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goblue78
04-15-2013, 08:12 AM
When even Barry Melrose knows your team barely made the tournament, you know that everybody knows it. But, fulfilling my role as a Yale fan and a guy who “actually understands the Pairwise,” as a Minnesotan I met in the Marriott bar two hours before the Championship game called me, I think it’s worth recounting how close Yale was to being out of the tournament, instead of winning it.

First is the one everyone knows: Notre Dame had to beat Michigan on the last day of the season. People focus on this one because it happened after Yale’s season was over, but the Pairwise doesn’t care about when. Obviously, any extra autobid would have kept Yale out. In particular, had BU beaten Lowell in the HE finals, Yale would have been out. I leave it to others to speculate whether it would have been better, knowing what we now know, for Lowell to have thrown that game. Just sayin’.

But autobid shenanigans are the least of the miracles that kept Yale in. On March 1, Yale beat Colgate with an overtime goal with 2 seconds left that bounced off a stick left on the ice behind the net and happened to bounce in front of the net for Josh Balch to bang home. The game can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXEl_dCS9RY and the play occurs at around 2:35 on the video. Suppose that game ends in a tie. Yale is 16th in the Pairwise, and out.

Even odder, though, go back to October 13. Yale’s season hadn’t even started yet. St. Lawrence was in Kalamazoo to play the first of two against Western Michigan. The Saints won in OT. Had they tied that game, Yale is out again.

The Pairwise is, famously, highly unstable. And any rating system is going to be highly unstable for teams on the bubble. But the notion that the season came down to an otherwise unmemorable goal scored in OT in October between two teams who weren’t in the tournament is, I think, still striking, given that it changed the identity of the National Champion.

Let me be clear, these results, and dozens of others I could dredge up (fun with the Pairwise!) are clearly one sided – there were obviously other bounces that went against Yale that would have put them safely in. It’s still striking to consider just how random the last five teams out and the last five teams in really is. The bubble doesn’t really matter in basketball because, as a practical matter in a 64 team tournament, no bubble team has a realistic chance. But in a 16 team tournament with only one true autobid (all the other autobids would have qualified, or been replaced, like Union and Brown, with another autobid who would have qualified), as we now know, you can easily change the National Champion with your selection criteria. Not that I’m complaining.

Let me be clear on one more thing. I’m not saying Yale didn’t “belong” in the tournament. Frankly, I don’t even know what that means. As far as I’m concerned, they belong every year because I’m a Yale fan. The formula determines who gets in, and they got in under the formula. In a smoke-filled backroom, they might well have been replaced by Brown, who played much better down the stretch. And maybe Brown would have won the tournament if they’d been in. Who knows? But while I prefer formulas to back rooms, this does demonstrate that the formula can have a piece of determining who is Champ, which is not, I think what the NCAA really wants, although in a 16 team field in a world of relative parity, they may not be able to help it.

Bomber
04-15-2013, 08:31 AM
Interesting post, but paragraph breaks are you friends. Use them. Thank you.

Ralph Baer
04-15-2013, 08:34 AM
What you are saying is correct, of course, and it happens every year and would happen with other mathematical systems also. I don't have a problem with that. The standings in and near the middle half of any ordering will be quite close, and a slight twitch can change them. There are some things, primarily the TUC cliff, which exacerbate the problem, but nothing will eliminate it. I add that anything is better than the smoke-filled room.

I add that the major difference between hockey and basketball is that there are many more schools that get autobids and end up at the bottom of the field. Those are the ones that have virtually no chance. The last basketball autobid is much higher in the standings and would not be nearly as much of an upset winner.

GB Puck Fan
04-15-2013, 08:41 AM
And, remember the goal of the NCAA is to stage a 'national' tournament, not a tournament of the 'best' teams.

It is the former, because it offers/takes the automatic bids from the qualifying conferences, and then fills in the field with other - presumably 'best remaining' teams.

If it were the latter, the teams selected could be quite different. As Ralph says, it would be more noticable in basketball, where another Big Ten or Big East team would get in, likely instead of Florida Gulf Coast Univ. But the same holds true for hockey.

