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PairWise history tells us what to extrapolate from the rankings at the start of February

Now that the calendar has turned to February, we can again look to another point in the history of the PairWise Rankings and how it might impact the race this season.

Here’s how the PairWise looked as of Jan. 31:

1. Quinnipiac
2. St. Cloud State
3. North Dakota
4. Michigan
5. Harvard
6. Boston College
7. Providence
8. Boston University
9. Omaha
10. Notre Dame
11. Massachusetts-Lowell
12. Denver
13. Yale
14. Rensselaer
– Projected cut line –
15t. Dartmouth
15t. Cornell
17t. Penn State
17t. Minnesota State*
19. Minnesota-Duluth
20. Minnesota
21. Robert Morris*
– Average position for outsider to make tournament –
22t. Michigan Tech
22t. Miami
24. Clarkson
25. Bowling Green
26. Union
27. St. Lawrence
– Lowest any team has ever been ranked and still qualified –
28. Northeastern
29. Holy Cross
30t. Ferris State
30t. Vermont
32. Air Force
33. Northern Michigan
34t. Western Michigan
34t. Bemidji State
36. New Hampshire
37. Ohio State
38. Mercyhurst
39t. RIT
39t. Wisconsin
41t. Merrimack
41t. Alaska-Anchorage
43t. Connecticut
43t. Princeton
45t. Massachusetts
45t. Bentley
47t. Brown
47t. Colgate
49. Maine
50. Colorado College
51t. Lake Superior
51t. Sacred Heart
53t. Alaska
53t. Army
55. Michigan State
56. Canisius
57. Alabama-Huntsville
58. Arizona State
59. American International
60. Niagara

To remind everyone: In the 13 years of the 16-team field, there have been only 23 teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament solely because of the autobid. The other 185 teams qualified because they were ranked high enough in the PairWise.

In those 13 seasons, no team that was ranked No. 1 through No. 4 at the start of February has failed to qualify. In fact, in nine of 13 seasons, the No. 1 overall team has finished No. 1 overall on Selection Sunday. In only two seasons has the No. 1 overall team failed to be a No. 1 regional seed. This is very good news for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats have a virtual lock on the No. 1 overall seed thanks to a sweep of No. 2 St Cloud State back in October. It would take some key losses for the Bobcats to lose the overall No. 1 ranking.

But the good news extends to St. Cloud State and North Dakota as well. Of the 26 teams ranked No. 2 or No. 3, 15 (57.7 percent) remained a No. 1 regional seed. The worst any team has fared is the 2012 UMass-Lowell that which dropped from No. 3 overall to No. 12. Fans in Ann Arbor can also take heart: Nine of the 13 No. 4 teams remained in the 1-4 or 5-8 bands.

2012 was an outlier year:

• New Year’s Day No. 1 Ohio State became the only top seed to miss the tournament.

• All four of the Feb. 1 PairWise top 4 failed to remain as No. 1 regional seeds: No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth fell to No. 7 overall (also the worst performance of any No. 1 team), No. 2 Boston University fell all the way to No. 9 and No. 4 Ferris State to No. 6 overall.

• No. 15 Union and No. 16 North Dakota were not even in the field as of Feb. 1 and ended up being No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

For those in the 5-8 and 9-12 bands, the news is still positive but with some risks. Almost 80 percent of teams in both bands as of Feb. 1 have made the tournament. The highest team to fall from the tournament field was No. 5 Denver in 2007. Fifty-three of the 104 teams ranked 5-12 have remained within that range come March. Only 23 times have they failed to make the tournament.

On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-ranked teams to still qualify for an at-large berth were in 2010, when Northern Michigan (No. 26 on Feb. 1) and Alaska (No. 27) made the tournament. Only 10 teams ranked 20 or worse have qualified, with the average being No. 21. If your team is below that line, you’ll probably need your conference automatic bid to play at the end of March.

Finally, a note about the projected cut line. What the actual cut line will be is yet to be determined. The average has been 14, but with the dissolution of the CHA it has dropped to 15 in recent seasons. This year, with no WCHA or Atlantic Hockey teams in the top 16, the cut line is projected at 14 again. This also takes into consideration that all teams in the top 14 will win their conference autobid. This includes No. 4 Michigan, which is tied with No. 20 Minnesota in the Big Ten standings. We will not know the actual cut line until all conference championships are concluded.

