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College Hockey:
One week out, and the RPI cutoff is making it interesting

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 No. 1 seeds in the conference tournaments (through all games of March 12, 2013):

1 Quinnipiac
2 Minnesota
3 Miami
4 Massachusetts-Lowell
5t North Dakota
5t Denver
5t Boston College
8 New Hampshire
9 Minnesota State
10t Western Michigan
10t Yale
10t St. Cloud State
13t Niagara
13t Rensselaer
15 Notre Dame
16t Union
16t Boston University

Here are the top remaining seeds in the conference tournaments:

Atlantic Hockey: Niagara
CCHA: Miami
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Massachusetts-Lowell
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.

• I will be using the top remaining seed of each conference’s tournament as 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 top remaining seeds in the conference tournaments 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 North Dakota, Denver and Boston College at 5, Western Michigan, Yale and St. Cloud State at 10, Niagara and Rensselaer at 13 and Union and Boston University at 16.

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 Massachusetts-Lowell
5 North Dakota
6 Denver
7 Boston College
8 New Hampshire
9 Minnesota State
10 Western Michigan
11 Yale
12 St. Cloud State
13 Niagara
14 Rensselaer
15 Notre Dame
16 Union

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

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.
No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.

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.

But, we must assign New Hampshire, a host team, first.

So therefore:

No. 2 seeds

No. 8 New Hampshire is placed in No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Boston College is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Denver is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 5 North Dakota is placed in No. 3 Miami’s regional, the Midwest 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 Minnesota State is placed in No. 8 New Hampshire’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Western Michigan is placed in No. 7 Boston College’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Yale is placed in No. 6 Denver’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 12 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 5 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

No. 16 Union is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Notre Dame is sent to No. 2 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Rensselaer is sent to No. 3 Miami’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Niagara is sent to No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
11 Yale vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
14 Rensselaer vs. 3 Miami
12 St. Cloud State vs. 5 North Dakota

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Niagara vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

East Regional (Providence):
16 Union vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Western Michigan vs. 7 Boston College

Our first concern is avoiding intra-conference matchups. We have St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota and Union vs. Quinnipiac.

Let’s take care of Union vs. Quinnipiac first. We swap Union with Notre Dame.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
16 Union vs. 2 Minnesota
11 Yale vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
14 Rensselaer vs. 3 Miami
12 St. Cloud State vs. 5 North Dakota

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Niagara vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

East Regional (Providence):
15 Notre Dame vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Western Michigan vs. 7 Boston College

Now we take care of St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota.

We can only swap St. Cloud with Western Michigan.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
16 Union vs. 2 Minnesota
11 Yale vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
14 Rensselaer vs. 3 Miami
10 Western Michigan vs. 5 North Dakota

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Niagara vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

East Regional (Providence):
15 Notre Dame vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Boston College

Let’s now see how to maximize attendance while keeping bracket integrity. Now remember, bracket integrity overall at each regional is thrown out of whack because of New Hampshire having to be placed in Manchester. So we do our best to keep bracket integrity within the 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 matchups. The first round keeps the integrity as much as possible; the second round, we don’t look at so much anymore.

We’ve said it all along, we would like to see Western Michigan in Grand Rapids. We can do that by swapping Yale and Western Michigan without creating an intraconference matchup. In fact, this swap makes bracket integrity in the second and third bands better.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
16 Union vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
14 Rensselaer vs. 3 Miami
11 Yale vs. 5 North Dakota

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Niagara vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

East Regional (Providence):
15 Notre Dame vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Boston College

Any other swaps? Just one more. Niagara and Rensselaer, which makes sense because of geography and possible attendance.

West Regional (Grand Rapids):
16 Union vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 6 Denver

Midwest Regional (Toledo):
13 Niagara vs. 3 Miami
11 Yale vs. 5 North Dakota

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Rensselaer vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

East Regional (Providence):
15 Notre Dame vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Boston College

That looks good to me.

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
16 Union vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Western Michigan vs. 6 Denver

Toledo
13 Niagara vs. 3 Miami
11 Yale vs. 5 North Dakota

Manchester
14 Rensselaer vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Minnesota State vs. 8 New Hampshire

Providence
15 Notre Dame vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Boston College

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Union
Out: Alaska

Attendance woes?

I like it.

Last week’s brackets

Grand Rapids
14 Notre Dame vs. 2 Minnesota
11 Western Michigan vs. 7 North Dakota

Toledo
13 Niagara vs. 3 Miami
12 Yale vs. 8 Minnesota State

Manchester
15 Rensselaer vs. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 St. Cloud State vs. 5 New Hampshire

Providence
16 Alaska vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Denver vs. 6 Boston College

Tidbits

Alabama-Hunstville, Penn State, Sacred Heart, Army, Bentley, American International, Alaska, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Princeton, Clarkson, Colgate, Harvard, Massachusetts and Northeastern, thanks for a great season. We’ll see you next year.

