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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 18, 2004

With one more week and a load of significant game results gone by, it’s time for our weekly look at how the NCAA tournament might shake out if the season ended today. It’s something we call “Bracketology” — a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament.

This is the second installment; we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until our final picks just before Selection Sunday. If you take a look at the sidebar, you’ll see my brackets from last week and you can compare and contrast on your own.

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.

    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 through 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.

    And one more note: Mass.-Lowell’s forfeits have not been taken into account because the NCAA has not taken any action yet. Therefore, the results of the games played are used here.

    Given these facts, here is the top 13 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), plus Brown, Holy Cross and Bemidji State, the current leaders in the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey and CHA (through games of February 18, 2004):

    1 North Dakota
    2 Boston College
    3 Maine
    4 Michigan
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    6 Minnesota
    7 St. Cloud State
    8 New Hampshire
    9 Miami
    9 Wisconsin
    9 Ohio State
    12 Denver
    13 Massachusetts
    19 Brown
    30 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 the individual comparisons among the tied teams, and add Brown, Holy Cross and Bemidji State.

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

    There is only one complicated tie to break: the one at No. 9. Miami beats Wisconsin and Ohio State in individual comparisons, which makes the RedHawks ninth. Wisconsin beats Ohio State — that puts the Badgers No. 10. Also, Michigan beats Minnesota-Duluth in their individual comparison, leaving the Wolverines No. 4 and the Bulldogs No. 5.

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

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

    Step Two

    Assign the seeds:

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

    Step Three

    Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals, starting with No. 1 North Dakota.

    North Dakota is placed in the West Regional.
    Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional.
    Maine is placed in the East Regional.
    Michigan 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. Remember that in these bands, teams are not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites (unless you are a host school, in which case you must be assigned to your home regional). Instead, the seeds are set such that the quarterfinals are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

    Therefore:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 8 New Hampshire goes to the Northeast Regional as the host, which is No. 2 Boston College’s Regional.
    No. 7 St. Cloud State goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional (this is because UNH is at No. 2, not No. 1).
    No. 6 Minnesota goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth goes to No. 4 Michigan’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    No. 3 Seeds

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

    No. 9 Miami goes to No. 8 New Hampshire’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 10 Wisconsin goes to No. 7 St. Cloud State’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 11 Ohio State goes to No. 6 Minnesota’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 12 Denver 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 Michigan’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 St. Cloud State

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Massachusetts vs. 4 Michigan
    12 Denver vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 3 Maine
    11 Ohio State vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We certainly have some. We have two WCHA-WCHA matchups, one in the West and one in the Midwest. How do we resolve that?

    Because of Minnesota, we can only make one change. It looks like we need one WCHA-WCHA matchup. Now remember that the committee can choose to make an intraconference matchup should there be five or more teams in the tournament from one conference. We have that here.

    So who moves?

    Let’s take a few things into consideration. Let’s look at integrity and attendance issues.

    We would love to get Denver in the West Regional to play in Colorado. So let’s switch Denver with Wisconsin. But we still have two WCHA-WCHA matchups. So let’s move Miami and Wisconsin.

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    12 Denver vs. 7 St. Cloud State

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Massachusetts vs. 4 Michigan
    9 Miami vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 3 Maine
    11 Ohio State vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    10 Wisconsin vs. 8 New Hampshire

    We’ve now gotten rid of one of the two WCHA-WCHA matchups. Is this good enough?

    Let’s try to break down the seedings a little more, looking at the three No. 2 seeds from the WCHA: Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and St. Cloud State. Let’s look at the individual comparison situation between the three teams.

    UMD wins both of its comparisons and St. Cloud beats Minnesota. So the “real” ranking among those three teams should be UMD, SCSU and then Minnesota. So perhaps Minnesota should get left with a WCHA-WCHA matchup. That would mean moving Wisconsin to the East Regional to play Minnesota. But that creates two WCHA-WCHA matchups again because we really want to keep Denver in Colorado. Let’s take a look at this bracket:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    12 Denver vs. 7 St. Cloud State

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Massachusetts vs. 4 Michigan
    9 Miami vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Ohio State vs. 8 New Hampshire

    We like the way this is laid out except for one thing. Miami, at No. 9, should play a lower seed than No. 5. So we switch Miami and Ohio State.

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    12 Denver vs. 7 St. Cloud State

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Massachusetts vs. 4 Michigan
    11 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Now this we can live with. We moved three teams. We have attendance maximization. We have a pretty integral bracket, though we do have two WCHA-WCHA matchups. So that’s our bracket for this week.

    Bracketing the Frozen Four, if all four number-one seeds advance, then the top overall seed plays No. 4, and No. 2 plays No. 3. Therefore, the winners of the Midwest and West Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Michigan 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

    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 these numbers: .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win, and then we break ties using the method as above.

    Does anything change? Absolutely.

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

    Michigan State is now in, and Massachusetts is out! And it also makes the change that we made manually above in comparing the three WCHA No. 2 seeds — UMD, SCSU and Minnesota — in that order.

    So, our new brackets are now:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Minnesota

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Michigan State vs. 4 Michigan
    12 Denver vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 3 Maine
    11 Ohio State vs. 6 St. Cloud State

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Now we have the dreaded intraconference matchups, not only WCHA-WCHA, but one CCHA-CCHA matchup.

    Brown and Michigan State is an easy swap. That solves the CCHA-CCHA matchup. We’re back to WCHA-WCHA. Let’s just do what we did above, it worked up there, and it works again.

    Our brackets:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    12 Denver vs. 7 Minnesota

    Midwest Regional:

    14 Brown vs. 4 Michigan
    11 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    East Regional:

    13 Michigan State vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 6 St. Cloud State

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    3-2-1

    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.

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

    It’s the same ranking as if the bonus was 5-3-1, and so our brackets are the same.

    See you next week!


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