Six weeks out, and an intraconference first-round game can’t be avoided

Notre Dame is one of five Hockey East teams in the second or third band in this week’s Bracketology, which would guarantee a first-round intraconference matchup (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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.

We’ll keep bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 20.

Those of you that are veterans of the college hockey scene know that it is all about the PairWise Rankings. This is USCHO’s numerical approach that simulates the way the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee chooses the teams that make the NCAA tournament.

Since USCHO began the PairWise Rankings, we have correctly identified all of the teams that have been selected to the NCAA tournament.

I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

This is not a be-all, end-all analysis of the bracket. I am trying to give you, the reader, an idea of what the committee might be thinking and not exactly what they are thinking.

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, then click here.

Here are the facts:

• Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

• There are four regional sites (East — Albany, N.Y.; Northeast — Worcester, Mass.; Midwest — Cincinnati; West — St. Paul, Minn.).

• A host institution that 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: Union in Albany, Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul.

• Seedings will not be switched. 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, from the 2016 pre-championship manual:

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 the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are 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. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds.

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Feb. 2:

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Michigan
5 Boston College
6 Providence
7 Harvard
8 Boston University
9 Omaha
10 Notre Dame
11 Massachusetts-Lowell
12 Denver
13 Yale
14 Rensselaer
15t Dartmouth
15t Cornell
17t Minnesota State
20 Minnesota
22t Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota (holds conference wins tiebreaker over Michigan)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota 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.

• Because there are an uneven amount 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 after applying the tiebreakers.

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 Minnesota State, Minnesota and Robert Morris.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion. There are none this week.

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

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Michigan
5 Boston College
6 Providence
7 Harvard
8 Boston University
9 Omaha
10 Notre Dame
11 Massachusetts-Lowell
12 Denver
13 Yale
14 Minnesota State
15 Minnesota
16 Robert Morris

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Michigan

No. 2 seeds: Boston College, Providence, Harvard, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Omaha, Notre Dame, Massachusetts-Lowell, Denver

No. 4 seeds: Yale, Minnesota State, Minnesota, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Quinnipiac is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 2 St. Cloud State is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 North Dakota is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Michigan is placed in the East Regional in Albany.

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 would be 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 Boston University is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Harvard is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Providence is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Boston College is placed in No. 4 Michigan’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Omaha is placed in No. 8 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Harvard’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 6 Providence’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Denver is placed in No. 5 Boston College’s regional, the East Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

Since Minnesota is a host institution, we must place Minnesota in the West Regional.

No. 15 Minnesota is sent to No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Robert Morris is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Minnesota State is sent to No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Yale is sent to No. 4 Michigan’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Harvard

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one this week in Massachusetts-Lowell versus Providence.

But if you take a look at it, you can’t avoid a Hockey East-Hockey East matchup in that banding of teams!

There are three Hockey East teams in the second banding and two in the third banding, which means that you have to have an intraconference matchup somewhere along the line.

How do we determine what is that matchup? Attendance.

Cincinnati needs a little help, so I want to have Notre Dame there. It can boost attendance by a little. Thus, I just switch Notre Dame and Massachusetts-Lowell.

East Regional (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Now let’s look at more attendance aspects.

How can we make attendance better? Honestly, I don’t see anything.

Yes, we can put Michigan in Cincinnati and move North Dakota to Albany, but does that make much of a difference? Not really, and we can maintain some bracket integrity, too.

So that’s about all we can do for this week.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 5
NCHC — 4
ECAC Hockey — 3
Big Ten — 2
WCHA — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: None

Out: None

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati is iffy.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Denver vs. 4 Providence
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs. 7 Boston College

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Boston University vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs 8 Notre Dame

Seven weeks out, and it’s all rather straightforward

Jayson Moy theorizes that moving a Boston College-Yale first-round game from St. Paul to Worcester, and bringing Omaha and Notre Dame west, would help attendance (photo: Melissa Wade).

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.

We’ll keep bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 20.

Those of you that are veterans of the college hockey scene know that it is all about the PairWise Rankings. This is USCHO’s numerical approach that simulates the way the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee chooses the teams that make the NCAA tournament.

Since USCHO began the PairWise Rankings, we have correctly identified all of the teams that have been selected to the NCAA tournament.

I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

This is not a be-all, end-all analysis of the bracket. I am trying to give you, the reader, an idea of what the committee might be thinking and not exactly what they are thinking.

