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College Hockey:
Three weeks out, and it’s a pick-and-choose situation

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.

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. 26, 2013):

1 Quinnipiac
2 Minnesota
3 Miami
4 New Hampshire
5t North Dakota
5t Boston College
7 Minnesota State
8 Niagara
9t Massachusetts-Lowell
9t Western Michigan
11 St. Cloud State
12t Denver
12t Dartmouth
14t Notre Dame
14t Yale
14t Rensselaer
25t Providence

Here are the current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Niagara
CCHA: Miami
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Providence, based upon the first tiebreaker using percentage of head-to-head play: Providence (2-1-2) .600, Boston College (3-2-2) .570, New Hampshire (4-3-2) .550, Massachusetts-Lowell (2-5-0) .280
WCHA: St. Cloud 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 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. We must add in Providence, which at 25 is not in the top 16.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of North Dakota and Boston College at 5, Massachusetts-Lowell and Western Michigan at 9, Denver and Dartmouth at 12 and then Notre Dame, Yale and Rensselaer at 14.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

We must assign New Hampshire, a host team, first.

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

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 Niagara is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Minnesota State is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Boston College is placed in No. 3 Miami’s regional, the Midwest 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.

No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Niagara’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Western Michigan is placed in No. 7 Minnesota State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 6 Boston College’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Denver 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 Providence is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Yale is sent to No. 2 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Notre Dame is sent to No. 3 Miami’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Dartmouth is sent to No. 4 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
15 Yale vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 7 Minnesota State

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
14 Notre Dame vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State vs. 6 Boston College

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

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Niagara

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have Denver vs. North Dakota and Notre Dame vs. Miami.

We swap Notre Dame and Yale to remedy one half of that.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 7 Minnesota State

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State vs. 6 Boston College

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

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Niagara

Now it’s time to take care of the Denver vs. North Dakota matchup. Let’s approach this in a little bit of a different way.

There are two WCHA teams in the second band and two WCHA teams in the third band. So our groupings have to be:

• North Dakota/Minnesota State vs. Massachusetts-Lowell/Western Michigan
• Boston College/Niagara vs. St. Cloud State/Denver

But the questions become where are the matchups and exactly how are they paired?

In the first grouping, you would love to have Western Michigan in Grand Rapids. And you would like to keep Massachusetts-Lowell in the eastern region.

In the second grouping, you would love to have Boston College in Manchester or Providence. And you would like to have Niagara in Toledo.

Taking into account all of the preferred locations, here’s what it looks like for preference.

• Grand Rapids — North Dakota/Minnesota State vs. Western Michigan
• Toledo — Niagara vs. St. Cloud State/Denver
• Manchester — Boston College vs. St. Cloud State/Denver or North Dakota/Minnesota State vs. Massachusetts-Lowell
• Providence — Same as Manchester

Let’s look at it from a bracket point of view.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota/7 Minnesota State

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 8 Niagara

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/5 North Dakota/7 Minnesota State

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/5 North Dakota/7 Minnesota State

Because North Dakota is the top No. 2 seed and because of attendance considerations, we place North Dakota in Grand Rapids.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 8 Niagara

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/7 Minnesota State

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/11 St. Cloud State/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/7 Minnesota State

Let’s take a look at St. Cloud State or Denver in the Midwest. Based on attendance, once again we will put St. Cloud State in Toledo.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State vs. 8 Niagara

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/7 Minnesota State

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell/12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College/7 Minnesota State

Now we are left with the matchups of:

• Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Minnesota State
• Denver vs. Boston College

Where to put them? Attendance won’t make much of a difference as you have good attendance from the other two teams in each regional. So I am going to say the committee goes with bracket integrity here.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State vs. 8 Niagara

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College

East Regional (Providence):
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Minnesota State

And there’s our bracket. It’s another way to get to the end result, but I like it.

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

Grand Rapids
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Toledo
15 Yale vs. 3 Miami
11 St. Cloud State vs. 8 Niagara

Manchester
13 Dartmouth vs. 4 New Hampshire
12 Denver vs. 6 Boston College

Providence
16 Providence vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Minnesota State

Conference breakdowns

WCHA — 5
HEA — 4
CCHA — 3
ECAC — 3
AHA — 1

On The Move

In: Dartmouth, Providence
Out: Boston University, Merrimack

Attendance woes?

I like it.

Last week’s brackets

Grand Rapids
14 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 2 Minnesota
9 St. Cloud State vs. 8 Western Michigan

Toledo
13 Boston University vs. 3 Miami
10 Niagara vs. 6 North Dakota

Manchester
15 Notre Dame vs. 4 New Hampshire
11 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Providence
16 Merrimack vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 7 Minnesota State

Tidbits

• Can Niagara get to 10 TUC results? Yes. Two games against Air Force this weekend could be important. If Air Force can get above .5000 in the RPI, that would get the Purple Eagles to eight games. Then, depending on who moves forward in the Atlantic Hockey tournament, you could see that come into play. In the meantime, Niagara is being boosted by its RPI, thus its high ranking.

• This is an important weekend for Rensselaer, Union and St. Lawrence. As the Saints visit Rensselaer and Union, this could determine who moves up into the top 15 or 16. SLU was at 15 after Friday night but the loss on Saturday brought them right back down. Rensselaer can get off the bubble by continuing to win. Two wins this weekend brings the bye for the Engineers, improves the RPI and gives it one more TUC result. Likewise for Union, which can also improve its situation. And for the Saints, two wins against Rensselaer and Union boosts their chances as well.

• Yale has games against Colgate and Cornell this weekend and must find a way to get back on the right foot. The win over Princeton snapped a five-game skid, so the Bulldogs must keep that up. And Dartmouth has Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend. Two wins would be a great foundation for the Big Green. The quarterfinal weekend in the ECAC tournament will be something to watch as you could have potentially great 3-6 and 4-5 matchups with at-large berths on the line.

• What is going on in Hockey East? Providence will surely find its way after the next two weekends with Boston College and Massachusetts-Lowell on the schedule. The Friars are in win-to-get-in mode right now. Can Boston University get back up into the top 16? It’s not a good time to go slumping. With Vermont and Northeastern left on the schedule, losses will not be kind to the Terriers. Merrimack has a Valley battle with Massachusetts-Lowell coming up this weekend.

• In the CCHA, Alaska’s six losses in the last eight games has dropped it out. The Nanooks need to recover in the playoffs. A loss or two to Alaska-Anchorage this weekend will be very unkind. Notre Dame needs a strong finish, while everyone else besides Miami and Western Michigan must win to get in.

• In the WCHA there are teams fighting to move up, while Nebraska-Omaha and Wisconsin are almost certainly in win-to-get-in mode right now. Denver can help solidify its position with wins at Minnesota this weekend but then can’t slip up against Alaska-Anchorage the following week.

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