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College Hockey:
Bracketology: March 21

With the expansion of the NCAA tournament to 16 teams this year, even knowledgeable people around college hockey have been thrown into confusion about the new seeding process. And since the NCAA has publicized its new guidelines for seeding, here is a peek — “bracketology”-style — at what the NCAA tournament might look like if the season ended after the games of Friday, March 21.

There are two teams already in the tournament — New Hampshire as the Hockey East champion and Wayne State as the CHA champion. We know that the tournament winners of the CCHA, ECAC, and WCHA are already in the Top 14 of the PairWise Rankings. This means that no team from those conferences makes the tournament that wouldn’t already have been an at-large seed.

The facts:

  • Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.
  • There are now four regional sites, up from previous years’ two.
  • A host institution which is invited to the tournament plays in the regional for which it is the host, and cannot be moved.
  • Seedings will not be switched, as opposed to years past. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intra-conference games (see below), teams will be moved among regionals, not reseeded as in past years.
  • New Hampshire as the Hockey East Champion and Wayne State as the CHA Champion are already in the tournament.

    Here are the NCAA’s guidelines on the matter, per a meeting of the Championship Committee:

    In setting up the tournament, the committee begins with a list of priorities to ensure a successful tournament on all fronts including competitive equity, financial success and likelihood of playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For the model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

  • The top four teams as ranked by the committee are the four No. 1 seeds and will be placed in the bracket so that if all four teams advance to the Men’s Frozen Four, the No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed in the semifinals.
  • Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.
  • No. 1 seeds are placed as close to home as possible in order of their ranking 1-4.
  • Conference matchups in first round are avoided.
  • Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s ranking of 1-16. The top four teams are the No. 1 seeds. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds. These groupings will be referred to as “bands.”

    Additionally, the NCAA recently clarified its selection criteria to include a bonus factor for “good” nonconference wins. Since the precise workings of the bonus are not yet known, that standard is not applied in this analysis.

    Given these facts, let’s take a look at the current top 14 in the PairWise Rankings:

    1 Colorado College
    2 Cornell
    3 New Hampshire
    4 Boston University
    5t Minnesota
    5t Maine
    5t Ferris State
    8 Boston College
    9 Michigan
    10t North Dakota
    10t Ohio State
    12t Harvard
    12t MSU-Mankato
    14t St. Cloud State
    14t Providence

    Step One

    From the committee’s report, choose the 16 teams in the tournament.

    We know that the tournament winners of the CCHA, ECAC, and WCHA are in the Top 14. We break ties in the PairWise Rankings by looking at the individual comparisons among the tied teams, and add Wayne State and the MAAC regular-season champion, Mercyhurst, as those conferences’ autobid representatives.

    Now that we are closer to the actual tournament let’s take the selection of the 16 teams to another level.

    The bubble group consists of Harvard, St. Cloud and Providence. Providence is the odd team out when it comes to comparisons head-to-head among those teams.

    Therefore, the 16 teams in the tournament, in rank order, are:

    1 Colorado College
    2 Cornell
    3 New Hampshire
    4 Boston University
    5 Minnesota
    6 Maine
    7 Ferris State
    8 Boston College
    9 Michigan
    10 North Dakota
    11 Ohio State
    12 Harvard
    13 Minnesota State
    14 St. Cloud State
    15 Mercyhurst
    16 Wayne State

    Step Two

    Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

    No. 1 Seeds — Colorado College, Cornell, New Hampshire, Boston University
    No. 2 Seeds – Minnesota, Maine, Ferris State, Boston College
    No. 3 Seeds – Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio State, Harvard
    No. 4 Seeds – Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, Mercyhurst, Wayne State

    Step Three

    Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Following the guidelines, there is only one rule which must be enforced immediately, that of the host team being placed in its own regional. In this case, the only such team is Boston University, so the Terriers are placed in the Northeast Regional.

    Now we place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

    Colorado College is placed in the West Regional.
    Cornell is placed in the East Regional.
    New Hampshire is placed in the Midwest Regional.

