Opinion: So You Want To Be A Pollster?

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01/27/06 - Springfield, MO. - Okay hockey fans, we’ve all complained about the rankings. This team deserves to be ranked, that team shouldn't even be there, etc. I’m no exception to the growing throngs who just know in their hearts they can do a better job than those ten bozos who determine the fate of 43 teams that comprise the ACHA Division II region, less than a quarter of which will be invited to the first round of the national playoff system. Sounds like a piece of cake, right?

As my Uncle David used to say, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile for a Camel,” or something like that. And of course, he’s right. What does it take to be one of the privileged few who have the easiest job in the world scrutinized by so many obviously unbiased and super intelligent fans? I’ve just got to know, so here we go. Let’s rank ‘em together.

First thing I have to do is determine with what criteria these teams, only a handful of which I’ve actually seen play, shall be judged.

According to the ACHA website, the criteria shall include strength of schedule, head to head, comparative scoring, and overall win/loss record, in no particular order. Well, the last one is easy enough. Sort of speaks for itself. But how do you determine strength of schedule without knowing the rankings of the teams they’ve played? Sure, I can take a stab at it now that three ranking periods have gone by, but how was that determined at the end of the first ranking period? I better get it right though, because how I judge the strength of their schedule directly affects the other two criteria (comparative scores, head to head).

Well, I guess I have to judge the other leagues against the one I am most familiar with (in my case, MACHA). But then, I have to do that in a totally unbiased fashion. Right. Better start with the easy part.

In determining the best ten teams it seems fair that a ranked team should have at least a winning record, so let’s start there.

Bradley, Central Michigan, Ferris State, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Kansas, Loyola, Minnesota-Mankato, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Northern Michigan, Northwestern, Palmer, Robert Morris-Chicago (white), Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (Silver), Western Illinois, Wheaton, Wisconsin-Milwaulkee, Wisconsin-Platteville, you are all eliminated. Wisconsin-Platteville has even marks, but I just don’t like the name.

I know that list includes three teams (Ferris, Central Michigan, Minnesota) that were ranked in the top 13 last period. Tough cookies. You didn’t play up to your ranking. You’re gone. Don’t worry though, you will get your revenge when we get to the “strength of schedule” part.

Twenty-five down, eighteen to go. Let’s go to the next logical step; ranking these 18 by overall record. Sounds easy, but do you go by highest points in traditional hockey fashion? Can’t do that, since some teams have played as few as 15 games while others are closing in on 30. That’s how a team with a 15 - 13 mark ends up in the top 10 while 10-1 teams go unnoticed. Let’s go with winning percentage, counting ties as a win. Actually, it’s a non-losing percentage. Still flawed, but hopefully nobody will notice….

Davenport (22-3-1, .885 ), Missouri (17-3, .850), Oakland (21-6-1, .786), Lindenwood (16-5-1, .773), Missouri State (maroon) (16-6-3, .760), DePaul (21-7, .750), Iowa (10-4-2, .750), Iowa State (4-3-0, .750), Eastern Illinois (16-7-1, .708), Missouri State (white) (7-3, .700) Michigan State (11-7-4, .681), Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (gold) (16-8-1, .680), (RMC-Chicago (maroon) (20-10, .666), Saint Norbert (JV) (7-4-1, .666), RMC-Springfield (15-10-2, .630), St. Cloud State (14-9-1, .625), McKendree (17-14-1, .563), Grand Valley State (15-13-1, .552).

Of these, I’m throwing out Iowa State, Saint Norbert JV and Missouri State (white) simply because they haven’t played (or reported) enough games at this point, and I’m seven hours into this research and feeling no mercy.

So now there are 15 teams remaining, and we come to the head-to head criteria. Or maybe we should do strength of schedule first. Hell, I don’t know. As stated before, the ACHA lists their criteria in no particular order and one seems as important as the other to me. Hang on a second, here’s a coin in my pocket….

Okay, heads it is.

But wait a second. Teams in the same league play each other as many as four times, and if they’re both good they’ve succeeded in knocking each other’s records out of whack when considered against other leagues. So I guess I have to invent my own criteria first, and try to determine which league is the toughest in order to determine strength of schedule in order to validate head-to-head in order to determine strength of schedule in order to…AAARRRGGGHHH!

OK, deep breath.

