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College Hockey:
Seven weeks out, and there’s a path to a good bracket for geography

2014012420 42 44125 Seven weeks out, and theres a path to a good bracket for geography

Brooks Bertsch and St. Cloud State could be headed back to the Xcel Energy Center, where they split games last weekend at the North Star College Cup (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.

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.

For the past three years, I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

This is the next 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 intra-conference 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. 28:

1 Minnesota
2 Boston College
3 Quinnipiac
4t Union
4t Ferris State
6 St. Cloud State
7t Providence
7t Northeastern
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10t Michigan
10t Cornell
12 Notre Dame
13 Wisconsin
14t Minnesota-Duluth
14t Colgate
16 Clarkson
– Mercyhurst

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Mercyhurst
Big Ten: Minnesota
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 Ferris State at 4, Providence and Northeastern at 7, Michigan and Cornell at 10, and Minnesota-Duluth and Colgate 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
2 Boston College
3 Quinnipiac
4 Union
5 Ferris State
6 St. Cloud State
7 Providence
8 Northeastern
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 Michigan
11 Cornell
12 Notre Dame
13 Wisconsin
14 Minnesota-Duluth
15 Colgate
16 Mercyhurst

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota, Boston College, Quinnipiac, Union

No. 2 seeds: Ferris State, St Cloud State, Providence, Northeastern

No. 3 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Michigan, Cornell, Notre Dame

No. 4 seeds: Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, Colgate, 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 Quinnipiac is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 4 Union is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

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 Northeastern 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 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 3 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 5 Ferris State is placed in No. 4 Union’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Northeastern’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 7 Providence’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 11 Cornell is placed in No. 6 St. Cloud State’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 12 Notre Dame is placed in No. 5 Ferris State’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 Mercyhurst is sent to No. 1 Minnesota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Colgate is sent to No. 2 Boston College’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth is sent to No. 3 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 13 Wisconsin is sent to No. 4 Union’s regional, the Midwest Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

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

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
10 Michigan vs. 7 Providence

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Quinnipiac
11 Cornell vs. 6 St. Cloud State

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have only one in Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Northeastern.

What is the best way to handle this one? We can swap Massachusetts-Lowell with either Notre Dame or Cornell. But what if we moved some stuff around?

Michigan to St. Paul, Massachusetts-Lowell to Bridgeport and Cornell to Worcester: How about that?

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 8 Northeastern

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
11 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Quinnipiac
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 St. Cloud State

OK, that is now done.

Let’s examine the bracket and see if there are any things that we would like to change.

I would love to get St. Cloud State to St. Paul. I think that’s a no-brainer of an idea. But how to accomplish that?

There’s no way of doing that without moving Lowell back West. What matchup makes more sense in St. Paul?

I think I want St. Cloud State in Minnesota.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
11 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Quinnipiac
10 Michigan vs. 8 Northeastern

What else? How about swapping one matchup for a little bit of a geography boost for some teams.

Let’s match Cornell vs. Providence and Michigan vs. Northeastern.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
10 Michigan vs. 8 Northeastern

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Quinnipiac
11 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

I think that does it for me. it looks as good as I can make it.

So that is it.

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
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
10 Michigan vs. 8 Northeastern

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Quinnipiac
11 Cornell vs. 7 Providence

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Minnesota-Duluth, Colgate

Out: Clarkson, Yale

Attendance woes?

None.

Last week’s brackets

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

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati)
15 Michigan vs. 4 Union
11 Notre Dame vs. 5 Ferris State

East Regional (Bridgeport)
14 Yale vs. 3 Quinnipiac
12 Clarkson vs. 6 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester)
13 Cornell vs. 2 Boston College
10 Wisconsin vs. 7 Northeastern

Interesting …

It’s almost a real nice geographic bracket. We’ll see what the coming weeks provide us.

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