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College Hockey:
Bracketology: March 17, 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 March 17, 2009):

1 Boston University
2 Notre Dame
3 Michigan
4 Denver
5 North Dakota
6 Northeastern
7 Yale
8t Vermont
8t New Hampshire
10 Cornell
11t Princeton
11t Minnesota
14t Miami
14t St. Lawrence
16 Ohio State
19t Air Force
– Bemidji State

Current highest-seeded teams in their conference tournaments:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC: Yale
Hockey East: Boston University
WCHA: North Dakota

The CHA autobid has gone to Bemidji State.

Notes

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

• During the conference tournaments the highest-seeded team remaining 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 or autobids 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 Vermont and New Hampshire at 8, Princeton and Minnesota at 11 and Miami and St. Lawrence at 14.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break our ties. Vermont, Princeton and Miami win.

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

1 Boston University
2 Notre Dame
3 Michigan
4 Denver
5 North Dakota
6 Northeastern
7 Yale
8 Vermont
9 New Hampshire
10 Cornell
11 Princeton
12 Minnesota
13 Minnesota-Duluth
14 Miami
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 – North Dakota, Northeastern, Yale, Vermont
No. 3 Seeds – New Hampshire, Cornell, Princeton, Minnesota
No. 4 Seeds – Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, 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 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 to place Yale first, since it is a host.

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

UNH and Minnesota must be placed first because they are hosting.

Therefore:

No. 9 New Hampshire is placed in No. 8 Vermont’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 12 Minnesota is placed in No. 5 North Dakota’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Cornell is placed in No. 7 Yale’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Princeton is placed in No. 6 Northeastern’s Regional, the Midwest 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 Miami is placed in No. 3 Michigan’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth is sent to No. 4 Denver’s Regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

Midwest Regional:

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Princeton vs. Northeastern

West Regional:

Miami vs. Michigan
Minnesota vs. North Dakota

East Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Denver
Cornell vs. Yale

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. Vermont

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups.

We have an absolute mess in the bracket.

We have Miami vs. Michigan, Minnesota vs. North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth vs. Denver, Cornell vs. Yale and New Hampshire vs. Vermont.

We can solve a few of these. We move Miami and UMD. That works. We can move North Dakota and Vermont as well.

But now we’re stuck with Cornell vs. Yale. We can’t move UNH or Minnesota because of the host school rule. We can’t switch Cornell with anyone because of the fact that only Princeton can be moved, and that would create another all-ECAC matchup. So we’re stuck. And I mean stuck.

So our bracket:

Midwest Regional:

Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Princeton vs. Northeastern

West Regional:

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Michigan
Minnesota vs. Vermont

East Regional:

Miami vs. Denver
Cornell vs. Yale

Northeast Regional:

Bemidji State vs. Boston University
New Hampshire vs. North Dakota

So this is our bracket. Or is it?

Not good at all.

You can do whatever you want here; you can place the number-one seeds wherever you want to begin with, and you are still going to run into this problem. You cannot avoid it with the way we have settled all of the seeds.

So what do we do?

We have to change the seeding somehow.

What do you mean, you say?

We have to change the overall seeding numbers without changing the integrity of the tournament.

No, really what do you mean?

It means that we have to come up with a way to order the teams differently in a non-Prison Break manner. Something that is believable, not a suspension of disbelief.

So, how do we do this?

Let’s take a look at the PairWise again.

1 Boston University
2 Notre Dame
3 Michigan
4 Denver
5 North Dakota
6 Northeastern
7 Yale
8t Vermont
8t New Hampshire
10 Cornell
11t Princeton
11t Minnesota
14t Miami
14t St. Lawrence
16 Ohio State
19t Air Force
– Bemidji State

Now let’s take a look at our problem. Our problem is in the 9-12 band where we have two ECAC schools and two host schools, forcing an ECAC school to play an ECAC host school in Yale.

So we have to fix the 9-12 band somehow.

Do you see it?

How about the tie between Vermont and New Hampshire?

Let’s take a look at this comparison.

Vermont wins the RPI. Vermont is 7-8-3 against TUC, while UNH is 7-9-2. Slight difference there. Vermont wins big against common opponents.

But head-to-head, UNH wins 2-1.

Hmm. What if I broke the tie here based upon the 2-1 head-to-head win for UNH?

It’s not unprecedented. Remember a few years back when Denver and CC were being considered and the higher seed went to Denver based upon the head-to-head meeting, not the overall PairWise system.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

My ranking is now:

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

Now let’s start filling in our bracket based upon this.

No. 1 Boston University goes to the Northeast Regional.
No. 2 Notre Dame goes to the East Regional.
No. 3 Michigan goes to the Midwest Regional.
No. 4 Denver goes to the West Regional.

Now we seed the host schools, Yale and New Hampshire.

No. 7 Yale goes to No. 2 Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 8 New Hampshire goes to No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 5 North Dakota goes to No. 4 Denver’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Northeastern goes to No. 3 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.

Now we seed the host school, Minnesota.

No. 12 Minnesota goes to No. 5 North Dakota’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 9 Vermont goes to No. 8 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Cornell goes to No. 7 Yale’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Princeton goes to No. 6 Northeastern’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.

No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth goes to No. 4 Denver’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Miami goes to No. 3 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 15 Air Force goes to No. 2 Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 16 Bemidji State goes to No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

Our tournament:

Northeast Regional:
Bemidji State vs. Boston University
Vermont vs. New Hampshire

East Regional:
Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Cornell vs. Yale

Midwest Regional:
Miami vs. Michigan
Princeton vs. Northeastern

West Regional:
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Denver
Minnesota vs. North Dakota

Now we look at intra-conference matchups and we have a few.

We switch Vermont and Cornell.

We switch North Dakota and Northeastern.

We switch Minnesota-Duluth and Miami.

Northeast Regional:
Bemidji State vs. Boston University
Cornell vs. New Hampshire

East Regional:
Air Force vs. Notre Dame
Vermont vs. Yale

Midwest Regional:
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Michigan
Princeton vs. North Dakota

West Regional:
Miami vs. Denver
Minnesota vs. Northeastern

And there you have it. A pretty decent tournament all the way around because I made one slight switch to the seedings and avoided a lot of headaches.

And that’s my tournament.

Check the blog this week, we’re going to talk some good stuff over there this week.


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