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College Hockey:
Final Bracketology: 2003-2004

It’s all over. The games are done, it’s time for the NCAA Tournament. But we have to figure out who is in and who is out and who is going where. It’s been a crazy weekend, and now it’s time to check it all out and make my prediction as to what the tournament will look like.

It’s something we call “Bracketology” — a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament.

This is our last installment. If you take a look at the sidebar, you’ll see the final bracket in my eyes.

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: Massachusetts-Lowell’s forfeits will not be taken into account. Therefore, the results of the games played are used here. The NCAA has said that they would not consider the games that UML won as losses for UML.

    Let’s take this from a different order this time. Over the last few weeks we have been starting with a non-bonus PairWise to give you our predictions. Let’s start with a bonus here, since we know there is one.

    My best guess is a 3-2-1 bonus, so that’s what we’ll start with here.

    So, on to filling our bracket.

    For this, we take a look at the top 16 of the final PairWise Rankings, with a 3-2-1 bonus, (PWR) and add in any teams that are not in the Top 16 that have automatic bids into the list:

    1 North Dakota
    1 Boston College
    1 Maine
    4 Minnesota
    5 Minnesota-Duluth
    6 Ohio State
    6 Denver
    8 Michigan
    9 New Hampshire
    9 Miami
    11 Wisconsin
    12 Michigan State
    13 Notre Dame
    13 Colorado College
    13 Colgate
    16 Cornell
    22 Harvard
    25 Niagara
    28 Holy Cross

    OK, it’s time to figure out who is in the tournament and who isn’t.

    Step One

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

    The first thing we are going to do is put the six automatic qualifiers into the tournament.

    They are:

    Atlantic Hockey – Holy Cross
    CHA – Niagara
    CCHA – Ohio State
    ECAC – Harvard
    Hockey East – Maine
    WCHA – Minnesota

    Now, we have to fill in the remaining 10 teams in to the tournament.

    We now 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 four ties to break this week, at the top, six, nine and 13.

    Let’s start with the top spot. It’s circular amongst North Dakota, Boston College and Maine. To makes things simple, let’s use RPI to break the ties. North Dakota, then Boston College, then Maine. That’s how the committee is going to do it.

    Let’s now move onto six with Ohio State and Denver. Ohio State wins the head-to-head comparison, 2-1, so Ohio State is the sixth seed.

    Now let’s move to nine with New Hampshire and Miami. New Hampshire wins the head-to-head comparison, 2-1, so New Hampshire is the ninth seed.

    Now we get to 13. We see that we have the three-way tie with Notre Dame, Colorado College and Colgate. This is also circular as it was with the one seed. So we break the tie using RPI. Notre Dame wins this matchup, therefore, Notre Dame becomes the last team in the tournament.

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

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

    Step Two

    Assign the seeds:

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

    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 is placed in the Midwest Regional.

    Let’s go over why we think teams are going where again.

    North Dakota has to get on an airplane and go somewhere. In the NCAA’s eyes, it doesn’t matter where they get off. So we send North Dakota to a WCHA rink in Colorado Springs. That leaves Minnesota in Grand Rapids.

    In the East Boston College is closer to Manchester. So we put them in Manchester and move Maine to Albany. It’s that plain and simple.

    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, there’s no guarantee that this will be done this year as well.

    Therefore:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 8 Michigan goes to No. 1 North Dakota’s Regional, which is the West Regional
    No. 7 Denver goes to No. 2 Boston College’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional
    No. 6 Ohio State 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

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

    No. 9 New Hampshire, as the host goes to No. 7 Denver’s Regional, which is the Northeast Regional.
    No. 10 Miami goes to No. 8 Michigan’s Regional, which is the West Regional.
    No. 11 Wisconsin goes to No. 6 Ohio State’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 12 Michigan 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 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 Harvard goes to No. 3 Maine’s Regional, which is the East Regional.
    No. 13 Notre Dame goes to No. 4 Minnesota’s Regional, which is the Midwest Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

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

    West Regional:
    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 8 Michigan

    East Regional:
    14 Harvard vs. 3 Maine
    11 Wisconsin vs. 6 Ohio State

    Northeast Regional:
    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 New Hampshire vs. 7 Denver

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one to take care of and that’s Miami vs. Michigan. So, who should we move?

    We can’t move Miami because changing them with Michigan State creates a Michigan State vs. Michigan matchup, or Wisconsin since that creates a Michigan State vs. Ohio State matchup, so we have to move Michigan.

    Examining this a little more closely, we can just switch Michigan with Denver and it will all be done nicely. So we now have brackets consisting of:

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

    West Regional:
    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 7 Denver

    East Regional:
    14 Harvard vs. 3 Maine
    11 Wisconsin vs. 6 Ohio State

    Northeast Regional:
    15 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
    9 New Hampshire vs. 8 Michigan

    Does this work for us?

    It does for getting intraconference matchups out of the way. How about attendance issues?

