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College Hockey:
Two weeks out, and one swap creates a regional of familiar foes

2014030119 06 34188 Two weeks out, and one swap creates a regional of familiar foes

Ben Marshall and Minnesota are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament at this point, but the West Regional could also include some familiar foes (photo: Jim Rosvold).

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, click here.

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.

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 March 4:

1 Minnesota
2 Boston College
3t Union
3t St. Cloud State
5 Wisconsin
6 Ferris State
7 Quinnipiac
8 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame
11 Providence
12 Michigan
13t Cornell
13t Vermont
15 Northeastern
16 Colgate
17t Minnesota State
17t Minnesota-Duluth
34 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: Minnesota State (based tiebreaker win over 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 teams that are not are Minnesota State and 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 St. Cloud State at 3, and Cornell 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 Union
4 St. Cloud State
5 Wisconsin
6 Ferris State
7 Quinnipiac
8 Massachusetts-Lowell
9 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame
11 Providence
12 Michigan
13 Cornell
14 Vermont
15 Minnesota State
16 Mercyhurst

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

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

No. 3 seeds: North Dakota, Notre Dame, Providence, Michigan

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

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

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Cornell vs. 4 St. Cloud State
12 Michigan vs. 5 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Quinnipiac

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
11 Providence vs. 6 Ferris State

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have Michigan vs. Wisconsin.

How should we handle this one? We have a few choices — we can swap out Michigan or we can swap out Wisconsin. What is a better solution?

For me, to boost attendance and to boost other items, I swap out Wisconsin with Massachusetts-Lowell.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 North Dakota vs. 5 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Cornell vs. 4 St. Cloud State
12 Michigan vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Quinnipiac

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
11 Providence vs. 6 Ferris State

Now we do some fine tuning. We can’t do much on the 2-3 band because of the Hockey East matchups that may occur in the first round. So we leave that band alone.

But I would love to get Notre Dame or Ferris State to the West or Midwest. I perhaps would like to consider moving Quinnipiac to Bridgeport and swapping with Ferris State. So I think I will do that.

What can we do in the 1-4 band? We can make one swap: Cornell and Minnesota State. But here we can try to invoke protecting the No. 2 seed, as it is facing a team outside of the top 16 of the PWR.

So for now, we leave it as is.

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 North Dakota vs. 5 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Cornell vs. 4 St. Cloud State
12 Michigan vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 Boston College
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Ferris State

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
11 Providence vs. 7 Quinnipiac

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Providence, Minnesota State

Out: Northeastern, Colgate

Attendance woes?

I am worried a bit about Cincinnati and Worcester.

Last week’s brackets

West Regional (St. Paul):
13 Colgate vs. 2 Minnesota
10 North Dakota vs. 6 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Michigan vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Vermont vs. 5 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Boston College
11 Cornell vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Notre Dame vs. 3 Union
9 Northeastern vs. 7 Quinnipiac

Interesting …

Teams are starting to cement their places in the tournament while the bubble continues to be volatile.

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