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College Hockey:
10 weeks out, and Hockey East has a strong presence in the bracket

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 teams that make the NCAA tournament.

The criteria are tweaked every so often — every so often being every year lately — in order to give what the committee believes will be the best tournament.

There were some major changes this year to the selection criteria. In short:

• PairWise comparisons are now done against all teams. There is no cutoff for the amount of teams, so the most PWR comparison wins that a team can have is 58 since there are 59 teams.

• There is now a home and away wins weighting applied to the Ratings Percentage Index. In calculation of the index, wins on the road and losses at home have a weighting factor of 1.2. Wins at home and losses on the road have a weighting factor of 0.8. All neutral-site games have a weighting factor of 1.0. A tie is one-half of a win and one-half of a loss, so home/road ties are treated accordingly for the teams involved.

• There is a quality wins bonus for wins against teams in the top 20 of the RPI. A win against the No. 1 team in the RPI is worth 0.05 points, and is scaled down by 0.0025 points for each place until you reach No. 20, where a bonus of 0.0025 points will be given.

The changes are a little complicated, so it is best to check out our FAQ.

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

I’m the only national prognosticator that has correctly predicted each of the last three brackets for the NCAA tournament, meaning that I have interpreted 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 will wind up come selection time.

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

This is the first installment of our Bracketology, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 23.

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 — Bridgeport, Conn.; 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: Yale in Bridgeport, 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 2014 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. 8:

1 Minnesota
2 Boston College
3 St. Cloud State
4 Ferris State
5t Union
5t Quinnipiac
7t Providence
7t Massachusetts-Lowell
9t Michigan
9t Northeastern
11 Clarkson
12 Cornell
13t New Hampshire
13t Vermont
15 Wisconsin
16 Minnesota State
– Mercyhurst

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Mercyhurst
Big Ten: Michigan
ECAC Hockey: Union
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: St. Cloud State
WCHA: Ferris 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.

Step one

From the committee’s report, choose the 16 teams in the tournament.

We break ties in the PWR by looking at the individual comparisons among the tied teams, and add in any current league leaders that are not currently in the top 16. The only team that is not is Mercyhurst.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of Union and Quinnipiac at 5, Providence and Massachusetts-Lowell at 7, Michigan and Northeastern at 9 and New Hampshire and Vermont at 13.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Minnesota
2 Boston College
3 St. Cloud State
4 Ferris State
5 Union
6 Quinnipiac
7 Providence
8 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Michigan
10 Northeastern
11 Clarkson
12 Cornell
13 New Hampshire
14 Vermont
15 Wisconsin
16 Mercyhurst

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota, Boston College, St. Cloud State, Ferris State

No. 2 seeds: Union, Quinnipiac, Providence, Massachusetts-Lowell

No. 3 seeds: Michigan, Northeastern, Clarkson, Cornell

No. 4 seeds: New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin, Mercyhurst

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

Minnesota, as a host school, is placed first.

No. 1 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 3 St. Cloud State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Ferris State is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.

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 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 1 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 7 Providence is placed in No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 6 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Union is placed in No. 4 Ferris State’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 Michigan is placed in No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Northeastern is placed in No. 7 Providence’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 11 Clarkson is placed in No. 6 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Cornell is placed in No. 5 Union’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 Mercyhurst is sent to No. 1 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Wisconsin is sent to No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Vermont is sent to No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 New Hampshire is sent to No. 4 Ferris State’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Michigan vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Clarkson vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
10 Northeastern vs. 7 Providence

East Regional (Bridgeport):
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Cornell vs. 5 Union

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

We have Clarkson vs. Quinnipiac, Cornell vs. Union and Northeastern vs. Providence.

My first instinct is to swap Union and Providence. That will clear up two of the matchups.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Michigan vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Clarkson vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
10 Northeastern vs. 5 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport):
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

Now, because there are six Hockey East teams in the tournament, the committee could leave that first-round matchup alone. But history has shown that when the committee has an opportunity to avoid a first-round intraconference matchup, even from a conference that has five or more teams in the tournament, it will.

That still leaves us with Clarkson vs. Quinnipiac. It would be easy to just swap Quinnipiac with Massachusetts-Lowell.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Michigan vs. 8 Quinnipiac

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
10 Northeastern vs. 5 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport):
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

It looks pretty good actually.

But what else can we do? That Midwest Regional does not look good for attendance right now. How can we make it better?

The only real solutions are to bring Wisconsin or Michigan into the Midwest Regional. How do we do that? I think we have to swap matchups, i.e., Michigan-Quinnipiac moves to Cincinnati and Clarkson-Massachusetts-Lowell moves to St. Paul.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
10 Northeastern vs. 5 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport):
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

A little better now, although St. Paul may suffer with Minnesota being the only Western draw there.

We can’t bring Wisconsin in there, as that would create an all-Big Ten matchup, and we can’t move Minnesota out of St. Paul. We could move Wisconsin to Cincinnati, but then we create an All-Hockey East matchup somewhere in that band, so that can’t be done.

The only other thing that would be great would be to bring Quinnipiac to Bridgeport. Can we do that? Let’s move Quinnipiac to Bridgeport. That, in turn, means that Cornell has to move out, and the only team left to play Quinnipiac is Northeastern.

Now Cornell can only play Providence, which means Union is the odd team out, and thus, gets moved to Cincinnati.

Our new brackets:

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 5 Union

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
12 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

East Regional (Bridgeport):
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Northeastern vs. 6 Quinnipiac

And that’s about as much maximization I can do to improve attendance at all sites.

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 (St. Paul)
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati)
14 Vermont vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 5 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport)
13 New Hampshire vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Northeastern vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester)
15 Wisconsin vs. 2 Boston College
12 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 6
ECAC Hockey — 4
Big Ten — 3
Atlantic Hockey — 1
NCHC — 1
WCHA — 1

On the move

Compared to last year’s NCAA tournament

In: Ferris State, Providence, Northeastern, Michigan, Cornell, Clarkson, Vermont, Mercyhurst

Out: Yale, Niagara, North Dakota, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, Miami, Canisius, Denver

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati and St. Paul.

Last week’s brackets

The 2013 NCAA tournament

West Regional (Grand Rapids)
15 Yale vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Niagara vs. 8 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo)
13 St. Cloud State vs. 4 Notre Dame
11 Minnesota State vs. 5 Miami

East Regional (Providence)
16 Canisius vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Union vs. 6 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Manchester)
14 Wisconsin vs. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 Denver vs. 7 New Hampshire

Interesting …

It’s real early, so let’s see how this all shakes out. But, when we first started Bracketology last year on Jan. 15, only four of the 16 teams that were in that first bracket didn’t make the final tournament.

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