal, we'll try to do it, but it's unrealistic that we can put that together," McCaw said.
"This will be the best championship we've ever had. We're avoiding the bye, we're going to the four four-team regionals ... it's great for college hockey. We have a great television schedule lined up, and Buffalo is doing a tremendous job."