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, then click here.

Here are the facts:

• Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

• There are four regional sites (East — Albany, N.Y.; Northeast — Worcester, Mass.; Midwest — Cincinnati; West — St. Paul, Minn.).

• A host institution that 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: Union in Albany, Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul.

• Seedings will not be switched. 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, from the 2016 pre-championship manual:

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 the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are 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. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds.

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 19:

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Providence
5 Harvard
6 Michigan
7 Boston College
8 Notre Dame
9 Omaha
10 Yale
11 Boston University
12 Massachusetts-Lowell
13 Denver
14 Cornell
15t Minnesota
15t Penn State
21t Minnesota State
23t Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Notre Dame
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota 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.

• Because there are an uneven amount 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 after applying the tiebreakers.

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 Minnesota State and Robert Morris.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion, but there are none among those in the field.

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

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Providence
5 Harvard
6 Michigan
7 Boston College
8 Notre Dame
9 Omaha
10 Yale
11 Boston University
12 Massachusetts-Lowell
13 Denver
14 Minnesota
15 Minnesota State
16 Robert Morris

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Providence

No. 2 seeds: Harvard. Michigan, Boston College, Notre Dame

No. 3 seeds: Omaha, Yale, Boston University, Massachusetts-Lowell

No. 4 seeds: Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota State, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Quinnipiac is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 2 St. Cloud State is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 North Dakota is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Providence is placed in the East Regional in Albany.

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 would be 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 Notre Dame is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Boston College is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Michigan is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Harvard is placed in No. 4 Providence’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Omaha is placed in No. 8 Notre Dame’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Yale is placed in No. 7 Boston College’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Boston University is placed in No. 6 Michigan’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 5 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

Since Minnesota is a host institution, we must place Minnesota in the West Regional.

No. 14 Minnesota is sent to No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Robert Morris is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Denver is sent to No. 4 Providence’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Denver vs. 4 Providence
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Notre Dame

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Boston University vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Yale vs. 7 Boston College

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have none this week.

We now head to our favorite topic — attendance.

Don’t kid yourselves, folks: Attendance is a huge part of where teams go.

How can we make attendance better?

I see at least one thing we can do. We swap the Yale-Boston College game and the Omaha-Notre Dame game to bring those teams closer to their regions.

East Regional (Albany):
13 Denver vs. 4 Providence
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs. 7 Boston College

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Boston University vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs 8 Notre Dame

Is there anything else we can do? I would love to have both Michigan and Notre Dame in Cincinnati, but that can’t happen because they’re both No. 2 seeds.

So that’s about all we can do for this week.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Denver vs. 4 Providence
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs. 7 Boston College

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Boston University vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs 8 Notre Dame

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 5
NCHC — 4
ECAC Hockey — 3
Big Ten — 2
WCHA — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: Denver, Minnesota

Out: Cornell, Penn State

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati is iffy.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

Eight weeks out, and attendance dictates some movement

A Notre Dame-Michigan first-round matchup could attract more fans in Cincinnati than St. Paul (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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.

We’ll keep bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 20.

Those of you that are veterans of the college hockey scene know that it is all about the PairWise Rankings. This is USCHO’s numerical approach that simulates the way the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee chooses the teams that make the NCAA tournament.

Since USCHO began the PairWise Rankings, we have correctly identified all of the teams that have been selected to the NCAA tournament.

I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

This is not a be-all, end-all analysis of the bracket. I am trying to give you, the reader, an idea of what the committee might be thinking and not exactly what they are thinking.

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, then click here.

Here are the facts:

• Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

• There are four regional sites (East — Albany, N.Y.; Northeast — Worcester, Mass.; Midwest — Cincinnati; West — St. Paul, Minn.).

• A host institution that 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: Union in Albany (This was confirmed this week, as ECAC Hockey was the host but had to choose either Union or Rensselaer to host), Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul.

• Seedings will not be switched. 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, from the 2016 pre-championship manual:

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 the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are 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. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds.

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 19:

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Providence
5 Omaha
6 Harvard
7 Michigan
8 Cornell
9 Boston College
10 Notre Dame
11 Yale
12 Boston University
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Penn State
16t Minnesota
16t Minnesota-Duluth
19t Minnesota State
23t Holy Cross

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Holy Cross
Big Ten: Penn State
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Notre Dame
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota 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.

