A Closer Look
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
When Ian McCaw says that the NCAA committee went 100 percent strictly by the numbers, he is being completely 100 percent genuine. And the evidence is right in front of our eyes.
In fact, the committee went so strictly by the numbers, it's scary. It was the complete pinnacle of the 100-percent objective system, and, oddly, a total "victory" for the Pairwise creators.
In the past, the committee only used a grid, showing all of the comparisons against "Teams Under Consideration." The grid showed if a team won the comparison against another team. The committee did not, however, ever have a final listing that summarized the amount of total wins, i.e. Pairwise Rankings, a term coined by USCHO's originators.
USCHO was so successful in educating the public that PWR was a totalling of comparison wins — and therefore, a tidy summary of the committee's process — that life is imitating art.
As a result, the committee chose the field and the seeds in a strict 1-16 PWR order.
The only way the committee deviated from the strict numbers was when it was forced to by two sacred mandates:
a) keep the host teams in their host region
b) avoid first-round intraconference matchups
No other considerations but these were made. NONE. Not attendance considerations, not avoiding second-round matchups, not "protecting the top seed," not keeping teams closest to home.
If you think that the reason why this team is playing that team is for any other reasons than "the numbers" and the two aforementioned mandates, you are completely incorrect.
Ian McCaw didn't have the time nor the inclination to precisely explain this on Sunday's ESPN selection show, and it caused a lot of people to question him. But if you follow along, it becomes absolutely clear as day what occured.
(See also: A further critique of the committee's method.)
Any explanation for why Cornell is playing who it is playing, or why Boston College was kept East, or why Maine was sent West, or why Boston University and UNH may have to meet again in the second round, can all be found in the strict PWR numbers.
Ironically, for all the talk about wanting to keep some "mystery" to selection Sunday, anyone who just took the committee's word about "going by the numbers" at 100 percent face value, could've figured out the whole shebang in about 2 minutes.
All the committee did, was take the Pairwise Rankings, in order, 1 to 16, and create a perfectly logical four groups of four as follows:
(1) Cornell vs. (16) Wayne State
(8) Boston College vs. (9) Michigan
(2) Colorado College vs. (15) Mercyhurst
(7) Ferris State vs. (10) North Dakota
(3) Minnesota vs. (14) Mankato St.
(6) Maine vs. (11) Ohio State
(4) New Hampshire vs. (13) St. Cloud State
(5) Boston University vs. (12) Harvard
Get the host school into where they need to go. Minnesota and Boston University are already OK. But this also moves Michigan (9) out of the East and into the Midwest, leaving the No. 3 seed in that region, North Dakota (10), hanging for a minute.
With Michigan there, however, it cannot play fellow CCHA team Ferris State (7). So now, pull Ferris out.
So, what do they do?
Keep Ferris State and North Dakota paired together, and move them to the West.
As a result, fill the No. 2 seed hole in the Midwest (vacated by Ferris State) with Maine (6), and fill your No. 3 seed hole in the East (vacated by Michigan's original spot) with Ohio State (11).
The only remaining step was the most controversial one: Minnesota cannot play Mankato St. in the first round. Well, Minnesota can't play St. Cloud State either, and Mankato cannot play CC; that leaves only one agonizing possibility: Mankato flip-flops with Wayne State, and Cornell (1) is forced to play Mankato (14).
That's it. Nice and tidy. Completely simple. Completely by the book, 100 percent. No deviations, except for the two sacred cows.
The committee made absolutely no consideration for UNH-BU having just played; no consideration for BU-Harvard having played twice already this year; no consideration for a possible second-round matchup with a conference opponent; no consideration of flipping seeds to avoid the ugly Cornell scenario.
It just so (unluckily) happened that UNH-BU was 4 vs. 5, and BU-Harvard was 5 vs. 12. It just worked out that way.