    In particular let’s look at some things. Michigan’s fans will travel. So to put them in a sold-out Manchester makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it does preserve bracket integrity. Albany and Grand Rapids could have trouble attendance-wise.

    The dilemma here is that I would love to move Michigan out of the Northeast Regional. But to where? Albany or Grand Rapids? Grand Rapids would make sense, but then we would create a CCHA-CCHA matchup. Moving to Albany is cleaner, no intra-conference matchups.

    That would get attendance going, no doubt about it, at Albany. How about in Grand Rapids? Michigan State and Minnesota are there, that’s for sure. And Notre Dame can bring some people too.

    People would love to see Michigan in Grand Rapids, but I’m going to keep them in Manchester and keep Ohio State in Albany to preserve the bracket integrity.

    I’ll have to admit that part of the reason for this is that last year I got burned by predicting based on attendance and the Committee went with bracket integrity over attendance.

    Let’s remember one more thing, the 500-mile fly rule. Is there anyone that has to fly and can that be avoided and will not upset the bracket integrity?

    We can’t do much switching on the one seeds, both North Dakota and Minnesota have to fly.

    How about the two seeds? UMD, Michigan and Ohio State all have to fly. Michigan and Ohio State are both within driving distance of Grand Rapids, but we can’t put them there because it would create a CCHA-CCHA matchup. So we’ll keep everyone where they are.

    As for the three seeds, Wisconsin and Michigan State/or Miami will have to fly. So we’ll leave it the way it is.

    For the four seeds, right now two teams have to fly, Niagara (Niagara is 510.67 miles from Manchester per Mapquest, the official mileage counter of the NCAA) and Holy Cross. But if we put Niagara in Albany and Harvard in Manchester, only one team has to fly. We can make that change and not sacrifice the integrity too much, after all, Harvard is 22 and Niagara 25 in the PWR.

    So, my final bracket will be, with the 3-2-1 bonus:

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

    West Regional:
    16 Holy Cross vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Miami vs. 7 Denver

    East Regional:
    15 Niagara vs. 3 Maine
    11 Wisconsin vs. 6 Ohio State

    Northeast Regional:
    14 Harvard vs. 2 Boston College
    9 New Hampshire vs. 8 Michigan

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

    One more FYI, the 5-3-1 bonus gives us the same brackets.

    No Bonus

    So, what would have happened without a bonus?

    Does anything change? Let’s take a look.

    1 North Dakota
    1 Boston College
    1 Maine
    4 Minnesota
    5 Minnesota-Duluth
    6 Ohio State
    6 Denver
    8 Michigan
    9 Miami
    10 Wisconsin
    10 New Hampshire
    12 Michigan State
    13 Colorado College
    13 Notre Dame
    13 Colgate
    16 Cornell
    22 Harvard
    25 Niagara
    28 Holy Cross

    There is a little shuffling amongst the third band with Miami, Wisconsin, UNH and Michigan State, and there is still the three-way tie at 13 for the last spot in the tournament.

    Let’s break all the ties and rank the teams like we did above, using the same criteria.

    Alright, here are our teams in seeded order:

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

    So, our new brackets:

    West Regional:

    13 Colorado College vs. 1 North Dakota
    9 Miami vs. 8 Michigan

    Midwest Regional:

    14 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota
    12 Michigan State vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    Northeast Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 New Hampshire vs. 6 Ohio State

    East Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 3 Maine
    10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Denver

    Let’s take a look at what we have. There are many, many different things that are going to need to happen and switch and move.

    The West Regional features two intraconference matchups and the East Regional features one intraconference matchup. Things need to get moved.

    First thing is first. Colorado College has to go to the West Regional, which means North Dakota has to move. North Dakota is flying anyway, so it really doesn’t matter, but with Minnesota in the Midwest, North Dakota has to go East and one of the Hockey East number one seeds has to come west. That team is Maine. So we swap Maine and North Dakota.

    No we need to take care of the other two. A simple switch of Michigan and Denver would get Denver into the Colorado Bracket. That sounds good.

    OK, now we go to the fly rule. We have the same argument for the first three seeding bands, and there’s nothing we can do to avoid that. But what about the fourth band?

    Harvard has to fly right now. But if Niagara went to Grand Rapids, which is only 375 miles away, Harvard would not have to fly. So no one would. Let’s make that change.

    So our final bracket with no bonus is:

    West Regional:

    13 Colorado College vs. 3 Maine
    9 Miami vs. 7 Denver

    Midwest Regional:

    15 Niagara vs. 4 Minnesota
    12 Michigan State vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

    Northeast Regional:

    16 Holy Cross vs. 2 Boston College
    11 New Hampshire vs. 6 Ohio State

    East Regional:

    14 Harvard vs. 1 North Dakota
    10 Wisconsin vs. 8 Michigan

    So what does this say? It says one major thing – Colorado College was hurt in a major way by the bonus. Without the bonus, CC was in, Notre Dame was out. With the bonus, Notre Dame is in, CC is out.

    Sorry about that CC…


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