And I agree that the formula, while flawed, is likely still better than the smoke-filled room.

Almington
04-15-2013, 08:42 AM
The pairwise is flawed, but I think that about 1/3 of the teams have a relilistic chance of winning the NC. Which means that regardless of the system used to select the tournament some "deserving" teams are going to be left out based on the results of just a handful of games.

It's all part of the increased parity, which makes any effort to maintain strict bracket integrity completely silly.

ExileOnDaytonStreet
04-15-2013, 08:48 AM
I initially wanted to dismiss this with a TL;DR

What exactly is your point? That it was a tight bubble? That some teams that performed good enough for a 14-18 ranking in the PairWise could've done themselves a few favors and won another game or two back in November or February? I get that that seems a little flimsy at first look, but how is it different from how, say, the NFL or NHL determines their playoff spots? In those cases, a game can go either way based on a few inches and it could drastically impact the playoff prospects of a team on the bubble.

ExileOnDaytonStreet
04-15-2013, 08:50 AM
I add that anything is better than the smoke-filled room.

And that's all that matters to me.

Pick a criteria, try to do what you can to make it as fair as you can, and stick to it. Let the wins speak for themselves.

Patman
04-15-2013, 08:55 AM
I was mentioning to somebody that teams like Yale bother me... Yes the reply I got was "injuries", but I get quite annoyed with teams that come out of nowhere. Yale didn't luck into their wins even with a quinnipiac leaky sieve. It was more that they didn't play to their capabilities u til when it counted.

So, that being case the only one to fault for being on the bubble is Yale and had they missed, as we say a micron or two away, they would have deserved that fate despite the exposition seen over the last 3 weekends.

As for rankings, all are volitale, some more than others, expect no panacea as time moves forward.

goblue78
04-15-2013, 09:00 AM
What exactly is your point?

I think that my Colgate example above certainly fits into your view. Obviously, if you change a win for a tie then almost any system will make you do worse. But NFL and NHL systems are immune to performance by teams who don't make the playoffs, for the most part. They come down to your own performance, not the performance of others. (OK, maybe the WMU example isn't perfect either, since they make it by changing that October loss to a tie. But it isn't the only one.)

NHL and NFL rating systems don't care about strength of schedule, at least not explicitly. When a tiebreaker comes down to conference record, they don't care whether both teams played the same number of games against each team in the conference. When baseball picks a wildcard team, they completely ignore the fact that teams in different divisions played different teams.

Looking at strength of schedule is almost a necessity in hockey, because so few interconference games are played. But it leaves a team's standing dependent not just on their performance (although I agree that's by far the biggest effect) but on the performance of teams who they aren't even competing with directly. So my point is that how you calculate what is in, essence, SOS (RPI, and Common Opponent criteria) matters more than it matters in football, for example.

goblue78
04-15-2013, 09:05 AM
\had they missed, as we say a micron or two away, they would have deserved that fate

No disagreement there. You dig yourself into a hole, you deserve it if you get buried.

eaglehockeyrules
04-15-2013, 09:52 AM
"There are lies, **** lies, and then there are statistics." - Disreali/Twain (no, not Shania, dumbarse)

I am glad you understand Pairwise, but really who the heck cares? Yale won it all. Yale defeated three #1 seeds. The best team in the nation, is the team that hoisted the trophy on Saturday night. No team was robbed, and everyone had a chance. You do not like the rules, then become a member of the NCAA D-1 Hockey committee, or a coach and recommend a change.

Congratulations to Yale, the best team in the country. National Champions, '13.

FlagDUDE08
04-15-2013, 09:57 AM
To win the championship, not only do you have to be good, you have to be lucky.

goblue78
04-15-2013, 10:40 AM
"There are lies, **** lies, and then there are statistics." - Disreali/Twain (no, not Shania, dumbarse)

I am glad you understand Pairwise, but really who the heck cares? Yale won it all. Yale defeated three #1 seeds. The best team in the nation, is the team that hoisted the trophy on Saturday night. No team was robbed, and everyone had a chance. You do not like the rules, then become a member of the NCAA D-1 Hockey committee, or a coach and recommend a change.

