It’s time once again for what we like to call Bracketology — college hockey style. It’s a weekly look at how the NCAA tournament might look if the season ended today.
More than that, it’s a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament teams.
This is the first installment of Bracketology, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week, until we make our final picks just before the field is announced.
Here are the facts:
Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.
There are four regional sites (East – Worcester, Massachusetts, Northeast – Amherst, Massachusetts, Midwest – Grand Rapids, Mich., West – Minneapolis, Minn.)
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 1-16. 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 for “good” nonconference wins.
Given these facts, here is the top 14 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), plus Vermont, Canisius and Alabama-Huntsville, the current leaders in the ECACHL, Atlantic Hockey and CHA, respectively (we are assuming at the moment that the conference leaders will receive the automatic bids)(through games of January 9, 2005):
1 Colorado College
3t Boston College
5 Boston University
6 New Hampshire
9t Ohio State
11t North Dakota
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 Vermont, Alabama-Huntsville and Canisius.
From there, we can start looking at the bubble in a more detailed fashion.
The bubbles consist of Boston College and Minnesota at No. 3, Massachusetts-Lowell and Ohio State at No. 9, Wisconsin and North Dakota at No. 11, and Colgate and Cornell 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 Colorado College
3 Boston College
5 Boston University
6 New Hampshire
10 Ohio State
12 North Dakota
All ties were broken by individual comparison wins. The one that left a team out was the Colgate-Cornell comparison, in which the Big Red was the loser. Alabama-Huntsville is seeded ahead of Canisius due to RPI win.
Now it’s time to assign the seeds, giving us four “bands” of teams.
No. 1 Seeds — Colorado College, Michigan, Boston College, Minnesota
No. 2 Seeds — Boston University, New Hampshire, Denver, Harvard
No. 3 Seeds — Massachusetts-Lowell, Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Dakota
No. 4 Seeds — Colgate, Vermont, Alabama-Huntsville, Canisius
Since Minnesota is hosting, the Gophers are placed first in the West Regional. We then place the other No. 1 seeds based on their proximity to the regional sites, in overall rank order.
No. 1 Colorado College is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids. No. 2 Michigan goes to the Northeast Regional in Amherst, and No. 3 Boston College plays at the East Regional in Worcester.
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 teams are not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites within the banding, except that host schools are again assigned to their home regional.
Rather, last year the committee’s starting point was to seed so that the regional finals would be played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5, if all seeds held.
No. 2 Seeds
No. 5 Boston University is placed in the East Regional because BU is hosting the East Regional, which is No. 3 Boston College’s regional. No. 6 New Hampshire is placed in No. 4 Minnesota’s regional, since BU cannot be seeded there. No. 7 Denver is placed in No. 2 Michigan’s regional, the Northeast. No. 8 Harvard goes to No. 1 Colorado College’s regional, the Midwest.
No. 3 Seeds
Our bracketing system has one regional containing seeds 1, 8, 9, and 16, another with 2, 7, 10, 15, another with 3, 6, 11, 14 and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.
No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Harvard’s regional, the Midwest. No. 10 Ohio State heads for No. 7 Denver’s regional, the Northeast. No. 11 Wisconsin should be placed in No. 6 New Hampshire’s regional, but since UNH and BU switched in placing the No. 2 seeds, the Badgers go to the regional which contains the No. 4 seed — the West Regional in Minneapolis. No. 12 North Dakota would then go to BU’s Regional, the East.
No. 4 Seeds
One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.
No. 16 Canisius is sent to Colorado College’s regional, the Midwest. No. 15 Alabama-Hunstville is sent to Michigan’s regional, the Northeast. No. 14 Vermont is sent to Boston College’s regional, the East. No. 13 Colgate is sent to Minnesota’s regional, the West.
The brackets as we have set them up:
Colgate vs. Minnesota
Wisconsin vs. New Hampshire
Canisius vs. Colorado College
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Harvard
Vermont vs. Boston College
North Dakota vs. Boston University
Alabama-Huntsville vs. Michigan
Ohio State vs. Denver
Our next concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We see that we have none in the first round. Not a single one.
So it looks like we are all finished with our brackets, and the tournament is set.
Bracketing the Frozen Four, if all four No. 1 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 (Colorado College and Minnesota’s brackets), while the winners of the East and Northeast Regionals (Boston College and Michigan’s brackets) play the other semifinal.
We know there is a bonus component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins.
Without official wo