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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Feb. 25, 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.”

Given these facts, here are the top 16 teams in the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of February 24, 2009):

1 Boston University
2t Notre Dame
2t Michigan
4t Denver
4t Vermont
6 Princeton
7 Northeastern
8t Cornell
8t New Hampshire
8t Miami
11 North Dakota
12 Yale
13 Minnesota-Duluth
14 St. Lawrence
15 Ohio State
16 Colorado College
17t Air Force
– Bemidji State

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force (based on head-to-head goal differential)
CHA: Bemidji State
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 Bemidji State and Air Force.

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

We have Notre Dame and Michigan at 2, Denver and Vermont at 5, Cornell, New Hampshire and Miami at 8.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break our ties. Notre Dame, Denver both win, and Cornell beats both UNH and Miami, UNH beats Miami.

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

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

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – Boston University, Notre Dame, Michigan, Denver
No. 2 Seeds – Vermont, Princeton, Northeastern, Cornell
No. 3 Seeds – New Hampshire, Miami, North Dakota, Yale
No. 4 Seeds – Minnesota-Duluth, St. Lawrence, 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 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 Notre Dame is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 Michigan is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.
No. 4 Denver is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.

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

New Hampshire and Yale must be placed first because they are hosting.

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

Midwest Regional:

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Northeastern

West Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Michigan
North Dakota vs. Princeton

East Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Denver
Yale vs. Vermont

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Cornell

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have UMD vs. Denver. A simple switch of St. Lawrence and UMD, and we’re done.

Our brackets are now:

Midwest Regional:

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Northeastern

West Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Michigan
North Dakota vs. Princeton

East Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Denver
Yale vs. Vermont

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Cornell

You know something? It’s just about perfect. Sure, you would love to have Michigan in Grand Rapids, but if you do, Minneapolis will suffer without a WCHA team in the bracket. Otherwise, this is really about as good as you can get right now.

And how about that — four ECAC teams in the tournament. The last time that happened? Not since 1984, when the ECAC had all of the Eastern teams and Hockey East didn’t yet exist.

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


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