Let’s look at the RPI at the current moment. The .5000 cutoff line is certainly very interesting. Two teams in particular could be of concern to teams that are fighting for the bubble. Those two teams are Merrimack and Colorado College.

Merrimack (.5018) faces Boston University this weekend and to say it’s huge for both teams is an understatement. BU is tied for 16th in the PWR. The Terriers are losing some comparisons based upon RPI. Some of those are a huge hill to climb — e.g. Western Michigan, Yale, Niagara — but there are some within reach of an RPI comparison switch. Rensselaer, Wisconsin and Dartmouth are three of them. So winning games this weekend and then rooting against Rensselaer, Wisconsin and Dartmouth is of utmost importance for Boston University.

But there’s a rub, as there always is.

Two Merrimack losses could possibly knock Merrimack out as a TUC. If that happens, what’s the impact?

BU is 3-0 against Merrimack. Merrimack dropping would have the Terriers lose three TUC wins, bringing BU to 7-9-1 against TUCs. Thus, you see the problem.

Our other team to watch is Colorado College. I mentioned that Colorado College dropping out as a TUC helped Wisconsin on Friday night. Then when the Tigers came back in, it wiped those gains for Wisconsin out. We’re in the same boat once again.

Should CC lose two this weekend at Denver, what happens?

It would help Wisconsin while taking TUC wins away from Massachusetts-Lowell (0-1), Denver (potential 1-4-1), St. Cloud (1-3) and Yale (0-1).

Nebraska-Omaha and Ohio State are also two other teams to watch here in terms of RPI should both teams lose their series in two games.

On the other side of the RPI wall is Connecticut (.4951), Michigan (.4946) and Bowling Green (.4930).

Potential bubble teams that have played Connecticut are Niagara (2-0 versus Connecticut), Union (0-0-1), Air Force (0-2), Minnesota State (1-0) and Robert Morris (1-1). For Connecticut to make it as a TUC, Robert Morris would be eliminated as they play each other. It has potential impact for Niagara as well, as it may bring Niagara to 10 TUC games played.

Michigan has only played bubble teams in Western Michigan and Notre Dame. WMU is 3-1 against Michigan and Notre Dame is 2-2. Should WMU lose to Michigan in the series in two games, that would be 3-3 for WMU, bringing WMU to 10-8-1 against TUCs, and should Michigan move back over .5000.

Bubble teams that have played Bowling Green are Union (1-0 against BG), Niagara (0-1-1) and Western Michigan (2-1-1). Let’s not forget Notre Dame, which is 3-1 against the Falcons. But let’s also not forget that if Bowling Green becomes a TUC, that would mean it would have to beat Notre Dame in the series, which in turn would knock Notre Dame off the bubble and out of the tournament in all likelihood.

And finally, let’s look at matchups between TUCs in the playoffs.

Ferris State vs. Ohio State is one, but the impact is not that great on the overall race. Realistically, these two teams have to win the CCHA tournament to get in.

All four matchups in ECAC Hockey are between TUCs.

• Cornell vs. Quinnipiac. Cornell realistically has to win to get in. A 2-0 win here for Quinnipiac might keep Cornell a TUC. In that case, that would only help solidify Quinnipiac’s No. 1 overall seed.

• Brown vs. Rensselaer. Brown also has to win to get in. A 2-0 series win for Rensselaer might keep Brown a TUC. That only helps Rensselaer’s bid for an at-large should it not win the tournament.

• Dartmouth vs. Union. The loser stays home until next season. A sweep by either team will help, but wins next week for the winner of the series will be the bigger indicator.

• St. Lawrence vs. Yale. SLU will stay a TUC even with a sweep. A Yale sweep solidifies Yale’s at-large bid. SLU most likely needs to win it all.

And here’s a look at the implications from some series in Hockey East and the WCHA:

• New Hampshire vs. Providence. Providence’s TUC record is not strong and realistically Providence needs to win it. A sweep by Providence won’t rule out New Hampshire at all. The RPI is high enough and the TUC line might still be good enough.

• Nebraska-Omaha vs. Minnesota State. A sweep of UNO by Minnesota State while keeping UNO a TUC benefits Minnesota State greatly. UNO dropping as a TUC would hurt Notre Dame (1-0), Wisconsin (2-0) and North Dakota (2-0).

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