Monday, March 24, 2008

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

After the word 'irony', the word 'dilemma' is probably the most misused word in the English language. Nowadays, it is most often to used to describe any uncomfortable situation. The correct definition is: "a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives." The NCAA's tournament selection committee found themselves in a dilemma in the truest sense of the word after Saturday's games finished up. There's been a lot of talk about the what the "right" decision for the last at-large spot was, but the fact of the matter is that the committee was going to be wrong with whatever they chose.

On one hand, they could stand behind their math that was agreed upon before the season, or they could have differed slightly from that formula and picked the team that nearly everybody agreed belonged in the tournament. In the end, they chose to stick with their math. Here's what Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told College Hockey News:
"As challenging it might be to explain how [Wisconsin] got there (to those unfamiliar with the process), how hard would it be to explain how they didn't get there when the numbers say they should. ... And I should mention, (Wisconsin) hosting had absolutely nothing to do with it."
I like to think of myself as someone that understands the process pretty well, despite having few mathematical skills. But I could still use some further explanation.

Everyone seems to be getting bogged down in comparing Minnesota State and Wisconsin. Instead, it's better to compare Minnesota State and Northern Michigan. The question I keep asking myself is, did Northern Michigan(20-20-4 overall record, 6th in the CCHA) really have a better season than Minnesota State(19-16-4 overall record, 4th in the WCHA)? I'm not sure you could find any person on the planet that believes that is the case. But according to the computer that is used, that was the case. It's one of those weird, flukey outliers that goes against every shred of common sense anyone has. If the committee turns a blind eye to that anomaly, you'd be hearing a lot less debate about the selection process today.

You do have to give the committee credit for sticking with their guns. They were committed to using the system that was in place, even though it came out with a less than desirable result that seemed to defy all common sense. Ultimately, that is the point of using a mathematical formula. It would have been wrong to deviate from that just to justify the proper result.

That said, if the committee wants to hitch their name to a failure of a formula, then then they have to deal with the consequences of being considered a failure by association. They may be able to perfectly explain how they came up with that decision, but that explanation involves saying that Northern Michigan had a better year than Minnesota State, and I'll probably go to my grave believing that isn't the case, and that MSU belonged in the tournament.

It's a true dilemma. I think the committee made a bad decision, but the other option wasn't any more desirable. Somebody was going to come away from today disappointed, and would have had a very legitimate reason for being disappointed. There was no "right" decision here that would have made everyone happy. The only right thing to do now is to make sure the committee finds a formula that doesn't put them in another unfortunate dilemma again.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everybody knows the rules and the chances of the computer dropping you out, if you are rated in the bottom quarter of this. My first thought is to complain about auto bids to the lesser of the leagues, but the more I think about that, I am OK with that also. NCAA hockey system beats NCAA Bowl system every time.

stickboy1956 said...

Mankato finished tied for 13 in the PWR - NMich finished 21. What computer are you looking at that said NMich is better than MSM?

Anonymous said...

He is talking about the individual comparison that Mankato lost to Northern Michigan.

Anonymous said...

stickboy1956, NMU is rated below Mankato in the Pairwise overall ranking, but won the head-to-head comparison. Had Mankato won the comparison against NMU, they would have made the tournament.

Anonymous said...

Everyone does realize that Notre Dame was the last at large team to get into the tourney and not Wisconsin correct?

Plain and simple, Wisconsin got rewarded for playing one of the toughest schedules in the country unlike Mankato. Perhaps also a little poetic justice for getting brutalized on two different bootched "reviews"

Also poetic justice for getting the shaft last year as UW belonged in the tourney. If you think the computers are flawed, try looking at where UW is in Krach and decide who don't belong in the tourney. Krach and Pairwise both say UW should be in the tourney (and by at least a couple spots), so they are.

gofalcons said...

Think how badly screwed up the bubble teams would have been had Northern Michigan won the CCHA and gotten the auto bid. I was there and they nearly did it, what with Billy Sauer playing like Jimmy Spratt on Friday night. Remember they beat Notre Dame 2-1 on Saturday with their 2nd and 3rd string goalies each playing 30 minutes. Had Michigan not gotten their garbage goal to go ahead 5-4, NMU could have REALLY screwed up the committee.

Adam said...

