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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 11, 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 latest 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.”

• A geographic proximity-based bracketing technique is still under consideration by the NCAA. If it does happen, we’ll talk more about it later on.

Given these facts, here are the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of February 10, 2009):

1 Boston University
2t Vermont
2t Notre Dame
4 Michigan
5 Northeastern
6t Cornell
6t Denver
8t Princeton
8t Miami
10 Yale
11 New Hampshire
12 Minnesota-Duluth
13t Ohio State
13t Minnesota
15 Boston College
16t Wisconsin
16t North Dakota
18 Air Force
– Bemidji State

Current conference leaders:
Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
CHA: Bemidji State (by most conference wins tiebreaker)
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC: Yale
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: Denver (by goal differential tiebreaker)

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 Bemidji State and Air Force.

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

The bubbles consist of Vermont and Notre Dame at 2, Cornell and Denver at 6, Princeton and Miami at 8 and Ohio State and Minnesota at 13.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break our ties. Vermont, Cornell, Princeton and Ohio State win those comparisons.

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

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

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

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

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

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 Princeton is placed in No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Denver is placed in No. 2 Vermont’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Cornell is placed in No. 3 Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Northeastern is placed in No. 4 Michigan’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 need to seed the two host schools in this band, New Hampshire and Yale, first.

Therefore:

No. 10 Yale is placed in No. 7 Denver’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 New Hampshire is placed in No. 8 Princeton’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 9 Miami is placed in No. 6 Cornell’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Minnesota-Duluth 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.

But first we have to place Minnesota as a host school.

No. 14 Minnesota is placed in No. 4 Michigan’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Bemidji State is sent to No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Air Force is sent to No. 2 Vermont’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 13 Ohio State is sent to No. 3 Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Minnesota vs. Michigan
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Northeastern

Midwest Regional:

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Cornell

East Regional:

Air Force vs. Vermont
Yale vs. Denver

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Princeton

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one in Ohio State-Notre Dame. Since we can’t move Minnesota, the next-best option is to switch Ohio State with Air Force. So we do.

Our brackets are now:

West Regional:

Minnesota vs. Michigan
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Northeastern

Midwest Regional:

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Cornell

East Regional:

Ohio State vs. Vermont
Yale vs. Denver

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Princeton

And that’s what we’ll stick with this week.

One thing this week that could have switched things up was Wisconsin were winning the tiebreaker over Denver for the WCHA title, which would have put the Badgers in the NCAAs as our projected WCHA champion. Meanwhile, Minnesota, the last at-large bid, would be out of the tournament.

Basically the only thing that would have changed is that Wisconsin, rather than Minnesota, would be taking on Michigan. At Mariucci Arena.

Now let’s take a look at what would happen should the geographic bracketing rule get adopted. Remember, it’s all about geography, except for the number-one seeds, which can be sent anywhere.

There are some drastic changes, actually.

West Regional:

Minnesota vs. Michigan
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Princeton

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Northeastern

East Regional:

Air Force vs. Vermont
Yale vs. Cornell

So there you have it, the bracket should the geographic initiative pass.

Check the blog for updates and thoughts and we’ll see you here next week for the next Bracketology.


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