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PWR Flaws

College Hockey News released its first Bracket ABCs article, following the ups and downs of the Pairwise Rankings.

First off, let me say that I'm a huge fan of this system for selecting the NCAA tournament field. I think the transparency with which the field is selected is great for college hockey. Though I do have a few issues with some flaws in the system. Last year, I mentioned the problems with the TUC Cliff between the 25th and 26th team in the RPI rankings. This year, they added a new twist to the PWR, which has created a new flaw.

Starting this year, a team has to play at least 10 games Teams Under Consideration in order for that part of a comparison to count. I think the reasoning behind the rule was to make sure smaller conference teams didn't sneak by with one or two wins TUC wins, and win every comparison with a perfect winning percentage. It looks as though the exact opposite is happening, as illustrated by CHN's analysis of Princeton:
Finally, we reach poor Princeton. Yes, it sure looked magical for the Tigers after last weekend's sweep of Cornell and Colgate. You looked at the Pairwise and — WOW! — the Tigers were 12th. Princeton's only made the NCAAs once, winning the 1998 ECAC tournament. But then, you look at the Pairwise on Monday, and Princeton is down at No. 16, tied with Boston University. After not having played a game. Princeton got screwed, you say? No — Princeton got TUCed.

You see, after Saturday, Princeton was 2-7 against Teams Under Consideration, meaning that component was not yet counting in any of Princeton's comparisons with other teams. That was a good thing — for Princeton. Clearly, though, once the Tigers played another game against a TUC, things were going to change — because Princeton was barely winning three comparisons to WCHA teams that it would instantly lose once the Record vs. TUC kicked in.

Well, Princeton didn't have to wait until Friday for this to happen. Thanks to the Pairwise quirks, after Sunday's games, Cornell became a TUC. With that, Princeton's record against TUC — adding in two WINS against Cornell this season — improved the Tigers' Record vs. TUC to 4-7, which kicked that component into play, and made them LOSE the comparisons with three WCHA teams. You dizzy yet? Ahhh, the fun has only just begun.
I realize that the immediate comeback to this is: "But the PWR is only supposed to be used on the last day of the season! Princeton will probably have more than 10 games against TUCs by then!" Maybe so. But what if they didn't? It's not out of the realm of possibility that a team could go 0-9 against TUCs during the season, but not suffer any consequences because they don't have that tenth game.

One solution to this problem that I've heard before, and I think would work, is that if a team doesn't reach 10 games against TUCs, every game short of 10 counts as a loss. For example, if Princeton was 2-7-0 against TUCs, it would be counted as 2-8-0. It would work the same way if a team did well against TUCs, but couldn't schedule enough. If a team was 8-0-0 against TUCs, it would be counted as 8-2-0 and they'd probably still win that category on most comparisons.

This would guarantee that teams wouldn't benefit from not playing enough games against TUCs. It would probably make the early season drafts of the PWR look like an absolute mess, but like I said, the system is really only meant to be used one day per year.