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College Hockey:
Bracketology: March 17

We’re in the heart of the postseason and amidst upsets galore, we know a little better who the NCAA tournament teams may be — including who is definitely in, and who is definitely out.

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 fifth 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. (Host – Rensselaer), Northeast – Manchester, N.H. (Host – UNH), Midwest – Grand Rapids, Mich. (Host – Western Michigan), West – Colorado Springs, Colo. (Host – Colorado College))
  • 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: the NCAA has officially confirmed that Massachusetts-Lowell’s forfeits will not be taken into account, meaning that the results of the games as played are used here.

    Given these facts, here are the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), plus Niagara, the CHA champion, and Holy Cross, the highest seed left in the Atlantic Hockey tournament (through games of March 17, 2004):

    1 North Dakota
    1 Boston College
    1 Maine
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Minnesota
    6 Denver
    7 Michigan
    8 New Hampshire
    8 Miami
    10 Wisconsin
    10 Michigan State
    10 Ohio State
    13 Notre Dame
    14 Colorado College
    14 Colgate
    16 Dartmouth
    27 Niagara
    28 Holy Cross

    Well, that three-way tie for first is still there.

    Denver really didn’t slide, even after getting swept by Colorado College. The Tigers, in the meanwhile, have moved right back into the picture for a bid to the tournament.

    New Hampshire has moved up, and the fight for slots eight through 13 continues to be fierce.

    Let’s fill out our bracket.

    Step One

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

    The first thing that we do is slot the autobids. Niagara is already in the field.

    Now we find the other 15 teams. First we add in Holy Cross as Atlantic Hockey’s highest seed remaining. Next, we add Colgate as the highest seed left in the ECAC tournament.

    We are now down to 13 spots remaining. Examining the contenders, it seems there is a break right at 13, with Colorado College being the last team out.

    We break ties in the PWR by looking at the individual comparisons among the tied teams. From there, we can start looking at the bubble and ties in a more detailed fashion.

    There are three ties to break this week, one at the top, one for eight vs. nine, and a three-way tie for 10th.

    First, break the tie at 10th between Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Head-to-head among those three teams, Wisconsin wins two comparisons, Michigan State one, and Ohio State none. That’s easy, so the three teams are seeded in that same order.

    Now we’ll move to the tie at eight between New Hampshire and Miami. New Hampshire wins the head-to-head, putting the Wildcats eighth and the RedHawks ninth.

    Now we move to the top spot. Once again it’s circular among North Dakota, Boston College and Maine. Using the RPI to break ties. North Dakota is first, then Boston College, then Maine.

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

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

    Step Two

    Assign the seeds:

    No. 1 Seeds — North Dakota, Boston College, Maine, Minnesota-Duluth
    No. 2 Seeds — Minnesota, Denver, Michigan, New Hampshire
    No. 3 Seeds — Miami, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State
    No. 4 Seeds — Notre Dame, Colgate, Niagara, Holy Cross

    Step Three

    Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals, starting with overall 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.

    (This step hasn’t changed in a while.)

    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.

    Now, the committee did this last year, but there’s no guarantee it will be done this year as well. Nonetheless:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 8 New Hampshire, as host, goes to No. 2 Boston College’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 7 Michigan goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 6 Denver goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 5 Minnesota 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 Miami goes to No. 8 New Hampshire’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 10 Wisconsin goes to No. 7 Michigan’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 11 Michigan State goes to No. 6 Denver’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 12 Ohio State goes to No. 5 Minnesota’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 Holy Cross goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 15 Niagara goes to No. 2 Boston College’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 14 Colgate goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 13 Notre Dame goes to No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    12 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    11 Michigan State vs. 6 Denver

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups — but we have none. Wow. Let’s consider other issues, starting with attendance. With that in mind, we make a couple of changes, swapping Wisconsin vs. Michigan and Michigan State vs. Denver.

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    12 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    11 Michigan State vs. 6 Denver

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Attendance now looks good. The East gets a boon, and we have Denver playing in Colorado Springs.

    We could also have moved the Wisconsin vs. Michigan game to the Midwest Regional to put a Michigan team in Grand Rapids, but we hesitate because of seeding.

