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College Hockey:
Bracketology: Finding a better place

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology, college hockey style. It’s our weekly look at how I believe the NCAA tournament will wind up come selection time.

It’s a look into what are the possible thought processes behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament teams.

This is the next installment of our Bracketology for the 2010-11 season, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 20. Make sure to check out our other entries on the 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 — Green Bay, Wis.; West — St. Louis)

• 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 three host institutions this year, Yale in Bridgeport, New Hampshire in Manchester and Michigan Tech in Green Bay. St. Louis’ host is the CCHA, not a specific team.

• Seedings will not be switched, as opposed to years past. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intra-conference 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 five automatic qualifiers and 11 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 is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of Feb. 7, 2011):

1 Yale
2 Boston College
3t Minnesota-Duluth
3t New Hampshire
5t North Dakota
5t Denver
7t Rensselaer
7t Wisconsin
9t Union
9t Merrimack
11t Notre Dame
11t Michigan
13 Western Michigan
14 Nebraska-Omaha
15t Dartmouth
15t Miami
15t Boston University
– Rochester Institute of Technology

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:
Atlantic Hockey: RIT
CCHA: Notre Dame/Michigan (even though Miami leads in points, winning percentage favors Notre Dame/Michigan)
ECAC: Yale
Hockey East: New Hampshire
WCHA: Denver/Minnesota-Duluth

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 amount of games played inside each conference, I will be using winning percentage, not points accumulated, to determine who the current leader in each conference is. 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 team that is not is RIT.

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

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI. The biggest tiebreaker occurs for the last at-large spot, and that is won by Dartmouth, which has the best RPI.

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

1 Yale
2 Boston College
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 New Hampshire
5 North Dakota
6 Denver
7 Rensselaer
8 Wisconsin
9 Union
10 Merrimack
11 Notre Dame
12 Michigan
13 Western Michigan
14 Nebraska-Omaha
15 Dartmouth
16 RIT

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds — Yale, Boston College, Minnesota-Duluth, New Hampshire
No. 2 seeds — North Dakota, Denver, Rensselaer, Wisconsin
No. 3 seeds — Union, Merrimack, Notre Dame, Michigan
No. 4 seeds — Western Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha, Dartmouth, RIT

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Following the guidelines, there are two host teams in this grouping, Yale and New Hampshire, so Yale must be placed in its home regional, the East Regional in Bridgeport and New Hampshire must be placed in Manchester.

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

No. 1 Yale is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 4 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the West Regional in St. Louis.

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.

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 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5.

So therefore:

No. 2 seeds

No. 8 Wisconsin is placed in No. 1 Yale’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Rensselaer is placed in No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 6 Denver is placed in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 5 North Dakota is placed in No. 4 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast 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:

No. 9 Union is placed in No. 8 Wisconsin’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Merrimack is placed in No. 7 Rensselaer’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Notre Dame is placed in No. 6 Denver’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 12 Michigan is placed in No. 5 North Dakota’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

No. 4 seeds

One more time, taking No. 16 vs. No. 1, No. 15 vs. No. 2, etc.

No. 16 RIT is sent to No. 1 Yale’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Dartmouth is sent to No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha is sent to No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Western Michigan is sent to No. 4 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (St. Louis):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
15 Dartmouth vs. 2 Boston College
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 8 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
12 Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have one.

Nebraska-Omaha vs. Minnesota-Duluth. So we have to switch Nebraska-Omaha with Dartmouth or Western Michigan. We switch the Mavericks and the Big Green.

West Regional (St. Louis):
15 Dartmouth vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 8 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
12 Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

What else can we do for bracket integrity or attendance? Is there anything we can do?

There are a few things that we can do, that’s for sure.

I’m not happy with a few brackets. We have Manchester, which has three Western teams. We have Green Bay with three Eastern teams. We have Wisconsin not playing in Wisconsin. We have Nebraska-Omaha not playing close to St. Louis.

It’s time to switch some things around. Let’s make some moves.

First move is to switch the Merrimack-Rensselaer matchup and the Michigan-North Dakota matchup.

West Regional (St. Louis):
15 Dartmouth vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
12 Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 8 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

That looks a little better to me.

I can make a switch which brings Nebraska-Omaha to St. Louis and Minnesota-Duluth to Green Bay.

West Regional (St. Louis):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
15 Dartmouth vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 8 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

We have kept all the matchups in their proper bracket integrity (1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, etc.), but now we look at attendance issues to see if we can improve it by moving teams within the bands to make a better championship atmosphere for the student-athletes and fans.

I’d like to get Wisconsin to Green Bay. I swap Wisconsin with North Dakota.

At the same time though, would it make sense to send North Dakota to St. Louis, and bring Denver to Manchester? I think I can win that argument.

West Regional (St. Louis):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
11 Notre Dame vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
15 Dartmouth vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Michigan vs. 8 Wisconsin

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

Is there anything else?