Congratulations to Yale, the best team in the country. National Champions, '13.

I'm not sure where anything I've said contradicts any of that, with the possible exception of the Disraeli quote. I couldn't be happier about Yale's well-deserved triumph. I don't think anyone was robbed, and obviously every team had a chance. Sacred Heart could have been the NC with a few more AHA wins. And I think its hard to read my post to say I don't like the rules. I find them... interesting. You don't. OK. Oh, and if you want to put me on the Committee, go ahead. Happy to help.

Dutchman
04-15-2013, 10:41 AM
Lets remember something. When Yale was heading into Atlantic city, there was a very real possibility that had they beaten Union and QC they would have been a 1 seed. When a team plays fewer matches like the IVY league does and the league is so intensely competitive like this years ECAC and everyone is struggling to get above .500. This is bad for the pairwise (teams keep dropping off the TUC) and greatly impacts the pairwise. Had Yale played more matches and more TUC teams then those losses in Atlantic City might not have caused them to drop so much in the pairwise.

At one point this year I believe that 6 ECAC teams were tied for second or third place late in the season. Last year the first place team, Union, lost twice to the last place team, Brown. This year was almost a repeat between Brown and QC although Brown did not end up in last place. That team beat BU twice.

Where the pairwise let us down this year was in the selection of representation. Clearly we did not need 6 WCHA teams and only three each from HE and ECAC.

Yale is the NCAA Division IA National Champions. Period, End of story. The entire program, the players, coaches, fans, alumni are all a class act. The good guys won.

(Now next year they will have a big target on their back, and everyone will be gunning for them :))

Stan The Man
04-15-2013, 10:47 AM
The take away is that every game counts, every game matters in the big scheme of things. Win 'em, one at a time and everything else will fall into place.

Biddco
04-15-2013, 10:51 AM
To win the championship, not only do you have to be good, you have to be lucky. Absolutely. You can point to every title and say something about that team got a big break. It makes me laugh when people hate on other championships because there is always something you could say about their championship.

hockeynut
04-15-2013, 11:15 AM
Goblue78,

It was a pleasure sharing that table with the two of you. Just to clarify, the four of us are also Bulldog fans, UMD. :)

After spending the weekend in the Yale hotel, I have to say that Dutchman said it best.

"Yale is the NCAA Division IA National Champions. Period, End of story. The entire program, the players, coaches, fans, alumni are all a class act. The good guys won."

We met so many wonderful people. The experience reinforces that this event and hockey folks are different than most other sports.

Very happy for you and your club!

goblue78
04-15-2013, 11:50 AM
Thanks. Great meeting you guys too, and thanks for sharing. I knew that you were UMD. I was just using "Eastern biased" shorthand. It wasn't that long ago that people didn't know there were 4 Div I Hockey teams in CT, though we've still got a bit of a ways to go to get the other 2 to national attention. We can jointly celebrate the rise of the Bulldogs, though, with unabashed ambiguity. Heck, add Ferris State too. PS: After the game I was at a bar with some Gophers, and they weren't nearly as bad as you guys said. ;)

kdiff77
04-15-2013, 01:22 PM
The final poll of the year came out today, which is completely and utterly meaningless. But I think it's cute that Quinnipiac was given three first place votes, and that Canisius makes the list after winning its crappy league tournament and ALMOST beating a disinterested QU team in the regional, meanwhile finishing at .500 exactly. Show just how useless polls (sorry; poles) are, even during the season. Pairwise is all that matters, period. Just ask Yale!

goblue78
04-15-2013, 01:46 PM
The final poll of the year came out today, which is completely and utterly meaningless. But I think it's cute that Quinnipiac was given three first place votes, and that Canisius makes the list after winning its crappy league tournament and ALMOST beating a disinterested QU team in the regional, meanwhile finishing at .500 exactly. Show just how useless polls (sorry; poles) are, even during the season. Pairwise is all that matters, period. Just ask Yale!

It's also interesting, I think, that the final RPI rating now gives Yale the highest strength of schedule in the country. That's what playing #s 1,2,3 and 9 in the Tournament will do for you. Even so, Yale is still only 4th in RPI.