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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 12, 2008

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology — College Hockey Style. It’s our weekly look at how the NCAA tournament would look if the season ended today.

It’s a look into what are the possible thought processes 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 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 — Albany, N.Y.. Northeast — Worcester, Mass., Midwest — Madison, Wis., West — Colorado Springs, Colo.)

• A host institution which is invited to the tournament plays in the regional for which it is the host, and cannot be moved. There are four host institutions this year, Rensselaer in Albany, Holy Cross in Worcester, Wisconsin in Madison and Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

• 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 the 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.”

The biggest change this year is the fact that in past years the NCAA included a bonus factor for “good” nonconference wins. This year, it is no more. There are no more bonus points for anything.

So it becomes pretty easy this year, doesn’t it? Take the straight PairWise Rankings (PWR) and then follow the rules and you have the tournament. It’s that easy, right?

You know better than that.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of February 11, 2008):

1 Michigan
2 Miami
3 New Hampshire
4 Colorado College
5 Denver
6 North Dakota
7 Michigan State
8t Boston College
8t Minnesota State
8t Minn.-Duluth
11t Clarkson
11t Notre Dame
11t Wisconsin
14t Providence
14t Quinnipiac
16 Princeton
– Bemidji State
– Army

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: Army (Army wins a tiebreaker, I’ll let you figure out how)
CHA: Bemidji State
CCHA: Michigan
ECAC: Clarkson
Hockey East: New Hampshire
WCHA: Colorado College

Notes

• Bracketology assumes that the season has ended and there are no more games to be played; i.e., the NCAA tournament starts tomorrow.

• Because there are an uneven number of games played inside each conference, I will be using winning percentage, not points accumulated, to determine the current leader in each conference. This team is my assumed conference tournament champion.

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 in any current league leaders that are not currently in the Top 16. The only teams that are not listed are Bemidji State and Army.

Let’s look at the ties.

The ties consist of Boston College, Minnesota State and Minn.-Duluth at 8, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Clarkson at 11 and Quinnipiac and Providence at 14.

Head-to-head we get Boston College taking 8 by beating both Minnesota State and Minn.-Duluth, and then Minnesota State defeating Minn.-Duluth to take 9. Notre Dame defeats both Clarkson and Wisconsin and then Wisconsin defeats Clarkson. And finally Quinnipiac wins the comparison over Providence.

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

1 Michigan
2 Miami
3 New Hampshire
4 Colorado College
5 Denver
6 North Dakota
7 Michigan State
8 Boston College
9 Minnesota State
10 Minn.-Duluth
11 Notre Dame
12 Wisconsin
13 Clarkson
14 Quinnipiac
15 Bemidji State
16 Army

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – Michigan, Miami, New Hampshire, Colorado College
No. 2 Seeds – Denver, North Dakota, Michigan State, Boston College
No. 3 Seeds – Minnesota State, Minn.-Duluth, Notre Dame, Wisconsin
No. 4 Seeds – Clarkson, Quinnipiac, Bemidji State, Army

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. We seed Colorado College first, since it is hosting a Regional.

We then place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

No. 4 Colorado College is placed in the West Regional in Colorado Springs.
No. 1 Michigan is placed in the Midwest Regional in Madison.
No. 2 Miami is placed in the East Regional in Albany.
No. 3 New Hampshire 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 (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 quarterfinals are seeded such 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. 8 Boston College is placed in No. 1 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 7 Michigan State is placed in No. 2 Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 North Dakota is placed in No. 3 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 5 Denver is placed in No. 4 Colorado College’s Regional, the West 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:

Here, Wisconsin is placed first since it is hosting a Regional.

No. 12 Wisconsin is placed in No. 8 Boston College’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 9 Minnesota State is placed in No. 7 Michigan State’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Minn.-Duluth is placed in No. 6 North Dakota’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 11 Notre Dame is placed in No. 5 Denver’s Regional, the West Regional.