• Because there are an uneven amount 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 after applying the tiebreakers.

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 Minnesota State and Holy Cross.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion, but there are none that factor in this week.

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

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Providence
5 Omaha
6 Harvard
7 Michigan
8 Cornell
9 Boston College
10 Notre Dame
11 Yale
12 Boston University
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Penn State
15 Minnesota State
16 Holy Cross

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Providence

No. 2 seeds: Omaha, Harvard, Michigan, Cornell

No. 3 seeds: Boston College, Notre Dame, Yale, Boston University

No. 4 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Penn State, Minnesota State, Holy Cross

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Quinnipiac is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 2 St. Cloud State is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 North Dakota is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Providence is placed in the East Regional in Albany.

Last week, I started with Quinnipiac going to Albany. This week, I have them going to Worcester for a number of reasons. Proximity is first; last week was a “What If?” The other reason is that if we jump ahead to the 16 seed, it is Holy Cross, which has to be in Worcester. And the No. 1 seed should get the No. 16 seed in the first round unless there is a lot going on with the bracket. Therefore, this week, we have Quinnipiac in Worcester.

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 would be 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 Cornell is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Michigan is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Harvard is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Omaha is placed in No. 4 Providence’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Boston College is placed in No. 8 Cornell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Michigan’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Yale is placed in No. 6 Harvard’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Boston University is placed in No. 5 Omaha’s regional, the East Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

Since Holy Cross is a host institution, it must be placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

No. 16 Holy Cross is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Penn State is sent to No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell is sent to No. 4 Providence’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Penn State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 6 Harvard

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two, so let’s solve them.

We have Yale vs. Harvard and Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Providence.

Let’s look at Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Providence. We can switch Lowell with either Penn State or Minnesota State.

Now, it has to be Penn State, right? Because why would you take Minnesota State out of Minnesota for attendance purposes? Logic says to keep the Mavericks in St. Paul.

So we swap Lowell with Penn State.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 6 Harvard

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

Now we look at Yale and Harvard.

If we move Yale, we can swap with either Boston University or Boston College.

But do we want to do that? How about switching out Harvard with Omaha instead?

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

Now we’re looking OK.

Now let’s look at attendance.

Don’t kid yourselves, folks: Attendance is a huge part of where teams go.

How can we make attendance better? I can see movement on all fronts.

What do I mean by that? Wouldn’t you think Notre Dame vs. Michigan would draw better in Cincinnati than in St. Paul?

Wouldn’t you think Boston University vs. Harvard would draw better in Worcester than in Albany?

That’s the kind of thinking that will happen.

So let’s do it. We’ll move matchups to different locations.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

Cincinnati could be hurting a bit on the attendance front, but it is sure better now than it was with the previous matchups.

I think this is about all we can do this week.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

But remember: There are so many changes between now and the actual bracket announcement.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 5
ECAC Hockey — 4
NCHC — 3
Big Ten — 2
WCHA — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: Penn State

Out: Denver

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati could be iffy.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
10 Boston College vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
11 Notre Dame vs. 7 Omaha

Who’s the host team at the East Regional in Albany?

If you’ve followed Bracketology for a while, you probably know that a team that hosts a regional has to be placed there if it’s selected for the NCAA tournament.

But what if there are multiple hosts? That has come into play this season.

The 2016 NCAA East Regional at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., is being hosted by ECAC Hockey, Union and Rensselaer. Only one of the teams, however, can be designated as the host for selection purposes.

ECAC Hockey had to make the call for this situation, and it gave the nod to Union.

Assistant commissioner Ed Krajewski said it was Union’s turn to be the primary host at an Albany regional, which means it takes the lead on staffing the event.

So in the event that both Union and Rensselaer make the field of 16 (an unlikely scenario at the moment, but you never know) and are on the same seeding band, Union will get to stay in Albany and Rensselaer will have to go elsewhere.

Nine weeks out, and we’re just getting started

Harvard is the last of the No. 1 seeds as the PairWise Rankings stand nine weeks away from Selection Sunday (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

We’re at that time of the year where one thing is on everyone’s minds: Will my team make the NCAA tournament? Where does it sit in the PairWise Rankings?

Those of you who are veterans of the college hockey scene know that it is all about the PairWise Rankings. This is USCHO’s numerical approach that simulates the way the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee chooses the teams that make the NCAA tournament.

