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College Hockey:
Bracketology: March 3

It doesn’t get any easier, does it? With plenty of key results moving teams up and down, a single game can affect the PairWise Rankings in a critical way. Remember, it’s not just what you do, but what everyone else around you does.

With one more week and a load of significant 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 fourth 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 our 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: Massachusetts-Lowell’s forfeits have not been taken into account because the NCAA has not taken official action. Therefore, the results of the games played are used here. However, it is unlikely that the NCAA will change the results.

    Given these facts, here is the top 14 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), plus Holy Cross and Bemidji State, the current leaders in Atlantic Hockey and the CHA (through games of March 3, 2004):

    1 North Dakota
    2 Boston College
    3 Maine
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Michigan
    6 Minnesota
    7 New Hampshire
    8 Wisconsin
    8 Denver
    10 Miami
    11 Ohio State
    11 Notre Dame
    13 Colgate
    14 St. Cloud State
    14 Michigan State
    24 Holy Cross
    – Bemidji State

    There are some differences from last week. North Dakota reclaims the top spot, which it held two weeks ago. Boston College and Maine drop one spot each in the PairWise as a result. New Hampshire now has number seven all to itself, after a split against Boston College.

    Wisconsin remains in the top half, but Denver passes Miami with its sweep of Minnesota. Notre Dame jumps in from nowhere to land a tie for 11th and Colgate leaps into the Top 13. St. Cloud took a beating and dropped from a tie for 10th to a tie for 14th with Michigan 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 Holy Cross and Bemidji State.

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

    There are three ties to break this week, at eight, 11 and 14.

    Let’s look at the tie at number eight first. Wisconsin and Denver each have 18 comparison wins, two more than Miami at number 10. Wisconsin defeats Denver in the head-to-head comparison, so we slot Wisconsin at number eight and Denver nine.

    Now we’ll move to the tie at 11 between Ohio State and Notre Dame. Ohio State wins the head-to-head comparison, so we set Ohio State at 11 and Notre Dame at 12.

    Now we move to number 14 — a huge spot, since it is the last at-large team in the tournament. St. Cloud State defeats Michigan State in the head-to-head comparison, which means that St. Cloud will be the last team in the tournament. Sorry about that, Spartans.

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

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

    Step Two

    Assign the seeds:

    No. 1 Seeds — North Dakota, Boston College, Maine, Minnesota-Duluth
    No. 2 Seeds — Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin
    No. 3 Seeds — Denver, Miami, Ohio State, Notre Dame
    No. 4 Seeds — Colgate, St. Cloud State, 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.
    Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the Midwest Regional.

    Last week we discussed why we placed North Dakota in the West Regional rather than the Midwest Regional despite the fact that North Dakota is about 70 miles closer to Grand Rapids, Mich., than Colorado Springs, Colo. To repeat, in the NCAA’s eyes a flight is a flight. If you have to get on an airplane, it doesn’t really matter where you go. So we give North Dakota a WCHA rink to play in, one the Sioux are used to.

    Step Four

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

    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. 7 New Hampshire goes to the Northeast Regional as the host, which is No. 2 Boston College’s Regional.
    No. 8 Wisconsin goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional
    No. 6 Minnesota goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 5 Michigan goes to No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth’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 Denver goes to No. 8 Wisconsin’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 10 Miami goes to No. 7 New Hampshire’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 11 Ohio State goes to No. 6 Minnesota’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 12 Notre Dame goes to No. 5 Michigan’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 St. Cloud State goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 13 Colgate goes to No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Michigan

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    9 Denver vs. 8 Wisconsin

    East Regional:

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

    Northeast Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Boston College
    10 Miami vs. 7 New Hampshire

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have a few matchups that we need to fix. Currently, we have CCHA foes Notre Dame vs. Michigan and the WCHA’s Denver vs. Wisconsin. There’s not much we can do here except to swap the two teams.

    Should we just make that simple swap? Let’s look at seeding integrity.

    If we swap Notre Dame and Denver, we have No. 12 overall playing No. 8 and No. 9 playing No. 5. We cannot avoid the 9-5 matchup, because there are three CCHA teams in the third band and only one in the second.

