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College Hockey:
Five weeks out, and a lot of moves make for good story lines

2014012520 43 4018 Five weeks out, and a lot of moves make for good story lines

Kyle Rau and Minnesota tied Austin Farley and Minnesota-Duluth 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 Feb. 11:

1 Boston College
2 Minnesota
3t Union
3t Ferris State
5 Quinnipiac
6 Massachusetts-Lowell
7 Wisconsin
8 St. Cloud State
9 Cornell
10t Michigan
10t Northeastern
12 Vermont
13 Minnesota-Duluth
14 Colgate
15 Providence
16t Maine
16t Yale
– 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 3, and Michigan and Northeastern at 10.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Boston College, Minnesota, Union, Ferris State

No. 2 seeds: Quinnipiac, Massachusetts-Lowell, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State

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

No. 4 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Colgate, Providence, Mercyhurst

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

Minnesota, as a host school, is placed first.

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Providence vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Vermont vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 8 St. Cloud State

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Colgate vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have a few in Michigan vs. Wisconsin, Colgate vs. Union and Northeastern vs. Massachusetts-Lowell.

We have to break those up. Let’s take the Colgate vs. Union matchup first and it seems pretty simple: We just swap Colgate and Providence.

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Vermont vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 8 St. Cloud State

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

Now we look at Northeastern and Lowell. We could swap Northeastern with Cornell. But why don’t we swap St. Cloud with Lowell instead?

You give a higher seed a better geographic draw in this case, so I sort of like it a little better.

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Vermont vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Now I have to break up Michigan and Wisconsin.

We swap Michigan and Vermont. Simple.

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Michigan vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 8 St. Cloud State

So that’s it, right? We have our bracket.

Well, let’s see where we can fine-tune some things.

For example, how about we look at attendance? (Yes, I know this always happens, but follow along.)

If we have the opportunity to bring St. Cloud State to the West and Quinnipiac to the East, why don’t we do it? We swap.

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Michigan vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Anything else?

Well, we have two Minnesota teams in Cincinnati and only one in St. Paul. So should we try to get one of the those teams to St. Paul? Either St. Cloud State or Minnesota-Duluth?

If you want to bring St. Cloud State to St. Paul, that means you also bring Michigan to St. Paul, because Michigan can’t play Wisconsin and you would be swapping St. Cloud State with Wisconsin.

So if you did that, the bracket would look like this:

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 5 Quinnipiac

But you could also swap Colgate and Minnesota-Duluth as the other option.

West Regional (St. Paul):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 2 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Colgate vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Michigan vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Which of the two situations is more attractive to the ticket buyer in both St. Paul and Cincinnati?

I would think the second option. In the second option, you have a first-round matchup of two Minnesota teams, plus old rivals Wisconsin in the barn. You also have Michigan in Ohio, which is a bigger plus for attendance.

For option one, it’s not as attractive attendance-wise to me.

Thus, I go with option two as my final bracket.

West Regional (St. Paul):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 2 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Colgate vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Michigan vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 5 Quinnipiac

I’ve swapped and played with this as much as possible, but also within all of the rules. And I’m quite happy with the result.

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):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 2 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 7 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Colgate vs. 4 Ferris State
10 Michigan vs. 8 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
9 Cornell vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Providence vs. 3 Union
11 Northeastern vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Vermont, Colgate

Out: New Hampshire, North Dakota

Attendance woes?

No issues for me.

Last week’s brackets

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

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Wisconsin vs. 4 Union
12 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 5 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 North Dakota vs. 2 Boston College
10 St. Cloud State vs. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 New Hampshire vs. 3 Quinnipiac
11 Providence vs. 6 Cornell

Interesting …

Some great story lines this week. Minnesota and Wisconsin in the same barn out West, and a great rematch of the North Star College Cup. Michigan in Ohio. Nate Leaman still on track to face his former team in the East, plus the top two teams in ECAC Hockey there. And in the Northeast, the top two teams in Hockey East as well. There are so many great stories with this week’s results.

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