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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Jan. 21, 2009

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 might shape up if the season ended today.

It’s a look into the possible thought processes 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 before the field is announced. And this year, check out our Bracketology blog, where we’ll keep you entertained, guessing and educated throughout the rest of the season.

Here are the facts:

Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

There are four regional sites (East – Bridgeport, Conn., Northeast – Manchester, N.H., 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. There are four host institutions this year, Yale in Bridgeport, New Hampshire in Manchester, Western Michigan in Grand Rapids and Minnesota in Minneapolis.

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.”

For now, here’s a big maybe. At the NCAA Convention this week, the college presidents will vote whether or not to institute a geographic-proximity-based bracketing technique. If it does happen, we’ll talk more about it later on.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of January 21, 2009):

1 Cornell
2 Boston University
3 Notre Dame
4 Minnesota
5t Northeastern
5t Vermont
7 Michigan
8 Denver
9 Princeton
10 Ohio State
11t New Hampshire
11t Miami
13 Minnesota-Duluth
14 Boston College
15t Alaska
15t North Dakota
22t Air Force
– Niagara

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
CHA: Niagara
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC: Cornell
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: Denver

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 are Niagara and Air Force.

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

The ties consist of Northeastern and Vermont at 5 and New Hampshire and Miami at 11.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break all of our ties. Northeastern and New Hampshire win.

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

1 Cornell
2 Boston University
3 Notre Dame
4 Minnesota
5 Northeastern
6 Vermont
7 Michigan
8 Denver
9 Princeton
10 Ohio State
11 New Hampshire
12 Miami
13 Minnesota-Duluth
14 Boston College
15 Air Force
16 Niagara

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – Cornell, Boston University, Notre Dame, Minnesota
No. 2 Seeds – Northeastern, Vermont, Michigan, Denver
No. 3 Seeds – Princeton, Ohio State, New Hampshire, Miami
No. 4 Seeds – Minnesota-Duluth, Boston College, Air Force, Niagara

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. We have to place Minnesota first, since it is a host institution.

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

No. 4 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.
No. 1 Cornell is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 2 Boston University is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 3 Notre Dame is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.

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 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 Denver is placed in No. 1 Cornell’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Michigan is placed in No. 2 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 6 Vermont is placed in No. 3 Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Northeastern is placed in No. 4 Minnesota’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.

But we also have a host school in this round, so we must seed it first. That would be New Hampshire.

Therefore:

No. 11 New Hampshire is placed in No. 7 Michigan’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 9 Princeton is placed in No. 8 Denver’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Ohio State is placed in No. 6 Vermont’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Miami is placed in No. 5 Northeastern’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 Niagara is sent to No. 1 Cornell’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Air Force is sent to No. 2 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Boston College is sent to No. 3 Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth is sent to No. 4 Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Minnesota
Miami vs. Northeastern

Midwest Regional:

Boston College vs. Notre Dame
Ohio State vs. Vermont

East Regional:

Niagara vs. Cornell
Princeton vs. Denver

Northeast Regional:

Air Force vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Michigan

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have just one in Minnesota-Duluth vs. Minnesota. So we switch UMD w


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