Awarding at-large NCAA Tournament bids based on the Pairwise Rankings is just because it prizes sustained season-long success over the random, arbitrary, lucky, or outlier success that can come in single elimination conference tournaments.
That it the beginning, middle, and end of the argument.
And I get it. I get that human nature is to take a hacksaw to the logic tree if it benefits us (or our teams). I could write a long, point by point debunking of that linked piece, but I don’t have to because the counterpoint is simple:
Clarkson and Quinnipiac were better for 30+ games. Cornell was better for 1.
Minnesota was better for 30+ games. Bemidji State was better for 1.
Which do you want to reward? Cornell didn’t miss the NCAA tournament because the system is unfair, they missed the NCAA tournament because they proved they didn’t deserve to over the course of the season. (Or at least the unfair part of the system is the CHA’s autobid which, if eliminated, would have put in…still not Cornell.)
Hockey is all about sustained success. Top lines are comprised of players that give a full effort, that produce night after night after night. They’re not comprised of players that had a really good shift that one time.
Ironically a narrow focus on success is probably what ultimately doomed Cornell. They dressed fewer skaters (16) than anyone else in the ECAC save for Clarkson (also 16), prizing the level of talent of who they iced over depth. To compound that, if you checked icetime I’d imagine you’d learn that they leaned heavily on their top two lines and top defense pair. (The shot numbers, at least, tell this story.) They were especially hampered on defense. Their top pair was very, very good. Only St. Lawrence’s and Clarkson’s top pairs produced more shots. Their second pair and fifth skater? 10th and 11th in the ECAC. Clarkson’s D pairings were 2nd, 1st, and 1st in shots when compared to the other teams’ appropriate pairings. Quinnipiac’s were 4th, 3rd, and 4th.
Likewise, success in the ECAC wasn’t about who had the best individual players on the ice, it was about who had the best group, and that was unquestionably Clarkson, Harvard, and Quinnipiac. To modify a question posed in the link: how does a school (Cornell) with a smaller and more top heavy collection of talent than the current ECAC NCAA entrants make the tournament better?
They do not.