    Step Four

    Place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intra-conference matchups if possible.

    Begin by filling in each bracket by banding groups. Remember that teams are assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites by ranking order within the banding (unless you are a host school, in which case you must be assigned to your home regional).

    No. 2 Seeds

    Minnesota goes to the West Regional as the host school.
    Maine goes to the Northeast Regional.
    Ferris State goes to the Midwest Regional.
    Boston College goes to the East Regional.

    No. 3 Seeds

    Michigan goes to the Midwest Regional as the host.
    North Dakota goes to the West Regional.
    Ohio State goes to the East Regional.
    Harvard goes to the Northeast Regional.

    No. 4 Seeds

    Minnesota State goes to West Regional.
    St. Cloud State goes to the Midwest Regional.
    Mercyhurst goes to the Northeast Regional.
    Wayne State goes to the East Regional.

    The brackets, as we have set them up:

    West Regional:

    Colorado College vs. Minnesota State
    Minnesota vs. North Dakota

    Midwest Regional:

    New Hampshire vs. St. Cloud State
    Ferris State vs. Michigan

    East Regional:

    Cornell vs. Wayne State
    Boston College vs. Ohio State

    Northeast Regional:

    Boston University vs. Mercyhurst
    Maine vs. Harvard

    Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We see that in both the West Regional and the Midwest Regional we have this case.

    We need to try to eliminate Minnesota vs. North Dakota, Colorado College vs. Minnesota State and Ferris State vs. Michigan.

    Addressing the Colorado College vs. Minnesota State matchup first means that Minnesota State has to switch with either Wayne State or Mercyhurst. Colorado College as the first seeded team should get the 16th seeded team. So we’ll switch Minnesota State with Wayne State.

    By similar logic, Cornell should play the 15th seed. So we switch Mercyhurst with Minnesota State. Taking that a step further, third-overall New Hampshire should play St. Cloud. This is how we have it.

    That gives Colorado College vs. Wayne State, Cornell vs. Mercyhurst, New Hampshire vs. St. Cloud State and Boston University vs. Minnesota State as the No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchups.

    Among the 2-3 games, we have to address Minnesota vs. North Dakota and Ferris State vs. Michigan. We can’t just make a switch since Minnesota and Michigan are host schools.

    We have the option of switching North Dakota with either Ohio State or Harvard. Ohio State is the higher seed. But what about attendance considerations? Right now Harvard is in the Northeast Regional with Maine and Boston University. That is a good draw, so we switch North Dakota with Harvard.

    Finally, Ferris State can switch with Maine or Boston College: BC, being the lower-ranked team, should get switched. How about attendance? The bracket has Cornell, Mercyhurst and Ohio State. Moving Boston College out of this region would be tough on attendance. So do we move Maine? If we do, then that creates a problem for the Northeast Regional.

    To solve both problems, keep Harvard in the Northeast Regional switch Ferris State with Maine, and then switch North Dakota with Ohio State.

    The final brackets:

    West Regional:

    Colorado College vs. Wayne State
    Minnesota vs. Ohio State

    Midwest Regional:

    New Hampshire vs. St. Cloud State
    Maine vs. Michigan

    East Regional:

    Cornell vs. Mercyhurst
    Boston College vs. North Dakota

    Northeast Regional:

    Boston University vs. Minnesota State
    Ferris State vs. Harvard

    We add two steps to finish out the selections.

    Step Five

    Now we bracket the Frozen Four. If all four number-one seeds advance, then the top overall seed plays the No. 4 overall, and No. 2 plays No. 3. Therefore, the winners of the West and Northeast Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Colorado College and Boston University’s brackets), while the winners of the East and Midwest Regionals (Cornell and New Hampshire’s brackets) face each other in the other semifinal.

    Step Six

    Sit back, discuss and enjoy the hockey.

    We’ll be back Sunday with only one game — the MAAC championship — left on the docket, and give you our best prediction. We’ll also examine the bonus again and see what will happen in scenarios.


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