One more. I did it before, and I’ll do it again. I want to bring Dartmouth, a New Hampshire school, to New Hampshire.

West Regional (St. Louis):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
11 Notre Dame vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
13 Western Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Michigan vs. 8 Wisconsin

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

I like it.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

Let’s look at one more thing. What if Miami, which leads the CCHA in points, but not winning percentage, is the assumed champion?

You substitute Miami for Dartmouth and do everything the same except the last step.

West Regional (St. Louis):
14 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 2 Boston College
11 Notre Dame vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Green Bay):
15 Miami vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Michigan vs. 8 Wisconsin

East Regional (Bridgeport):
16 RIT vs. 1 Yale
9 Union vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 New Hampshire
10 Merrimack vs. 7 Rensselaer

More thoughts and education and plain wit on the blog. We’ll see you here next week for the next Bracketology.


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  • Rarollins2003

    What your swaps accomplish makes little sense to me. If you are going to do that much swapping, it doesn’t make sense to have the top seed, the best #2 seed, and the best #3 seed all in the same regional. If you have to do something like you said for attendance reasons, I’d move RPI-Merrimack to Bridgeport and Denver-Union to Manchester as well as your other moves. You still have #4 UNH vs #5 Denver. #1 Yale gets a #7 instead of a #8 but that is a little fairer than what you propose.

    • Rl0529 (RONL)

      I agree. BC, the number one team in the nation, shouldnt have to match up with North Dakota so soon, while UNH gets a patsie in the second round, RPI from the ECAC..

      • Css228

        RPI a patsie? Lets see you say than when York and Polacek beat UNH

        • Joe

          Yeah, UNH didn’t do too well with their “patsie” RIT last year!

        • RONL

          I apologize, they have good tradition. Oatsie on the B’s for several years was great hockey. My point is UNH, which always takes the pipe in this tournament, gets a seemingly easier ride to the Frozen Four than BC. And yes, RPI will probably beat UNH if they match up, but i’d rather face almost anyone than ND for passage to the Frozen Four..

      • Tonyocch1

        If you saw RPI platy this season you wouldn`t call them a patsie

    • Anonymous

      Denver is a suppose to be the #6 team not the #5 team

  • Cm10tas

    Stop this keeping teams in the East and teams in the West business and worrying about attendance. Fans go to these Regionals to see other teams they never get to see any other time. And stop with this attendance thing in Manchester, Dartmouth does not draw, neither does Merrimack nor RPI. So stop being a homie and keeping all of these ECAC teams in the East!! Bring in Western Michigan so fans in the northeast get to see these good Western teams. That’s what Regionals are for!! Good thing we have another 4 weeks of hockey to change these scenarios.

    • k-man

      They have to worry about attendance. 3 of the 4 regioanls last year had games on TV they more poeple dressed as empty seats than not. It was actually embarrassing watching the games with the less than half filled lower portion of the arenas.

      • Cm10tas

        I can understand that. Then why does the NCAA set up a Regional in the cavernous Scottrade Center in St. Louis? That place holds 21,000+ fans and the St. Louis Billikens no longer have a hockey team like the old days of the CCHA! If attendance is a concern then schedule the Regionals in mid size rinks like the other 3 Regionals. My issue as a ticket paying fan is having the Northeast Regional with games we have seen in HEA & ECAC already this season. No matter what Regional, you need to have some East teams West and vice versa. Keep the Yales, UNH’s, UMD’s, BC’s, UM’s, Sioux in their areas as they will be the strong draw. I’m a UNH tix holder and would still go to the Northeast Regional without the ‘Cats being there just to see good teams from out West coming here to New England. But wouldn’t go if it’s all teams from the East that I already saw earlier in the season.
        Worcester was great last year seeing UAF & the Sioux with BC & Yale being the drawing card @ the DCU Center. UNH vs. Dartmouth again @ the Verizon is not a good thing, nor seeing RPI and Merrimack @ the same venue. We’ll see in 4 weeks, alot will change before now and then.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t disagree with you, Cm10tas, but the alternate way of looking at it is that regionals ought to be, well, regional, if possible. In this way of looking at it, in a perfect world there would be four eastern team in the east regional, for westrn teams in the west regional, etc… and the frozen four would be where the regional champions fought it out. I guess the ship sailed on this concept some time ago, but remember when it used to be in basketball that only the conference champions went to the tournament no matter how many top teams were in, say, the ACC. The idea of having big intersectional games in the preliminary rounds sort of upsets that concept.

          • BigDEli

            It’s just that the NCAA is trying to have it both ways… bracket integrity if it’s convenient, regionals with some teams that draw but not outright east/west regionals, etc. It doesn’t make any sense to me to be this amorphous…either honor bracket integrity fully or just create four #1 seeds, 4 #2′s, etc and then place one from each band according to attendance first and foremost, conference match-ups be damned. Bottom line, make it rigid and take out the human element as much as possible, so as few teams as possible feel like they got hosed by a less-than-trasparent process.

