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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Jan. 17, 2005

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 second 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 are the top 16 teams in the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and all conference leaders based on winning percentage (Holy Cross, Michigan, Alabama-Huntsville, Colgate, New Hampshire and Colorado College) (through games of January 16, 2005):

1 Colorado College
2t Boston College
2t Minnesota
4 Michigan
5t Boston University
5t Denver
7t Colgate
7t Harvard
9 New Hampshire
10t Mass.-Lowell
10t Cornell
12 Ohio State
13t Wisconsin
13t North Dakota
15t Maine
15t Vermont
– Alabama-Huntsville
– Holy Cross

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 the conference leaders, based on winning percentage.

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

The bubbles consist of Boston College and Minnesota at No. 2, Boston University and Denver at No. 5, Colgate and Harvard at No. 7, Mass.-Lowell and Cornell at No. 10, and Wisconsin and North Dakota 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
2 Boston College
3 Minnesota
4 Michigan
5 Boston University
6 Denver
7 Harvard
8 Colgate
9 New Hampshire
10 Mass.-Lowell
11 Cornell
12 Ohio State
13 Wisconsin
14 North Dakota
15 Alabama-Huntsville
16 Holy Cross

All ties were broken by individual comparison wins. Alabama-Huntsville is seeded ahead of Holy Cross due to RPI win.

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds — Colorado College, Boston College, Minnesota, Michigan
No. 2 Seeds — Boston University, Denver, Harvard, Colgate
No. 3 Seeds — New Hampshire, Mass.-Lowell, Cornell, Ohio State
No. 4 Seeds — Wisconsin, North Dakota, Alabama-Huntsville, Holy Cross

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Because of the fact that Minnesota is hosting a regional, the Gophers are placed first. We then place the other No. 1 seeds in descending order, by proximity to the regional sites.

No. 3 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.
No. 1 Colorado College is then placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Amherst. I’ve done this for reasons you will see later. Even though BC is closer to Worcester, I’m going to make the change now to Amherst because I know that I will probably want to separate BC and BU for attendance purposes later on. If it works, that’s great — if not, we’re back to the drawing board.
No. 4 Michigan is placed in the East Regional in Worcester.

Step Four

Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intra-conference 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 by ranking order within the banding (unless you are a host school, in which case you must be assigned to your home regional).

If this is the case, as it was last year, then the committee should seed so that the four regional championships 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.

Therefore:

No. 2 Seeds

No. 5 Boston University, as the host, is placed in the East Regional, which is No. 4 Michigan’s Regional — so far, so good.
No. 6 Denver is placed in No. 3 Minnesota’s regional, the West.
No. 7 Harvard is placed in No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Northeast.
No. 8 Colgate is placed in No. 1 Colorado College’s regional, the Midwest.

No. 3 Seeds

Our bracketing system should ideally have 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.

Therefore:

No. 9 New Hampshire is placed in No. 8 Colgate’s regional, the Midwest.
No. 10 Mass.-Lowell is placed in No. 7 Harvard’s regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Cornell is placed in No. 6 Denver’s regional, the West.
No. 12 Ohio State is placed in No. 5 Boston University’s regional, the East.

No. 4 Seeds

One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.

No. 16 Holy Cross is sent to Colorado College’s regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Alabama-Hunstville is sent to Boston College’s regional, the Northeast.
No. 14 North Dakota is sent to Minnesota’s regional, the West.
No. 13 Wisconsin is sent to Michigan’s regional, the East.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

North Dakota vs. Minnesota
Cornell vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Holy Cross vs. Colorado College
New Hampshire vs. Colgate

East Regional:

Wisconsin vs. Michigan
Ohio State vs. Boston University

Northeast Regional:

Alabama-Huntsville vs. Boston College
Mass.-Lowell vs. Harvard

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have one conflict, which is North Dakota playing Minnesota. Minnesota as host must stay in the West, so we switch out North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux can’t switch with Wisconsin, since that causes another WCHA-WCHA matchup, so they swap with the overall No. 15 team, Alabama-Huntsville.

We also have now justified moving BC to Amherst to begin with.

So our new brackets are:

West Regional:

Alabama-Huntsville vs. Minnesota
Cornell vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Holy Cross vs. Colorado College
New Hampshire vs. Colgate

East Regional:

Wisconsin vs. Michigan
Ohio State vs. Boston Un


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