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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 11, 2004

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology — college hockey style. It’s the first edition of our weekly look at how the NCAA tournament might shake out if Selection Sunday were today.

It’s a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until the field is announced.

Here are the facts:

  • Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.
  • There are four regional sites (East – Albany, N.Y., Northeast – Manchester, N.H., Midwest – Grand Rapids, Mich., West – Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  • 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 intraconference games (see below), teams will be moved among regionals, not reseeded.

    For a little more detail, 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, unless five or more teams from one conference are selected, then the integrity of the bracket will be preserved.
  • 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 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for “good” nonconference wins.

    Given these facts, here are the top 13 teams, plus ties, in the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), as well as Brown, Holy Cross and Bemidji State, the current leaders in the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey and CHA (through games of February 10, 2004):

    1 North Dakota
    2 Boston College
    3 Maine
    4 Minnesota
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    6 Michigan
    7 New Hampshire
    8 Miami
    8 Wisconsin
    10 Denver
    10 St. Cloud State
    12 Ohio State
    13 Massachusetts
    13 Michigan State
    17 Brown
    31 Holy Cross
    – Bemidji State

    Step One

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

    We break ties in the PWR by looking at individual comparisons among the tied teams, and add Holy Cross and Bemidji State.

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

    The bubbles consist of Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth at No. 4, Miami and Wisconsin at No. 8, Denver and St. Cloud State at No. 10, and Massachusetts and Michigan State at No. 13.

    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 North Dakota
    2 Boston College
    3 Maine
    4 Minnesota
    5 Minnesota-Duluth
    6 Michigan
    7 New Hampshire
    8 Miami
    9 Wisconsin
    10 Denver
    11 St. Cloud State
    12 Ohio State
    13 Massachusetts
    14 Brown
    15 Holy Cross
    16 Bemidji State

    Minnesota is above Minnesota-Duluth because of its individual comparison win. The same is the case between Miami and Wisconsin, Denver and St. Cloud, and Massachusetts and Michigan State. Looks like Michigan State is the odd team out for a tournament bid.

    Step Two

    Assign the seeds in bands, as dictated by the committee’s guidelines.

    No. 1 Seeds — North Dakota, Boston College, Maine, Minnesota
    No. 2 Seeds — Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan, New Hampshire, Miami
    No. 3 Seeds — Wisconsin, Denver, St, Cloud State, Ohio State
    No. 4 Seeds — Massachusetts, Brown, Holy Cross, Bemidji State

    Step Three

    Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. There are no host teams in this grouping, so the rule governing placement of host teams does not come into play yet. We simply place the No. 1 seeds based on their proximity to the various regional sites, starting with the highest-ranked team.

    North Dakota is placed in the West Regional (distances to Grand Rapids and Colorado Springs are similar).
    Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional.
    Maine is placed in the East Regional.
    Minnesota is placed in the Midwest Regional.

    Step Four

    Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intraconference matchups, if possible.

    Begin by filling in each bracket by banding groups. Last year, except for host schools, teams were not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites by ranking order within the banding. Instead, the committee seeded teams so that the regionals matchup are No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5 overall.

    Therefore:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 7 New Hampshire goes to the Northeast Regional as the host, which is No. 2 Boston College’s Regional.

    No. 8 Miami goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional.

    No. 6 Michigan goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.

    No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth goes to No. 4 Minnesota’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    No. 3 Seeds

    Via the same analysis, the first-round matchups should be No. 9 v. No. 8, No. 10 v. No. 7, etc. so therefore:

    No. 9 Wisconsin goes to No. 8 Miami’s Regional, which is the West Regional.

    No. 10 Denver goes to No. 7 New Hampshire’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.

    No. 11 St. Cloud goes to No. 6 Michigan’s Regional, which is the East Regional.

    No. 12 Ohio State goes to No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    No. 4 Seeds

    One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.

    No. 16 Bemidji State goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional.

    No. 15 Holy Cross goes to No. 2 Boston College’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.

    No. 14 Brown goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.

    No. 13 Massachusetts goes to No. 4 Minnesota’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    West Regional:

    Bemidji State vs. North Dakota
    Wisconsin vs. Miami

    Midwest Regional:

    Massachusetts vs. Minnesota
    Ohio State vs. Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    Brown vs. Maine
    St. Cloud vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Boston College
    Denver vs. New Hampshire

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We see that we have none. So it looks like we’re finished with the brackets. Or are we?

    We can also look at the committee’s other criteria, including attendance and “playoff atmosphere.” Aside from wanting to get Michigan to Grand Rapids and maybe Denver at Colorado Springs, there really is not much else, attendance-wise. Do we make a change?

    The Ohio State-Minnesota-Duluth matchup is a No. 12 v. No. 5 and the St. Cloud-Michigan matchup is a No. 11 v. No. 6. That’s close enough to change, so we switch those two matchups. This accomplishes one more thing — no intra-conference matchups in either of those Regional finals.

    So the tournament is now set.

    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 (Minnesota and North Dakota’s brackets), while the winners of the East and Northeast Regionals (Maine and Boston College’s brackets) play the other semifinal.

    But…

    Bonus Time

    Based on a change made last season, there is now a “bonus” component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins in the RPI.

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

    Does anything change? Yes. Wisconsin has just moved up to a No. 2 seed and No. 7 overall. New Hampshire and Miami are each pushed down one seed, meaning Miami is now a No. 3 seed and No. 9 overall.

    This part of the PWR now reads:

    7 Wisconsin
    8 New Hampshire
    9 Miami

    So, our new brackets, using the same logic as above, has one change: we now have No. 8 New Hampshire in the bracket with No. 2 Boston College. That means that No. 7 Wisconsin goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s bracket.

    West Regional:

    Bemidji State vs. North Dakota
    Denver vs. Wisconsin

    Midwest Regional:

    Massachusetts vs. Minnesota
    Ohio State vs. Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    Brown vs. Maine
    St. Cloud vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Boston College
    Miami vs. New Hampshire

    Now we have the dreaded intraconference matchups. But remember, the WCHA has six teams in the tournament, which means that intraconference matchups are okay if by switching teams, it does not alter the integrity of the bracket. There’s only one way to change it — move Miami and Denver. You’re only switching No. 9 and No. 10, but you’ve now taken Denver, a good local draw, out of the West Regional.

    What to do?

    Here’s what I think: leave the matchup as is, and make the St. Cloud-Michigan and Ohio State-Minnesota-Duluth swap.

    So our final bracket would be:

    West Regional:

    Bemidji State vs. North Dakota
    Denver vs. Wisconsin

    Midwest Regional:

    Massachusetts vs. Minnesota
    St. Cloud vs. Michigan

    East Regional:

    Brown vs. Maine
    Ohio State vs. Minnesota-Duluth

    Northeast Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Boston College
    Miami vs. New Hampshire

    What if we took these numbers — .003 for a good road win, .002 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win?

    Does anything change? Not this time. Everything stays the same, and we have our original brackets.


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