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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 8, 2006

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology — College Hockey Style, a weekly look at how the NCAA tournament would shake out if the season ended today, and a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament teams.

We’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced in March.

Here are the facts:

  • Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.
  • There are four regional sites (Northeast – Worcester, Mass.; East – Albany, N.Y.; Midwest – Green Bay, Wis.; West – Grand Forks, N.D.)
  • 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 includes a bonus factor for “good” nonconference wins. The exact amount of the bonus is kept secret, but experience in previous seasons has given us some idea as to how large it must be.

    Because of this bonus factor, we won’t even talk about the PairWise Rankings (PWR) without an added bonus. We know that the bonus is at least .003 for a quality road win, .002 for a quality neutral-site win and .001 for a quality home win. So everything that we do will reference the 3-2-1 bonus as a base.

    Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), with a 3-2-1 bonus, plus teams currently leading their conferences, but not in the top 16 (through all games of February 7, 2006):

    1t Wisconsin
    1t Minnesota
    3 Miami
    4t Colorado College
    4t Boston University
    4t Cornell
    7 Boston College
    8 Michigan
    9 Nebraska-Omaha
    10 Michigan State
    11 Harvard
    12t Ohio State
    12t Providence
    14 St. Cloud State
    15 Ferris State
    16 North Dakota
    26 Holy Cross
    – Alabama-Huntsville

    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.

    Wisconsin wins the individual comparison over Minnesota, so Wisconsin is the No. 1 overall seed. Colorado College wins the comparisons over BU and Cornell, and BU over Cornell, so they go 4, 5 and 6.

    Ohio State wins its comparison with Providence, and therefore earns the No. 12 seed.

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

    1 Wisconsin
    2 Minnesota
    3 Miami
    4 Colorado College
    5 Boston University
    6 Cornell
    7 Boston College
    8 Michigan
    9 Nebraska-Omaha
    10 Michigan State
    11 Harvard
    12 Ohio State
    13 Providence
    14 St. Cloud State
    15 Holy Cross
    16 Alabama-Huntsville

    Step Two

    Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

    No. 1 Seeds – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Miami, Colorado College
    No. 2 Seeds – Boston University, Cornell, Boston College, Michigan
    No. 3 Seeds – Nebraska-Omaha, Michigan State, Harvard, Ohio State
    No. 4 Seeds – Providence, St. Cloud State, Holy Cross, Alabama-Huntsville

    Step Three

    Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Following the guidelines, there are no host teams in this grouping, so that rule does not need to be enforced.

    No. 1 Wisconsin is placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
    No. 2 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Grand Forks.
    No. 3 Miami is placed in the East Regional in Albany.
    No. 4 Colorado College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

    Step Four

    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 by ranking order within the banding (except for host schools, which must be assigned to their home regionals).

    If this is the case, as it was last year, then the committee should seed so that the four regional championships are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

    So therefore:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 5 Boston University, as the host team, is placed in No. 4 Colorado College’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
    No. 6 Cornell is placed in No. 3 Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 7 Boston College is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.
    No. 8 Michigan is placed in No. 1 Wisconsin’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.

    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.

    Therefore:

    No. 9 Nebraska-Omaha is placed in No. 8 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
    No. 10 Michigan State is placed in No. 7 Boston College’s Regional, the West Regional.
    No. 11 Harvard is placed in No. 6 Cornell’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 12 Ohio State is placed in No. 5 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

    No. 4 Seeds

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

    No. 16 Alabama-Huntsville is sent to Wisconsin’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
    No. 15 Holy Cross is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.
    No. 14 St. Cloud State is sent to Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 13 Providence is sent to Colorado College’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    West Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Minnesota
    Michigan State vs. Boston College

    Midwest Regional:

    Alabama-Huntsville vs. Wisconsin
    Nebraska-Omaha vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Providence vs. Colorado College
    Ohio State vs. Boston University

    East Regional:

    St. Cloud State vs. Miami
    Harvard vs. Cornell

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have Nebraska-Omaha vs. Michigan and Harvard vs. Cornell, and could just switch two teams of these four.

    So now we have:

    West Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Minnesota
    Michigan State vs. Boston College

    Midwest Regional:

    Alabama-Huntsville vs. Wisconsin
    Harvard vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Providence vs. Colorado College
    Ohio State vs. Boston University

    East Regional:

    St. Cloud State vs. Miami
    Nebraska-Omaha vs. Cornell

    So it looks like we are all finished with our brackets, and the tournament is now fixed.

    Or is it? Is there anything else that I would like to change?

    One thing is bothering me. My switch of Harvard and Nebraska-Omaha has thrown bracket integrity a little askew.

    You now have 8 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10 and 6 vs. 9. I’m not comfortable making the No. 6 seed, who was tied for fourth in the PWR, playing the highest seed here. I also think that if you take your bracket-filling procedure, you have to look at it another way.

    So let’s do that. Let’s go back to placing the No. 3 seeds.

    No. 3 Seeds

    Let’s take this another way. Let’s avoid the intraconference matchups right at the beginning and place the teams as if you know you can’t make that matchup happen.

    We place them in order, considering the seeding.

    Therefore:

    No. 9 Nebraska-Omaha cannot be placed in No. 8 Michigan’s Regional. So No. 9 Nebraska-Omaha is placed in No. 7 Boston College’s Regional, the West.
    No. 10 Michigan State can not be placed in No. 8 Michigan’s Regional. So No. 10 Michigan State is placed in No. 6 Cornell’s Regional, the East.
    No. 11 Harvard is placed in No. 8 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest.
    No. 12 Ohio State is placed in No. 5 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast.

    Let’s see what this gives us.

    West Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Minnesota
    Nebraska-Omaha vs. Boston College

    Midwest Regional:

    Alabama-Huntsville vs. Wisconsin
    Harvard vs. Michigan

    Northeast Regional:

    Providence vs. Colorado College
    Ohio State vs. Boston University

    East Regional:

    St. Cloud State vs. Miami
    Michigan State vs. Cornell

    I am more comfortable with this because we’re maintaining the best brackets that we can and sticking as close to the seedings as possible.

    Bracketing the Frozen Four, if all four number-one 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 Northeast Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Wisconsin and Colorado College’s brackets), while the winners of the East and West Regionals (Miami and Minnesota’s brackets) play the other semifinal.

    There is one more thing to consider here. In our present PairWise Rankings we do not rank Alabama-Huntsville because its RPI is not high enough to be a TUC. But remember that the autobid automatically becomes a TUC. Therefore UAH comes into play with certain teams, most notably Ohio State, especially since the Chargers went 1-0-1 against the Buckeyes. Let’s also not forget that Maine has two wins against UAH and UNO has one win. This could factor in if the Chargers do win the CHA tournament.

    Bonus Time

    We know there is a bonus component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins. We’ve determined that it is at least .003 for a good road win, .002 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    We also know that it’s not as high as .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    So let’s find a medium here. Let’s take .004 for a good road win, .0025 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    Does anything change?

    Nope.

    Three weeks to go in the CCHA and ECACHL regular seasons, four weeks everywhere else. Who hangs in? Who doesn’t?


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