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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Final

It’s all over. All the tournaments are finished and it’s time to predict the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Six conference champions are already in the NCAA tournament — New Hampshire (Hockey East), Cornell (ECAC), Michigan (CCHA), Minnesota (WCHA), Mercyhurst (MAAC) and Wayne State (CHA).

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.

    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.

    Given these facts, here is the top 15 of the final PairWise Rankings (PWR), plus Mercyhurst and Wayne State(through all games of March 23, 2003):

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

    Step One

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

    We break ties in the PWR by looking at the individual comparisons among the tied teams, and add Wayne State and Mercyhurst.

    From there, we can start looking at the bubble in a more detailed fashion.

    The bubble consists of North Dakota, Ohio State, Harvard, St. Cloud, Minnesota State and Providence. PC is the odd team out when it comes to comparisons among bubble teams.

    Breaking ties in the PWR using head-to-head comparisons among the tied teams, the 16 teams in the tournament, in rank order, are:

    1 Cornell
    2 Colorado College
    3 Minnesota
    4 New Hampshire
    5 Boston University
    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 — Cornell, Colorado College, Minnesota, New Hampshire
    No. 2 Seeds — Boston University, 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 Minnesota, so the Gophers go to the West Regional.

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

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

    Step Four

    Now we 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

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

    Minnesota vs. Minnesota State
    Boston College vs. North Dakota

    Midwest Regional:

    Colorado College vs. St. Cloud State
    Ferris State vs. Michigan

    East Regional:

    New Hampshire vs. Wayne State
    Maine vs. Ohio State

    Northeast Regional:

    Cornell vs. Mercyhurst
    Boston University 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. Minnesota State, Colorado College vs. St. Cloud State and Ferris State vs. Michigan.

    Addressing the Minnesota vs. Minnesota State matchup first means that Minnesota State has to switch with either Wayne State or Mercyhurst, since switching with St. Cloud State would mean another WCHA-WCHA matchup.

    We also have another No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup between WCHA teams. So the best thing to do is to switch Minnesota State and St. Cloud with Wayne State and Mercyhurst.

    St. Cloud heads to the East Regional to take on New Hampshire and Minnesota State faces Cornell at the Northeast Regional. Since Colorado College is ranked higher than Minnesota, send the lower-ranked team between Wayne State and Mercyhurst to take on CC, and the other of those two at Minnesota.

    Now we have to deal with Ferris State vs. Michigan by moving Ferris State, since Michigan is a host school. Ferris State can switch with Maine or Boston College. Switching out Maine would mean another CCHA-CCHA matchup, so we’ll switch Ferris State with Boston College.

    Also, with only two ECAC teams in the tournament, we don’t want them in the same regional so we switch Ohio State with Harvard. This also avoids another BU-Harvard contest in the first round, and doesn’t hurt the tournament’s draw since Worcester and Providence are both close to the Crimson.

    That gives the following projected brackets:

    West Regional:

    Minnesota vs. Mercyhurst
    Ferris State vs. North Dakota

    Midwest Regional:

    Colorado College vs. Wayne State
    Boston College vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Cornell vs. St. Cloud State
    Boston University vs. Ohio State

    East Regional:

    New Hampshire vs. Minnesota State
    Maine vs. Harvard

    We add two ad hoc steps to finish out the selections.

    Step Five

    Examine the brackets for final competitive changes. One problem is that Cornell, the No. 1 overall team in the tournament, does not play the No. 16 team. If you wish to forget about two WCHA teams playing each other, then you can give Cornell No. 16 — in this case Wayne State — as its opponent and create a WCHA-WCHA matchup with Minnesota and either St. Cloud or Minnesota State.

    Other than that, the brackets look fine, from intra-conference matchups to attendance considerations.

    So the tournament is now fixed.

    Bracketing 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 Midwest and West Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Colorado College and Minnesota’s brackets), while the winners of the East and Northeast Regionals (Cornell and New Hampshire’s brackets) play the other semifinal.

    But…

    Bonus Time

    We know there is a bonus component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins.

    Without official word on the size of the bonuses, we take the numbers we used last week: .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    Does anything change? Well, St. Cloud wins its comparison with Minnesota State, meaning that SCSU moves up to 13th and Minnesota State drops to 14th in the criteria.

    Looking at the individual comparisons in the grouping of Ohio State, Harvard, St. Cloud and Minnesota State, we see something interesting.

    Minnesota State loses the comparison with all three, so we’ll fix the Mavericks at No. 14. But among the remaining three, Ohio State beats Harvard, Harvard beats St. Cloud — and St. Cloud beats Ohio State.

    Since no team is a winner in the three-way comparison and St. Cloud is tops among the three in the bonus-modified RPI — the standard tiebreaker for these situations — we have a more substantial change in the rankings.

    This part of the PWR now reads:

    11 St. Cloud State
    12 Harvard
    13 Ohio State
    14 Minnesota State

    Backtracking to our previous hesitation about Cornell not playing the No. 16 team, what if St. Cloud is a No. 3 seed and Ohio State a No. 4?

    Accordingly, in the bracketing we switch St. Cloud and Ohio State, then swap Ohio State with Minnesota’s first-round opponent. Now, we feel better that the No. 1 team overall plays the No. 16 team.

    So, our new brackets:

    West Regional (Minneapolis):

    Minnesota vs. Ohio State
    Ferris State vs. North Dakota

    Midwest Regional (Ann Arbor):

    Colorado College vs. Mercyhurst
    Boston College vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional (Worcester):

    Cornell vs. Wayne State
    Boston University vs. St. Cloud State

    East Regional (Providence):

    New Hampshire vs. Minnesota State
    Maine vs. Harvard

    The Frozen Four brackets remain the same as before, since none of the No. 1 seeds moved when the bonus was added.

    But, let’s now also take a look further up in the Pairwise rankings with the added bonus.

    We have the same situation existing with Minnesota, New Hampshire, Boston University, Maine and Ferris State. Those teams are all in one grouping. Let’s apply the same logic here.

    Looking at this grouping, we have Maine and Ferris State winning one comparison amongst the group, but Maine has the higher adjusted RPI, so Ferris State becomes No. 7 and Maine becomes No. 6.

    Now let’s break the tie between Minnesota, New Hampshire and Boston University. We see that the same situation exists — Minnesota defeats New Hampshire, New Hampshire defeats Boston University and Boston University defeats Minnesota. So we go to the RPI tiebreaker.

    This gives us:

    3 Minnesota
    4 Boston University
    5 New Hampshire

    That’s a significant change, as BU now is a No. 1 seed, switching places with New Hampshire.

    Now what happens? We have to take our brackets and change them again.

    Boston University becomes the No. 1 seed in Worcester, pushing Cornell to Providence.

    Now what do we have?

    Northeast Regional (Worcester):

    Boston University vs. Minnesota State
    New Hampshire vs. St. Cloud State

    East Regional (Providence):

    Cornell vs. Wayne State
    Maine vs. Harvard

    Again, we switch Maine vs. Harvard because we want to avoid the only two ECAC teams in the same regional.

    Our new brackets now become:

    West Regional (Minneapolis):

    Minnesota vs. Ohio State
    Ferris State vs. North Dakota

    Midwest Regional (Ann Arbor):

    Colorado College vs. Mercyhurst
    Boston College vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional (Worcester):

    Boston University vs. Minnesota State
    Maine vs. Harvard

    East Regional (Providence):

    Cornell vs. Wayne State
    New Hampshire vs. St. Cloud State

    A little bit of a change, but not much.

    Those are therefore our three sets of predictions. Let’s see which — if any — is right Sunday.


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