The ACHA Division II Central is comprised of the GLIHA (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Hockey Association), the GMHL (Great Midwest Hockey League), two divisions (gold and silver) of the MACHA (Mid-America Colegiate Hockey Association), WCCHA (Western Collegiate Club Hockey Association), and independents. That’s six leagues, if you count the independent teams as one league.

Of the 15 teams remaining in my poll, none come from the WCCHA, two (Grand Valley State and RMC-Chicago maroon) belong to the GLIHA, three (Davenport, Michigan State, Oakland) come from the GMHL, three (DePaul, Iowa, McKendree) hail from the MACHA Silver, and a whopping five (SIUE-Edwardsville gold, RMC Springfield, Missouri State maroon, Lindenwood, and Missouri) belong to the MACHA gold division.

With five out of nine teams owning winning records, it sounds like the MACHA gold division should be the standard for tough. Give all the MACHA gold teams one extra point for inter-league play.

I’m 12 hours into the research now, and still looking at all the head-to-head comparisons. I’m not going to type them all out though, because I’m running out of time and this is getting really irritating. I will list a few of what I feel are keys to all this.

Oakland

vs. Davenport , 5-1 and 1-1

vs. RMC Chicago maroon, 14-3 and 7-1.

vs. Grand Valley State, 7-4

vs. Michigan State, 3-6 and 5-4

Davenport

vs. Michigan State, 6-4 and 7-4

vs. Grand Valley State, 10-2 and 4-2

vs. RMC Chicago maroon, 5-4 and 7-4

Michigan State

vs. Grand Valley, 4-3 and 4-3

vs. RMC-Chicago maroon, 5-2 and 5-4

vs. Michigan (5-9-4) 3-6, 5-4, and 1-1

vs. Ferris State (8-15-2) 5-0 and 1-1

Missouri

vs. McKendree, 6-1 and 15 - 1

vs. SIUE gold, 9-4 and 8-3

vs. Missouri State maroon 4-3 and 4-7

vs. Lindenwood, 5-2 and 1-4

Missouri State

vs. RMC-Springfield, 2-2 and 0-0

vs. SIUE gold, 3-2 and 4-4

vs. Lindenwood, 5-4 and 3-4

vs. Northern Michigan, 8-0 and 4-1

vs. McKendree, 4-3 and 3-2

vs. Minnesota Mankato, (8-12-0), 4 - 3

SIUE gold

vs. McKendree, 6-2 and 7-2

vs. Lindenwood, 0-2

vs. RMC Springfield, 6-2 and 9-1

vs. RMC Chicago Maroon, 4-5, and 1-7

vs. DePaul, 6-3 and 8-3

vs. Palmer College (3-10-1), 9-2 and 7-10

DePaul

vs. Northern Michigan (5-14-0), 2-3

vs. McKendree, 5-2 and 6-0

vs. RMC-Chicago maroon, 3-2 , 2-7 and 1-4

vs. Saint Norbert JV (7-4-1), 2-4

vs. Lindenwood, 5-6

vs. Northern Illinois (12-18-1) 4-0 and 2-5

RMC Springfield

vs. Saint Norbert (JV), 2-3 and 7-11

vs. Lindenwood, 1-12 ,2-9 and 3-2

vs. RMC Chicago, 4-1 and 5-4

vs. Palmer, 4-6 and 6-4

vs. Grand Valley State, 4-9 and 2-7

St. Cloud State

vs. Missouri State maroon, 6-9

vs. Minnesota Mankato, 1-4 ,10-1, 3-2, 4-6

vs. Northern Michigan, 4-3 and 8-3

All of this takes no consideration of D1 opponents for various teams, which I’m not typing because I am now into my 16th hour and seeing red through the headaches.

But now you know what the pollsters, those thankless minions of everyone’s hopes and desires, have to go through every rating period. All of this to take their best guess, and have half-wits like us laugh at them when the end of the next period comes and teams that should have shined went dull and made them look bad.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, back off! I’m tired and tried the best I could and this is what I come up with (just for the unofficial record):

1. Oakland

2. Davenport

3. Missouri

4. Lindenwood

5. Michigan State

6. Missouri State

7. SIUE Gold

8. RMC Springfield

9. RMC Maroon

10. DePaul

 

Like it or lump it, I’m going to bed!!!

 

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