    • JD

      RPI doesnt draw? One of the best traveling fan bases in the east. Especially since its been a while for them. If they stay in the East there will be lots of red in the crowd guaranteed.

      • metro_north

        Exactly. RPI has a good number of alumni in the Fairfield County, CT area as well as NYC. They would travel to a regional in Bridgeport.

    • HockeyNut

      I have a feeling Western Michigan fans are going to be sitting at home looking towards next year come tournament time unless they get an automatic bid. They’re last three series are (@Miami,@Miami), (@Michigan,@Michigan), (vs Notre Dame,@Notre Dame)

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering how UNH is a number one seed. When they have a lower RPI then UND and Denver. To me it looks like the PWR is based on a team’s RPI, and UNH has a RPI of .5645 when UND has a RPI of .5759 and Denver has a RPI of .5728. So it looks odd when you see UMD .5795, UNH .5645, UND .5759, DU .5728, and Rensselaer .5567. That looks like a big gap in the RPI between Denver and Rensselaer. Maybe I’m missing something.

    • HENH10

      Check the PWR points first, before the RPI. RPI is only a percentage of the PWR rankings. Check the Individual Comaparisons to see that. UMD and UNH have 26 points, making them 3 and 4 respectively. UMD has a higher RPI, thus, the #3 seed. UND and DU have 25 points. UND having the better RPI is the #5 seed and DU #6. RPI isn’t even in the running there, with only 21 PWR points, so clearly #7.

  • titan034

    UNH is a 2 seed. BC is the #1 team in the country so they should get the Northeast bracket.
    You seem to “favor” your New Hampshire teams a bit.

    • Anonymous

      The rules are that host institutions are placed first. As hosts, number 1 seeds Yale and UNH are placed before BC. Thus, BC travels west.

  • LtPowers

    Denver fans aren’t going to be happy being sent east two years in a row.

    • Joe

      A flight is a flight. Denver is a twelve-hour drive from the closest regional site (St. Louis). They’re getting on a plane no matter what.

      • Anonymous

        North Dakota could still go out east. The St. Louis regional is 14 hours away from Grand Forks and 13 hours away from Denver. You can count out the Green Bay regional for both, unless UMD get’s a lower seed then DU or UND.

  • Scersk

    With Union/Denver switched with Merrimack/RPI, as discussed above, the virtues of this bracket are clear. Yale (#1 in both PWR and KRACH) would be bracketed with the “worst” 2 seed; Denver, the worst “screwed” 2 seed would be bracketed with UNH, the least legitimate 1 seed (#7 in KRACH); and everyone gets to stay relatively close to home. The only “replay” from the regular season would be UNH v. Dartmouth, which UNH should relish given that they lost that one.

    Two things:

    (1) The USCHO poll numbers mean nothing, so why cite them, titan034? (By the same token, KRACH is meaningless for seeding purposes. But it does give us a good way to assess the “fairness” of the bracket.)

    (2) Western fans have got to stop living in the past. The ECAC has some very good teams this year. They will deserve their seeds; indeed, I will not be surprised to see at least one if not two ECAC teams in Minneapolis this year.

    • Scott

      I’d be surprised to see any teams in Minneapolis as the Frozen Four is being played in St. Paul.

      • http://twitter.com/chrislerch Chris Lerch

        You realize the rest of the world makes no distinction, right? ;)

    • Gbuff60

      Not sure why you think UNH is not a legitimate #1 seed. They are in first place in HE with a 2 point lead over BC and a game in hand and they have beaten BC. They have lost a couple of games out of conference that they should have won on paper, but other than that, they have been solid (only 5 loses overall, BC has lost 6). What I think is more of a question is why does everyone think that BC is the number 1 team in the country???

  • Cyanwinters

    Well, I’ll be happy with the #16 seed if we get to play Yale. Go Tigers!

  • Anonymous

    I would have started out with BC in the St Louis region and UMD in the Green Bay region. From there, I would have switched the RPI/Merrimack and Wisc/Union games and done a three way switch of WMU/Dart/UNO. The bracket would look as follows:

    Bridgeport
    1 Yale v 16 RIT
    7 RPI v 10 Merrimack

    Green Bay
    3 Minn-Duluth v 13 Western Michigan
    8 Wisconsin v 9 Union

    St Louis
    2 Boston College v 14 Neb-Omaha
    6 Denver v 11 Notre Dame

    Manchester
    4 New Hampshire v 15 Dartmouth
    5 North Dakota v 12 Michigan

    • http://www.facebook.com/Dash.driver Brandon G Boetcher

      as the top two seed why do you send UND out east?

      • Anonymous

        Because in a perfect bracket the 4-5-12-13 teams are grouped together.

  • Jay

    Completely agree with this bracket, except I swapped Michigan and Notre Dame because I thought UM would help attendance in St. Louis more.

  • Plante26

    Glad this will all be changing……#3 UMD gets stuck with Miami, Michigan and Wisconsin. Brutally tough regional there.

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