ORONO, Maine — The NCAA Championships Cabinet has approved significant changes to the selection criteria for choosing at-large teams to the NCAA Division I ice hockey tournament.
The tournament champions in the six conferences — the Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will make their debuts this season while the Central Collegiate Hockey Association has folded — will earn automatic berths to the NCAA tourney, leaving 10 at-large bids to round out the 16-team field.
The changes to the selection process will be implemented this season after final approval by the NCAA Board of Directors.
The changes will provide teams with bonus points for wins against teams ranked in the top 20 of the Ratings Percentage Index and even more bonus points for road wins over those Top-20 teams.
The RPI will now be weighted with road wins and home losses being counted by a factor of 1.2 while home wins and road losses will receive a factor of 0.8.
The RPI is one of the most important factors used by the NCAA in determining a team’s NCAA Tournament worthiness while the Pairwise Rankings mimic the tournament selection process.
University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott and first-year Maine coach Red Gendron like the changes.
Abbott said Division I coaches and athletic directors have discussed ways “to get teams to play a more balanced nonconference schedule. The previous system favored teams that could afford to pay a guarantee to bring teams in to play them at home.”
For example, Big Ten schools Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota will play 33 of their 44 nonconference games at home this season.
“This will help us attract quality opponents to Orono. There will be more incentive for teams to play [quality opponents] on the road,” added Abbott.
“It’s harder to beat a quality opponent on the road than at home so it makes sense to award more bonus points for a quality road win,” Gendron said.
“There’s no question that it should help with scheduling. I want to get big-name schools to come to Maine for our fans,” he said.”We also want to play and beat the best programs in the country and if this system is designed to make that [more feasible], it’s certainly helpful.
“At the end of the day, if you win enough games [whether it be on the road or at home], you’ll make the tournament. That’s how I feel about it,” added Gendron, who is working on Maine’s schedule for the next two seasons.
Scheduling has become more complicated in Hockey East because the addition of Notre Dame to the league this season has resulted in teams playing each other twice instead of three times. That has reduced the number of league games from 27 to 20, leaving 14 nonconference games available to schedule. The NCAA allows Division I teams to play 34 games.
UConn will join the conference next year, bringing the total number of teams to 12 and elevating the number of league games to 22.
The new changes also includes a Quality Win Bonus that will be applied based on the 1.2 and 0.8 scale. The scale remains at 1.0 on neutral ice. A tie is considered one half of a win and one half of a loss.
For example, if a team beats the No. 1 team in the RPI, it will receive 5.0 percentage points but that will be multiplied by 1.2 if it wins on the road and 0.8 if it wins at home. So a road win over the No. 1 team in the RPI would earn 6 points (5.0 X 1.2) while a home win would give you 4 points (5.0 X 0.8).
A win over the No. 2 team would give the winner a base of 4.75 points, 4.5 for a win over the No. 3 team all the way down to .25 for a victory over the No. 20 team.
This new criteria will replace the Record vs. Teams Under Consideration criteria.
Three factors are considered in calculating the RPI: 25 percent is a team’s winning percentage, 21 percent is its opponents’ winning percentage and 54 percent is its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.