Since USCHO began the PairWise Rankings, we have correctly identified all of the teams that have been selected to the NCAA tournament.

I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

With that in mind, 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 might look like come selection time, using what we know now.

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

This is not a be-all, end-all analysis of the bracket. I am trying to give you, the reader, an idea of what the committee might be thinking and not exactly what they are thinking.

This is the first installment of Bracketology for 2016, 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.

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, then click here.

Here are the facts:

• Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

• There are four regional sites (East — Albany, N.Y.; Northeast — Worcester, Mass.; Midwest — Cincinnati; West — St. Paul, Minn.).

• A host institution that 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: Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul (Albany is hosted by ECAC Hockey, not by Rensselaer or Union).

• Seedings will not be switched. 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, from the 2016 pre-championship manual:

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 the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are 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. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds.

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings, and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 12:

1 Quinnipiac
2 North Dakota
3 St. Cloud State
4 Harvard
5 Cornell
6 Providence
7 Omaha
8 Michigan
9 Boston University
10 Boston College
11 Notre Dame
12 Yale
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Penn State
16 Minnesota-Duluth
17t Rensselaer
17t Minnesota State
21 Holy Cross

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Holy Cross
Big Ten: Michigan (greater number of conference wins)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota 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.

• Because there are an uneven amount 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 after applying the tiebreakers.

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 Minnesota State and Holy Cross.

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, but there are none this week.

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

1 Quinnipiac
2 North Dakota
3 St. Cloud State
4 Harvard
5 Cornell
6 Providence
7 Omaha
8 Michigan
9 Boston University
10 Boston College
11 Notre Dame
12 Yale
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Minnesota State
16 Holy Cross

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Quinnipiac, North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Harvard

No. 2 seeds: Cornell, Providence, Omaha, Michigan

No. 3 seeds: Boston University, Boston College, Notre Dame, Yale

No. 4 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Denver, Minnesota State, Holy Cross

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Quinnipiac is placed in the East Regional in Albany.
No. 2 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 St. Cloud State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Harvard is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

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 would be 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 Michigan is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Omaha is placed in No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Providence is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Cornell is placed in No. 4 Harvard’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Boston University is placed in No. 8 Michigan’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Boston College is placed in No. 7 Omaha’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Notre Dame is placed in No. 6 Providence’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Yale is placed in No. 5 Cornell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

Since Holy Cross is a host institution, it must be placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

No. 16 Holy Cross is sent to No. 4 Harvard’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 14 Denver is sent to No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell is sent to No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Michigan vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 4 Harvard
12 Yale vs. 5 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have a few, so let’s solve them.

We have Yale vs. Cornell, Notre Dame vs. Providence and Denver vs. North Dakota.

Let’s solve these.

The first thing we do is swap Cornell and Boston University.

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 4 Harvard
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now we have to solve Denver vs. North Dakota.

Let’s take a closer look at the 1-4 bracketing here.

Because we had to put Holy Cross in Worcester, we have an interesting item here. We aren’t protecting the No. 1 seed, which is Quinnipiac.

So let’s solve this by swapping Quinnipiac and Harvard.

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 4 Harvard
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now how to solve the rest of this? We can try to move Massachusetts-Lowell back East, but that doesn’t work because you create another matchup between two NCHC teams.

Thus, Denver has to go to Albany and Minnesota State comes to St. Paul.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now we have to solve Notre Dame-Providence.

The easy one here is to swap Notre Dame, Michigan and Boston College around.

Michigan has to come to Cincinnati unless we move Providence. But the 3-6 potential matchup is what the NCAA likes, thus we keep that intact and move Michigan to Cincinnati.

We now take geography into account, and thus, Boston College goes to Albany and Notre Dame to St. Paul.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
10 Boston College vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
11 Notre Dame vs. 7 Omaha

I think this is about all we can do this week.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

But remember: There are so many changes between now and the actual bracket announcement.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
10 Boston College vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
11 Notre Dame vs. 7 Nebraska-Omaha

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 5
ECAC Hockey — 4
NCHC — 4
WCHA — 1
Big Ten — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

A year ago

What did the first Bracketology last year look like at the beginning of January?

Let’s take a look.

