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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 18, 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 is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of February 17, 2009):

1 Boston University
2t Michigan
2t Northeastern
4t Vermont
4t Notre Dame
6 Miami
7 Yale
8 Denver
9 Princeton
10 Cornell
11 New Hampshire
12 North Dakota
13 Minnesota
14 Minnesota-Duluth
15 Wisconsin
16t Ohio State
16t Boston College
– RIT
– Niagara

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: RIT
CHA: Niagara
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC: Yale
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: North Dakota

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 RIT.

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

The ties consist of Michigan and Northeastern at 2 and Vermont and Notre Dame at 4.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break our ties. Michigan and Vermont win those individual comparisons.

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

1 Boston University
2 Michigan
3 Northeastern
4 Vermont
5 Notre Dame
6 Miami
7 Yale
8 Denver
9 Princeton
10 Cornell
11 New Hampshire
12 North Dakota
13 Minnesota
14 Minnesota-Duluth
15 RIT
16 Niagara

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – Boston University, Michigan, Northeastern, Vermont
No. 2 Seeds – Notre Dame, Miami, Yale, Denver
No. 3 Seeds – Princeton, Cornell, New Hampshire, North Dakota
No. 4 Seeds – Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, RIT, Niagara

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 now 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 Michigan is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 Northeastern is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 4 Vermont is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.

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

We have a host school in Yale in this band, so we must place Yale first.

No. 7 Yale is placed in No. 3 Northeastern’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 8 Denver is placed in No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 6 Miami is placed in No. 2 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Notre Dame is placed in No. 4 Vermont’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.

New Hampshire must be placed first because it is a host school.

Therefore:

No. 11 New Hampshire is placed in No. 8 Denver’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 9 Princeton is placed in No. 7 Yale’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Cornell is placed in No. 6 Miami’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 North Dakota is placed in No. 5 Notre Dame’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. 13 Minnesota is placed in No. 4 Vermont’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Niagara is sent to No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 RIT is sent to No. 2 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth is sent to No. 3 Northeastern’s Regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Minnesota vs. Vermont
North Dakota vs. Notre Dame

Midwest Regional:

RIT vs. Michigan
Cornell vs. Miami

East Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Northeastern
Princeton vs. Yale

Northeast Regional:

Niagara vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Denver

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have Princeton vs. Yale to contend with.

We can’t move New Hampshire and we also can’t s


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