Hey guys, I just posted a new article about this issue here where I largely agree with Chris, and point out some historical context:

http://www.collegehockeynews.com/news/2008/03/24_outof.php

Thanks. (Adam W. - CHN)

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that this is more about selling tickets than anything else. The fact is that Mankato could not sell out their own building with the hated Gophers in for the 1st round of the WCHA. Granted, Gopher fans don't travel well either. When the Sioux are in town they will have as many fans as Mankato. Not to mention that their fans don't travel well.
Back to the selling of tickets. In the past couple of years the Gophers draw the Friday night slot which jacks up ticket sales and has the potential to put the teams relegated to the Friday matinee depending how much time off they had etc...
The bottom line in my mind anyway is that if Mankato showed the ability to sell some tickets, they would have got the nod.

Anonymous said...

With Minnesota State finishing 4th in the WCHA, with their mix of strong teams they beat and their rankings, total points etc it is very surprising that they were not chosen. It is disconcerting to say the least - I beleive they belong on the first round of NCAA

Gofer Fan said...

This is a complete joke. MSU belongs in the tournament they got hosed. I don't care what a computer says MSU beat the Badge in their season series and they also have a winning record. Even worse, how does a team that does not even have winning record get a home game in the NCAA???? Send them to Colorado Springs!! If a team isn't a #1 seed they should absolutely not have home ice. I don't care who is hosting.

Anonymous said...

Hey goofie fan, the how the Badger got home ice is no mystery unless you have never followed college hockey. I agree MSUM belongs in the tourney (and Notre Dame should have been the one sitting at home watching), but pounding one's chest and crying about the Badgers w/ a losing record is more fun so do carry on (and nevermind that the same math used the last half dozen years clearly put the Badgers in the field of 16)

Anonymous said...

Apparently the Siouxage fans don't travel well either, because they didn't sell out the Friday night regular season game at Mankato back in January.

It might have had something to do with Spring break and confusion over how to get tickets.

To the subject of selection, it seems very strange that rules weren't in place to give head-to-head competition the importance it deserves.

The strength of schedule excuse is pure Becky BS. All the teams in the WCHA had very strong schedules that were at or near top-ten.

Anonymous said...

Next time the R-o-d-e-n-t-s are trying to sell tickets for a regional they are hosting, try doing that without guaranteeing the host school being placed there and see how many tickets you sell.

Anonymous said...

"The strength of schedule excuse is pure Becky BS" -annony 12:45 PM

So Mankato would have done as well with Notre Dame, Ohio St, Robert Morris, Michigan, MSU, Bowling Green & Colgate as they did with Bemidji St, Neb-Omaha, Alabama-Huntsville, Yale, & Princeton? Really?

So Mankato would have done as well playing 9 series against the WCHA teams that made the tourney as opposed to the 8 they did with a total of 4 more games on the road? You REALLY think so?

Damn, I did not realize that Mankato was THAT good. They really got the shaft and should have been a #1 seed hosting a Regional. Oh wait, a dump with 4,000 seats can't host a regional...oops.

Moral of the story, when you are a bubble team that plays no one out of conference, and get knocked out of the conference playoffs at home by the #7 seed, you won't get the benfit of the doubt even if it was not just simple math that decides who is in or out. Believe it or not, there is NOTHING subsjective to the selection process, it truely is simple math.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that Mankato was ripped off. Mankato had a better regular season record than Wisconsin, spanked them head-to-head, and even won a game in the WCHA playoffs which Wisconsin didn't. It's a joke that the NCAA chose a losing team ahead of them. I'm glad the games will be hard to watch! I hope they get put on ESPN3. NCAA hockey has no credibility when it puts losing teams in the tourney over more deserving teams! Maybe they should have just let Alaska-Anchorage in to be nice.

Anonymous said...

I think Mankato got hosed but maybe if they would have scored the crease goal in OT to get to the Final Five, they would be in the 16. All I have to say is that it is a little fishy that Shepard was head ref all three first round playoff games in Mankato.

Wisconsin may not deserve it, but they are hosting a tournament and indefinately will sell tickets. Won't matter much anyways, neither Mankato nor Wisc have much of a chance against the now-hot Pioneers.

Denver 5-2 over Wisconsin.
Sioux 6-1 over Princeton.

Sioux vs. Denver will be a great game, either team has a great chance. GO SIOUX!!!