The brackets I predicted as of Jan. 6, 2015:

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

And the actual bracket from last year (Editor’s note: An earlier version showed last year’s predicted bracket in this space, not the actual bracket. It has been revised below to show the actual bracket):

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 RIT vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Harvard vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 North Dakota
12 St. Cloud vs. 7 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Yale vs. 3 Boston University
10 Minnesota vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

East Regional (Providence):
15 Providence vs. 4 Miami
11 Boston College vs. 5 Denver

Who was in and who was out from the first Bracketology to the actual bracket?

Out: Robert Morris, Penn State, Vermont, Massachusetts-Lowell, Bowling Green

In: RIT, Yale, Boston College, Denver, St. Cloud State

We can’t really count Robert Morris/RIT because it was the only autobid from Atlantic Hockey. And Penn State was in the initial one because it was leading the Big Ten at that moment.

So things do change a lot.

Historically, the PairWise on Jan. 1 has been a good predictor of the NCAA tournament field

At No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings at the start of the new year, Quinnipiac has a solid hold on an NCAA tournament spot (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

People who have followed this thread in the Fan Forum for the past few years know the PairWise Rankings as of Jan. 1 are a solid indicator of the teams that qualify for the NCAA tournament in March.

Thanks to the (now-defunct) Build Your Own Rankings Calculator, we now have 13 years of PairWise data to study. In that time, there have been 23 teams that qualified thanks to the automatic bid from their conference postseason championship and 185 that qualified by being ranked high enough (autobid or not) to make the NCAA tournament.

Of the 185 teams, 133 (71.9 percent) that qualified as of the Jan. 1 PairWise have made the eventual field. For teams ranked in the top eight, that percentage gets better.

• Teams ranked first through fourth in the Jan. 1 PairWise made the tournament 46 of 52 times (88 percent).

• Those ranked fifth through eighth made it 39 of 52 times (75 percent).

• For teams in spots nine through 12 in the Jan. 1 PairWise, 30 of 52 (58 percent) made the field.

In 2011, all of the top 12 teams in the Jan. 1 table qualified. Ohio State in 2012 is the only No. 1 PairWise team at the start of the new year to fall all the way out of the tournament.

If your team isn’t in the top 25, take heart. In six of the last nine years, teams that were not in the top 25 of the PairWise (or RPI) on Jan. 1 earned at-large berths in the tournament. Three years ago, Wisconsin was ranked 42nd in the RPI (unranked by PairWise) and rose to the No. 14 overall seed. Four years ago, Union was ranked 25th and came all the way back to win the ECAC Hockey tournament, get a No. 1 regional seed and advance to the Frozen Four. Last year, St. Cloud State was 26th on Jan. 1 and became the lowest team to earn an at-large berth.

In the 13 years of data, 41 teams fell out of an NCAA tournament spot after being ranked in the top 12 of the New Year’s PairWise. Colorado College (2004) and Dartmouth (2013) have the distinction of not only falling out of the tournament four times but of being No. 1 seeds on Jan. 1 that didn’t make the tournament.

So let’s look at this season. Because New Year’s Day was on a Friday and there were games all weekend, we’re using the PairWise including games on Jan. 3.

Statistically, all of the top four teams should already be in the NCAA field of 16, and a spot is likely for three of the next four and two of the 9-12 band. There’s space for teams on the outside of the bubble to play their way into the field, and the best candidates rely on having a strong schedule down the stretch. For Wisconsin’s Cinderella season in 2013, the Badgers played a whopping 12 regular season games against teams in the top 14 of the Jan. 1 PairWise. This sets up well for Boston College and Union, who both have eight games remaining against those quality opponents.

There would be some symbolism for Denver or Dartmouth to reverse earlier fortunes and play their way into the tournament for a change. However, these games aren’t played on paper and the second half produces some interesting results.

1. Quinnipiac
2. Harvard
3. Omaha
4. St. Cloud State
5. North Dakota
6. Providence
7. Cornell
8. Michigan
9. St. Lawrence
10. Yale
11. Penn State
12t. Boston University
12t. Notre Dame
14. Massachusetts-Lowell

—- Cut line —-

15t. Rensselaer
15t. Boston College
17. Minnesota State*
18. Union
19. Minnesota
20. Denver
21. Dartmouth
22. Bowling Green
23. Holy Cross*
24. Robert Morris
25. Minnesota-Duluth