    We are left with seeds 10-12. So does it make sense to let 10 play the lowest second-band seed and have 12 play the highest second-band seed? It gives the bracket better integrity. So let’s see what we have:

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    9 Denver vs. 5 Michigan

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 8 Wisconsin

    East Regional:

    14 St. Cloud State vs. 3 Maine
    12 Notre Dame vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Ohio State vs. 7 New Hampshire

    Now let’s consider attendance issues.

    We’ve said in the past that we would love to get Denver in the West Regional. But that means taking Michigan away from Grand Rapids. We can’t do that to a higher seed.

    And last week we said that we would prefer to place Colgate in Albany because of its proximity. But we can’t swap Colgate with St. Cloud because that creates a WCHA-WCHA matchup. And as explained in previous weeks, we really don’t want to take Bemidji and Holy Cross away as opponent from the top two overall seeds.

    How about a massive swap? Let’s put Colgate into Albany, Holy Cross in Grand Rapids and send St. Cloud State over to Manchester. What does this do to the bracket?

    Midwest Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    9 Denver vs. 5 Michigan

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 8 Wisconsin

    East Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    12 Notre Dame vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    14 St. Cloud State vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Ohio State vs. 7 New Hampshire

    Things we don’t like:

  • The number-two PWR team now plays a more difficult opponent (St. Cloud State, rather than Holy Cross), at least according to the PWR. We really don’t think that’s fair to Boston College.
  • We’re contradicting ourselves with this change, since we rearranged the CCHA teams in the third band above to preserve integrity. That’s being undone here.

    Things we do like:

  • Attendance looks good at all regionals.
  • There’s a nice distribution of conferences in all regionals, something which is nice to have.

    We have to weigh the two to come up with the bracket.

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    9 Denver vs. 5 Michigan

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 8 Wisconsin

    East Regional:

    14 St. Cloud State vs. 3 Maine
    12 Notre Dame vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Ohio State vs. 7 New Hampshire

    After further consideration, we could not make those last changes. We could compromise, but the things we found wrong outweighed the good.

    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 (Minnesota-Duluth 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, we may have just wasted all our time and brainpower because…

    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 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Michigan
    6 Minnesota
    7 New Hampshire
    8 Wisconsin
    9 Denver
    9 Notre Dame
    11 Miami
    12 Michigan State
    12 Ohio State
    12 Colgate
    15 St. Cloud State
    24 Holy Cross
    – Bemidji State

    Notre Dame has moved up to a tie for ninth. How did that happen? Notre Dame gets quality bonus points for beating Boston College and Wisconsin on the road, and for beating Maine at the Everblades Classic. In our world of 5-3-1, that’s an extra .013 in bonus points to the RPI.

    And Michigan State is in the tournament whereas St. Cloud State is now out! Oh, those bonus points.

    So, our new brackets, using the same logic as above:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    9 Denver vs. 8 Wisconsin

    Midwest Regional:

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

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    11 Miami vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    10 Notre Dame vs. 7 New Hampshire

    We have to avoid two intraconference matchups in this case, and that’s a switch of Denver and Michigan State. We could also move Wisconsin and Michigan, but we’ll keep Michigan in the Midwest for two reasons: attendance and the fact that they are a higher seed and should play closer to home.

    But now we run into the same logic we had above. We have three CCHA teams in the third band. Let’s move them all so that we have integrity, i.e., the lowest third seed plays the highest second seed and the highest third seed plays the lowest second seed.

    That makes our final regionals:

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Notre Dame vs. 8 Wisconsin

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Ohio State vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    9 Denver vs. 5 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    12 Michigan State vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Miami vs. 7 New Hampshire

    And so there is our bracket with this bonus.

    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 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Michigan
    6 Minnesota
    7 New Hampshire
    8 Wisconsin
    8 Denver
    10 Miami
    11 Ohio State
    11 Notre Dame
    13 Michigan State
    13 Colgate
    15 St. Cloud State
    24 Holy Cross
    – Bemidji State

    Some subtle changes here, including the fact that Michigan State is now in the fourth band, and Ohio State in the third. St. Cloud State — sorry, Husky fans — is out in this bonus situation as well.

    With those changes, the bracket changes slightly.

    West Regional:

    16 Bemidji State vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 8 Wisconsin

    Midwest Regional:

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

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    12 Notre Dame vs. 6 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 Ohio State vs. 7 New Hampshire

    Next week the regular season is over and the new RPI rule comes into effect. We’ll talk about that a little more and give you the teams we think are already in.


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