The University of Maine Black Bears haven’t sewn up an NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament berth yet, but their sweep of UMass Lowell and losses absorbed by several other tourney hopefuls have “significantly” improved their chances, according to Wayne Smith, who computes the PairWise Rankings and also does the Ratings Percentage Index.
The PairWise Rankings determine the NCAA Tournament seedings and the at-large teams. Six conference tournament champions and 10 at-large teams earn NCAA berths.
Through Saturday night’s games, Maine had moved from a 14th-place tie in the PWR to a tie for 11th with New Hampshire.
The Bears had also climbed to ninth in the RPI.
“They aren’t a lock, but they’re a probable now,” said Smith, who works in the computer department for the University of Maine System and is also an usher at Maine games. “If they win Friday [in the Hockey East semifinals], they’ll be in terrific shape.”
The RPI is one of four criteria used in determining PWR. The others are head-to-head, records against teams under consideration with RPIs of .500 or above, and record against common opponents.
In comparing one team against another, a team receives one point for each category it wins. However, if they played each other, they would earn one point for every victory.
For example, even if UMass Lowell finished with a better RPI than Maine, a better record against common opponents, and a better record against teams under consideration, Maine’s five wins over them would give them a 5-3 advantage. So Maine would earn an NCAA berth ahead of the River Hawks.
Playoff losses absorbed by Boston University, which is eighth in the PWR, Wisconsin (ninth), Dartmouth (tied for 13th), Ohio State (15th), and Northern Michigan (19th) aided the Bears, and all five teams were involved in best-of-three series finales on Sunday night.
Smith said what makes the PairWise Rankings difficult to assess is the fact teams can drop out of the heading of “teams under consideration” if their RPIs drop under .500.
“And that has repercussions on all sorts of comparisons,” explained Smith, who added that there are plenty of games remaining that will affect the final PWR.
Upset tournament champions in the four major conferences (WCHA, CCHA, Hockey East, ECAC) could also disrupt the NCAA Tournament picture.