—- Teams above this line realistically alive for at-large berth —-

26t. Western Michigan
26t. Michigan Tech
28. Miami
29t. New Hampshire
29t. Alaska-Anchorage
31t. Clarkson
31t. Massachusetts
31t. Merrimack
34. Wisconsin
35. Ferris State
36. Northern Michigan
37. Vermont
38. Brown
39. Princeton
40t. Bentley
40t. Bemidji State
42. Air Force

—- Lowest any team has been ranked to earn a berth —-

43. Ohio State
44. Mercyhurst
45. Lake Superior
46t. Connecticut
46t. Colgate
48t. Rochester Institute of Technology
48t. Northeastern
50. Sacred Heart
51. Alaska
52t. Maine
52t. Arizona State
54t. Michigan State
54t. Army
56. Canisius
57. Colorado College
58. Alabama-Huntsville
59. American International
60. Niagara

The cut line is usually at 14, but it has moved between 13 and 15 depending on where teams that receive automatic bids are ranked. For this scenario, automatic bids are determined by PairWise Ranking, not conference standings.

Jayson Moy will be resuming his regular Bracketology soon, but until then, here’s a look at how things shape up this week.

A few of the rules to help clarify things (also see USCHO’s FAQ on the NCAA selection process):

1. All teams that qualify for at-large berths must have a .500 record or better (the so-called Wisconsin rule because the criteria was added the year after the Badgers made the 2008 tournament with a losing record) to receive an invitation to the tournament.

2. Host teams MUST be placed in the regional they are hosting.

3. No. 1 seeds are placed in the closest regional (except when noted below).

4. There are no intraconference games allowed in the first round (like Harvard-Yale) UNLESS there are five or more teams from that conference in the tournament. Given the history, the NCAA tries to avoid all intraconference first-round matchups if possible, regardless of how many teams from one conference there are.

5. The NCAA has a rule that any team that is not 400 miles from the regional location must fly to said regional. They have a Wernher von Braun approach to flights: “Once the planes go up, who cares where they come down?” In NCAA parlance, a flight is a flight (if anyone successfully negotiates this with an airline, please let me know!) For schools like Denver and Omaha, that means they can go to any regional.

6. Teams are banded 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16. Teams can be placed anywhere within the band but cannot under any circumstance switch bands. If Harvard finishes eighth in the PairWise, it cannot be a No. 3 seed. However, the NCAA would prefer to follow the 1-16/8-9 serpentine pairing as much as possible.

7. All Bracketology pretends the season ends TODAY. It is not an estimation of where teams will end up. My Bracketology is also an approximation of what I think the committee would do — not necessarily what I would do.

8. There are no right answers. We are all guessing. We don’t know exactly what the committee will do until Selection Sunday, which is March 20.

Northeast Regional — Worcester, Mass.: No. 1 Quinnipiac vs. Holy Cross, Michigan vs. St. Lawrence

East Regional — Albany, N.Y.: No. 2 Harvard vs. Minnesota State, Cornell vs. Penn State

Midwest Regional — Cincinnati: No. 3 Omaha vs. Notre Dame, Providence vs. Yale

West Regional — St. Paul, Minn.: No. 4 St. Cloud State vs. UMass-Lowell, North Dakota vs. Boston University

A reaction to the committee’s bracketing decisions for the NCAA tournament

A couple quick thoughts after seeing how the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee set the brackets for the 2015 tournament:

My two main points from the final Bracketology we posted early Sunday went the opposite of what I thought.

• The committee did move Providence back to Providence, despite what I thought. This must have been one of the prevailing thoughts in moving them to Providence. It seemed as if they decided that Providence should be in Providence, and the lowest remaining seed would play North Dakota, which in this case is Quinnipiac. And by default, Yale plays Boston University.

• The committee did separate BU and Boston College. I thought it would not. But I still am not quite sure about why Minnesota and Harvard were not swapped. Was it bracket integrity? An interesting move there.

The rest falls into line pretty easily after that.

Our Jim Connelly talked to members of the committee and has a reaction piece here.

Here’s our final prediction for the 2015 NCAA tournament brackets

Minnesota State will be the No. 1 overall seed for the 2015 NCAA tournament (photo: Jim Rosvold).

It’s time for the final Bracketology of the season. Here, I will predict how I think the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee will think and what the bracket will look like when it is announced (noon EDT Sunday, ESPN).