No. 4 Seeds

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

No. 16 Army is sent to Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 15 Bemidji State is sent to Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 14 Quinnipiac is sent to New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 13 Clarkson is sent to Colorado College’s Regional, the West Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Clarkson vs. Colorado College
Notre Dame vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Army vs. Michigan
Wisconsin vs. Boston College

East Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Miami
Minnesota State vs. Michigan State

Northeast Regional:

Quinnipiac vs. New Hampshire
Minn.-Duluth vs. North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one in Minn.-Duluth vs. North Dakota. But we can’t do much about it because we have a big mess in the 2-3 seed range with five WCHA teams.

Also, we switch Army and Bemidji State to lessen travel.

But it’s a mess with that intraconference matchup. So what do we do? Let’s delve into the actual comparisons again.

In it we see that we can do one thing that I have been talking about in previous editions of Bracketology. We don’t necessarily have to break ties in the PairWise with the RPI. We have the ability to do so, but it’s not the be-all, end-all.

So in this case, let’s not break the Wisconsin-Clarkson tie with the RPI. Let’s instead just decide that Clarkson will be 12 and Wisconsin 13. Remember, the committee can do this. It’s not just arbitrary.

OK, now what we have done is gotten one WCHA team out of the three band, so we can avoid those troublesome intraconference matchups.

Let’s bracket now.

Midwest Regional
13 Wisconsin vs. 1 Michigan
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 Boston College

East Regional
16 Army vs. 2 Miami
10 Minn.-Duluth vs. 7 Michigan State

Northeast Regional
15 Bemidji State vs. 3 New Hampshire
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 North Dakota

West Regional
14 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Colorado College
12 Clarkson vs. 5 Denver

OK, so now we have no intraconference matchups. But we have some very undesirable situations.

Again, the number one overall seed gets Wisconsin, in Madison.

The last time, we switched out the lowest one-seeded team with Michigan to protect our overall number-one seed. I am not opposed to doing this again.

So now what do we have?

Midwest Regional
13 Wisconsin vs. 3 New Hampshire
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 Boston College

East Regional
16 Army vs. 2 Miami
10 Minn.-Duluth vs. 7 Michigan State

Northeast Regional
15 Bemidji State vs. 1 Michigan
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 North Dakota

West Regional
14 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Colorado College
12 Clarkson vs. 5 Denver

OK, what else is undesirable?

Well, we have two ECAC teams in the West Regional and two Hockey East teams in the Midwest Regional. Oh, by the way, these are those two conferences’ only representatives in the current tournament.

And then we have attendance issues abounding in Albany and Worcester.

We need to make changes.

Remember that while bracket integrity is important, we can move teams within seeded bands to create either integrity or attendance. It is in the handbook, we can do this.

But remember that because of the avoidance of intraconference matchups, if we move teams within seeded bands, we have to move entire games to preserve the non-intraconference matchups.

So let’s get going.

The Minnesota State vs. Boston College matchup needs to move to Worcester. We also need to move Clarkson to Albany. So the Clarkson-Denver matchup moves to Albany.

Now where do we move the Notre Dame-North Dakota and UMD-Michigan State matchups?

Well, let’s try to keep the bracket integrity as close as possible.

So we’ll move the highest-seeded team of the two matchups to Colorado Springs, since Colorado College is the lowest-ranked one seed. That means the North Dakota matchup goes to Colorado.

So there we have it. Here’s our new bracket.

Midwest Regional
13 Wisconsin vs. 3 New Hampshire
10 Minn.-Duluth vs. 7 Michigan State

East Regional
16 Army vs. 2 Miami
12 Clarkson vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional
15 Bemidji State vs. 1 Michigan
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 Boston College

West Regional
14 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Colorado College
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 North Dakota

Well, I’ve played the Bracketology game and played within the rules to create this bracket. Do I like it?

Not really, but you can’t always like everything that you do.

The two things I really don’t like, obviously, is that I put the screws to New Hampshire again and that I moved Denver out of Colorado Springs.

To put those rumors to rest, I don’t have it out for New Hampshire or Denver.

Well, that’s it for this week, and it was a tough one, that’s for sure. We’ll be back with another analysis next week.


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