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College Hockey:
Nine weeks out, and some teams can’t get closer to home

We’re at that time of the year where one thing is on everyone’s minds.

Will my team make the NCAA tournament?

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 at-large teams that make the NCAA tournament.

The criteria are set by the committee. It is set in stone, so there is no objectivity in the selections of which schools are selected to play in the tournament.

The only objectivity comes when deciding the brackets and where each team will play.

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

For the past two years, I have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament, meaning that I have predicted how the NCAA 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 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.

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 — Providence, R.I.; Northeast — Manchester, N.H.; Midwest — Toledo, Ohio; West — Grand Rapids, Mich.).

• 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: Brown in Providence, New Hampshire in Manchester, Bowling Green in Toledo and Michigan in Grand Rapids.

• 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 Jan. 15, 2013):

1t New Hampshire
1t Boston College
1t Quinnipiac
4 Minnesota
5t Boston University
5t Notre Dame
7 North Dakota
8 Denver
9 Yale
10t Miami
10t Western Michigan
12 Dartmouth
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Niagara
15t Minnesota State
15t Colgate

Here are the current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Niagara
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
WCHA: Denver (by virtue of 1-0-1 head-to-head record versus Nebraska-Omaha)

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 how the teams rank in the Ratings Percentage Index and add in any current league leaders that are not currently in the top 16. There are none.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of New Hampshire, Boston College and Quinnipiac at 1, Boston University and Notre Dame at 5, Miami and Western Michigan at 10 and Minnesota State and Colgate at 16.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 New Hampshire
2 Boston College
3 Quinnipiac
4 Minnesota
5 Boston University
6 Notre Dame
7 North Dakota
8 Denver
9 Yale
10 Miami
11 Western Michigan
12 Dartmouth
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Niagara
15 Minnesota State
16 Colgate

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds — New Hampshire, Boston College, Quinnipiac, Minnesota
No. 2 seeds — Boston University, Notre Dame, North Dakota, Denver
No. 3 seeds — Yale, Miami, Western Michigan, Dartmouth
No. 4 seeds — Massachusetts-Lowell, Niagara, Minnesota State, Colgate

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

As a host, we must place New Hampshire first.

No. 1 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 3 Quinnipiac is placed in the Midwest Regional in Toledo.
No. 4 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Grand Rapids.

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 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 Denver is placed in No. 1 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 North Dakota is placed in No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Notre Dame is placed in No. 3 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Boston University is placed in No. 4 Minnesota’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.

No. 9 Yale is placed in No. 8 Denver’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Miami is placed in No. 7 North Dakota’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Western Michigan is placed in No. 6 Notre Dame’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Dartmouth is placed in No. 5 Boston University’s regional, the West Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

No. 16 Colgate is sent to No. 1 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 14 Niagara is sent to No. 3 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell is sent to No. 4 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Minnesota
12 Dartmouth vs. 5 Boston University

Midwest Regional:
14 Niagara vs. 3 Quinnipiac
11 Western Michigan vs. 6 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional:
16 Colgate vs. 1 New Hampshire
9 Yale vs. 8 Denver

East Regional:
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Miami vs. 7 North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have one in Western Michigan vs. Notre Dame.

To avoid this, we switch Western Michigan with Dartmouth.

Our brackets are now:

West Regional:
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Western Michigan vs. 5 Boston University

Midwest Regional:
14 Niagara vs. 3 Quinnipiac
12 Dartmouth vs. 6 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional:
16 Colgate vs. 1 New Hampshire
9 Yale vs. 8 Denver

East Regional:
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Miami vs. 7 North Dakota

We now have a bracket that does not have any intra-conference matchups.

Can we make it better? Attendance is always a concern. Where can we get better attendance?

We want to bring North Dakota back West and Boston University to the East. We would love to get Dartmouth in New Hampshire and Miami in Toledo. Can we accomplish any of this?

An easy one is to swap North Dakota with Boston University. We have now accomplished task one.

West Regional:
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Western Michigan vs. 7 North Dakota

Midwest Regional:
14 Niagara vs. 3 Quinnipiac
12 Dartmouth vs. 6 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional:
16 Colgate vs. 1 New Hampshire
9 Yale vs. 8 Denver

East Regional:
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Miami vs. 5 Boston University

Can we bring Miami west? We can’t put it in Toledo because Notre Dame is there, and that’s a good draw for Toledo. We can’t put it in Grand Rapids because Western Michigan is perfect there. So there’s not much we can do there.

How about bringing Dartmouth to New Hampshire? We can swap Dartmouth with Yale, but that doesn’t really accomplish much and we mess up bracket integrity because of it. And we’re limited because we want to avoid the CCHA-CCHA matchup. Thus, we won’t make any move there.

We can’t bring Massachusetts-Lowell east because that would create a Hockey East-Hockey East matchup. But we can bring Niagara east and send Minnesota State west. Let’s do that.

West Regional:
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Western Michigan vs. 7 North Dakota

Midwest Regional:
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 Quinnipiac
12 Dartmouth vs. 6 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional:
16 Colgate vs. 1 New Hampshire
9 Yale vs. 8 Denver

East Regional:
14 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
10 Miami vs. 5 Boston University

That is about all we can do with this bracket.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

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

This week’s brackets

West Regional (Grand Rapids)
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Western Michigan vs. 7 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo)
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 Quinnipiac
12 Dartmouth vs. 6 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional (Manchester)
16 Colgate vs. 1 New Hampshire
9 Yale vs. 8 Denver

East Regional (Providence)
14 Niagara vs. 2 Boston College
10 Miami vs. 5 Boston University

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 4
WCHA — 4
ECAC Hockey — 4
CCHA — 3
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: New Hampshire, Quinnipiac, Notre Dame, Yale, Dartmouth, Minnesota State, Niagara, Colgate

Out: Cornell, Michigan, Ferris State, Michigan State, Union, Air Force, Maine, Minnesota-Duluth

Attendance woes?

Toledo has three Eastern teams and Notre Dame, but there’s nothing we can really do about that.

Last week’s brackets

(Final brackets from 2012)

West Regional (St. Paul)
14 Western Michigan vs. 4 North Dakota
9 Boston University vs. 8 Minnesota

Midwest Regional (Green Bay)
13 Cornell vs. 2 Michigan
11 Denver vs. 6 Ferris State

East Regional (Bridgeport)
15 Michigan State vs. 3 Union
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Miami

Northeast Regional (Worcester)
16 Air Force vs. 1 Boston College
10 Maine vs. 7 Minnesota-Duluth

Interesting …

It’s nice to see some variety, or maybe it’s called parity? Eight new teams in thus far this year. And then there’s Miami. Why does it seem like the RedHawks come east every year?

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