Computer rankings trouble coaches

by Michael Rand

Craig Dahl and Jim Boeheim should get together sometime. Maybe they could hang out and talk about coaching over a cup of coffee.
Dahl, the hockey coach at St. Cloud State, and Boeheim, the men’s basketball coach at Syracuse, probably wouldn’t find much common ground in discussing the finer points of their respective sports. But if the subject ever drifted to computers, hours of chatter would likely ensue.
A couple of weeks ago, Boeheim let the world know what he thinks of the NCAA’s use of computerized “power ratings” to determine the 64 teams in the national tournament.
“This power rating crap, you can take it and shove it,” Boeheim said.
Despite a 19-12 record, Syracuse missed the cut and failed to make it into the field, mainly because the team didn’t fare well in the computer’s formula.
Dahl’s team is in a similar position heading into this weekend’s WCHA Final Five. Despite having the third-best record in the league at 18-10-4, St. Cloud State is the fifth-best WCHA team according to the Pairwise Rankings, the system used by the NCAA to select the 12 teams in hockey’s national tournament.
Minnesota (No. 3), North Dakota (No. 4), Denver (No. 9) and Colorado College (No. 13) are all ahead of St. Cloud State (No. 14). For that reason, the Huskies need to win at least once this weekend to have a shot at making the NCAA tourney.
Like Boeheim, Dahl is not impressed by the computerized ranking system. His biggest issues are with the rankings of Denver and Vermont (No. 5).
“I have some problems with how they do things,” Dahl said. “How can you play a whole season, finish with a better record (than Denver and Colorado College), and have a lower ranking?”
Vermont lost to Providence last weekend in the first round of the Eastern College Athletic College playoffs, but it is still a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament because of its high power rating.
“If you lose in the first round of your own playoffs, games that are in your own building, you should be out (of the NCAA tournament),” Dahl said.
Not surprisingly, Denver coach George Gwozdecky has a higher opinion on the ranking system.
“Hey, they’re just going by the numbers,” Gwozdecky said. “At this point in time, we’re looking pretty good.”
It’s that kind of mentality that Dahl disagrees. He doesn’t like the fact that his team’s fate lies strictly in numbers in a computer.
“There’s no subjectivity,” Dahl said. “At least college basketball takes some other things into account.”
Boeheim might not agree with Dahl on that point.