First, here is my predicted bracket and then I’ll explain how I got there afterwards:

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Rochester Institute of Technology vs. 1 Minnesota State
10 Minnesota vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Providence vs. 2 North Dakota
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Boston College vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
9 Harvard vs. 5 Denver

Here is the top 16 of the final PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the other autobids that are not in the top 16:

1 Minnesota State
2 North Dakota
3 Boston University
4 Miami
5 Denver
6 Minnesota-Duluth
7 Michigan Tech
8 Omaha
9 Harvard
10 Minnesota
11 Boston College
12 St. Cloud State
13 Yale
14t Quinnipiac
14t Providence
16 Bowling Green
38 RIT

Autobids:

Atlantic Hockey: RIT
Big Ten: Minnesota
ECAC Hockey: Harvard
Hockey East: Boston University
NCHC: Miami
WCHA: Minnesota State

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 highest seeds left 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.

The ties and bubbles consist of Quinnipiac and Providence at 14.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Minnesota State
2 North Dakota
3 Boston University
4 Miami
5 Denver
6 Minnesota-Duluth
7 Michigan Tech
8 Omaha
9 Harvard
10 Minnesota
11 Boston College
12 St. Cloud State
13 Yale
14 Quinnipiac
15 Providence
16 RIT

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, North Dakota, Boston University, Miami

No. 2 seeds: Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Omaha

No. 3 seeds: Harvard, Minnesota, Boston College, St. Cloud State

No. 4 seeds: Yale, Quinnipiac, Providence, RIT

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

North Dakota, as a host institution, is placed first.

No. 2 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in Fargo.
No. 1 Minnesota State is placed in the Midwest Regional in South Bend.
No. 3 Boston University is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 4 Miami is placed in the East Regional in Providence.

Step four

Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intra-conference first-round 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 would be 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 Omaha is placed in No. 1 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 7 Michigan Tech is placed in No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in No. 3 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 5 Denver is placed in No. 4 Miami’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Harvard is placed in No. 8 Omaha’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 10 Minnesota is placed in No. 7 Michigan Tech’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Boston College is placed in No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 12 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 5 Denver’s regional, the East 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 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 15 Providence is sent to No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Quinnipiac is sent to No. 3 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 13 Yale is sent to No. 4 Miami’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
12 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Boston College vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 RIT vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Harvard vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Providence vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Michigan Tech

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one in St. Cloud State vs. Denver.

The NCHC has six teams in the tournament, so by the book, the committee can allow for a first-round matchup between those teams. But we’ve seen in the past that if the committee can avoid that happening, it will.

So we have to swap St. Cloud State. The only matchup that can be done here is for St. Cloud to play Michigan Tech to avoid the NCHC-NCHC matchup.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
10 Minnesota vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Boston College vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 RIT vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Harvard vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Providence vs. 2 North Dakota
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Michigan Tech

What work is left to be done? Just moving some things around for travel and attendance.

I will swap Harvard with Minnesota to bring the Eastern team back East.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
9 Harvard vs. 5 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Boston College vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 RIT vs. 1 Minnesota State
10 Minnesota vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Providence vs. 2 North Dakota
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Michigan Tech

Now some big questions arise here.

• Do we move Providence back to Providence? That means switching out Yale. Moving a higher seed away from a closer geography does not seem too fair. I’ve been saying all season long that I can move Providence back East as long as it is a higher seed than another Eastern team. Here, that’s not the case. So I leave Providence in Fargo.

• How about the fact that Boston College and Boston University are in the same regional? I think it’s a non-factor. They didn’t meet in the postseason this year. And it’s bracket integrity. I elect to keep that matchup.

So that’s it, the bracket.

The conference breakdown:

NCHC — 6
ECAC Hockey — 3
Hockey East — 3
WCHA — 2
Big Ten — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

We’ll see how the committee does it on Sunday.

The field of 16 is set; now we work on the brackets

All the games are in, and here are the 16 teams that the PairWise Rankings show will be in the 2015 NCAA tournament, grouped by seeding:

1. Minnesota State
2. North Dakota
3. Boston University
4. Miami

5. Denver
6. Minnesota-Duluth
7. Michigan Tech
8. Omaha

9. Harvard
10. Minnesota
11. Boston College
12. St. Cloud State

13. Yale
14. Quinnipiac
15. Providence
16. Rochester Institute of Technology

Jayson Moy is working on his final Bracketology prediction before the selection show (noon EDT Sunday, ESPNU), and we’ll have that when it’s ready.

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