    What does this mean? Well, we’ve put Minnesota, the five seed, closest to home. We’ve also put the sixth seed, Denver, closest to home. The next closest to home for the seventh seed, Michigan, is Albany. So we won’t swap the Michigan game with the Minnesota game, under the belief that the combined attendance at the two sites would be about the same, swap or not.

    So that’s our bracket this week — pretty easy, actually.

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    12 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    11 Michigan State vs. 6 Denver

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Miami vs. 8 New Hampshire

    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? Slightly.

    1 North Dakota
    1 Boston College
    1 Maine
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Minnesota
    6 Denver
    7 Michigan
    8 Miami
    9 Wisconsin
    9 New Hampshire
    11 Ohio State
    12 Michigan State
    13 Notre Dame
    15 Colgate
    27 Niagara
    28 Holy Cross

    We still have the three-way tie up top, though New Hampshire drops to a tie for ninth. It’s pretty much the same except for some position changes.

    Breaking ties and ranking the teams, here they are in seeded order:

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

    Sorting these into brackets:

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    9 Wisconsin vs. 8 Miami

    Midwest Regional:

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

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    10 New Hampshire vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    11 Ohio State vs. 6 Denver

    There’s only one change we can make for attendance purposes. We switch the Ohio State vs. Denver game with the Wisconsin vs. Miami game. We again have Denver in Colorado, a Michigan team in Michigan and decent attendance.

    So our final bracket with the 5-3-1 bonus is:

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    11 Ohio State vs. 6 Denver

    Midwest Regional:

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

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    10 New Hampshire vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    9 Wisconsin vs. 8 Miami

    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?

    There is only one difference — Ohio State and Michigan State are swapped. But they’re close, so we basically have the same brackets as the 3-2-1 bonus.

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    12 Ohio State vs. 6 Denver

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    11 Michigan State vs. 5 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    10 New Hampshire vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Colgate vs. 3 Maine
    9 Wisconsin vs. 8 Miami

    What If?

    What if all the highest seeds won every game this weekend? What would the tournament look like using the 3-2-1 bonus?

    Here is the PairWise after those results:

    1 North Dakota
    1 Boston College
    1 Maine
    4 Minnesota-Duluth
    5 Minnesota
    6 Michigan
    7 Denver
    8 New Hampshire
    9 Michigan State
    10 Miami
    10 Wisconsin
    10 Ohio State
    13 Colgate
    14 Notre Dame
    23 Niagara
    28 Holy Cross

    Let’s break the ties. Up top, we again go with RPI as the tiebreaker. North Dakota, then BC, then Maine.

    At the tie for 10th we drop Ohio State because they lose two comparisons to the other two teams. The Buckeyes are 12th. Then we break on head-to-head comparison, which has Miami defeating Wisconsin.

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

    Our brackets would then be:

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 7 Michigan

    Midwest Regional:

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

    East Regional:

    14 Notre Dame vs. 3 Maine
    11 Wisconsin vs. 6 Denver

    Northeast Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Michigan State vs. 8 New Hampshire

    We have two intraconference matchups, Miami vs. Michigan and Wisconsin vs. Denver.

    But before we take care of that, let’s look at attendance. Let’s get Denver in Colorado and a Michigan team in Michigan. We make a three-way swap — Denver to the West, Minnesota to the East and Michigan to the Midwest.

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 6 Denver

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    12 Ohio State vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Notre Dame vs. 3 Maine
    11 Wisconsin vs. 5 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional :

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Michigan State vs. 8 New Hampshire

    We still have two intraconference matchups to clean up, so we switch Ohio State and Wisconsin.

    So our brackets, if all the higher-seeded teams win this weekend, and a 3-2-1 bonus is:

    West Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 6 Denver

    Midwest Regional:

    13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
    11 Wisconsin vs. 7 Michigan

    East Regional:

    14 Notre Dame vs. 3 Maine
    10 Ohio State vs. 5 Minnesota

    Northeast Regional :

    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 Michigan State vs. 8 New Hampshire

    Next Week

    One more weekend to go until we find out who goes where. Join us late Saturday night for final predictions.


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