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College Hockey:
Just days out, and moving around the third band could solve some attendance issues

scsu mank front Just days out, and moving around the third band could solve some attendance issues

Minnesota State and St. Cloud State are both in the third band as the NCAA tournament stands entering the conference championship weekend (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 final weekly installment of our Bracketology, but we’ll have some notes during the weekend and bring you our final picks before the field is announced on Sunday (noon EDT, ESPNU; we’ll have a live blog with reaction).

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 highest remaining seeds in the conference tournaments through all games entering the conference championship weekend:

1 Minnesota
2 Boston College
3t Union
3t Ferris State
5 Wisconsin
6 Quinnipiac
7 Massachusetts-Lowell
8 Notre Dame
9t Providence
9t St. Cloud State
11 Michigan
12t Minnesota State
12t North Dakota
14 Vermont
15 Colgate
16 Cornell
31 Mercyhurst

Current highest remaining seeds based in conference tournaments:

Atlantic Hockey: Mercyhurst
Big Ten: Minnesota
ECAC Hockey: Union
Hockey East: Massachusetts-Lowell
NCHC: North Dakota
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.

• I am going to use the highest remaining seed in the conference tournament as my assumed conference tournament champion and receiver of the automatic bid.

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 highest seeds left 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, Providence and St. Cloud State at 9 and Minnesota State and North Dakota at 12.

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 Ferris State
5 Wisconsin
6 Quinnipiac
7 Massachusetts-Lowell
8 Notre Dame
9 Providence
10 St. Cloud State
11 Michigan
12 Minnesota State
13 North Dakota
14 Vermont
15 Colgate
16 Mercyhurst

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

No. 2 seeds: Wisconsin, Quinnipiac, Massachusetts-Lowell, Notre Dame

No. 3 seeds: Providence, St. Cloud State, Michigan, Minnesota State

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
9 Providence vs. 8 Notre Dame

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 North Dakota vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Minnesota State vs. 5 Wisconsin

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

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
11 Michigan vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have Providence vs. Notre Dame.

We can move around that third band to avoid intraconference matchups and still have some attendance issues be solved.

Thus, we can move St. Cloud State to St. Paul, Michigan to Worcester and Providence to Bridgeport.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
10 St. Cloud State vs. 8 Notre Dame

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 North Dakota vs. 4 Ferris State
12 Minnesota State vs. 5 Wisconsin

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
11 Michigan vs. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
9 Providence vs. 6 Quinnipiac

OK, now that there are no more intraconference matchups, how can we make the brackets better from an attendance standpoint?

What jumps out at me is a multi-level switch.

Michigan to Cincinnati, Wisconsin to St. Paul, Notre Dame to Cincinnati, which leaves Minnesota State to Worcester.

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
10 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 North Dakota vs. 4 Ferris State
11 Michigan vs. 8 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
12 Minnesota State vs. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
9 Providence vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Attendance-wise, this is perfect and there shouldn’t be issues at any of the sites.

So that is it.

See you here late Saturday night for our final prediction as to what the bracket will look like.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
10 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Wisconsin

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 North Dakota vs. 4 Ferris State
11 Michigan vs. 8 Notre Dame

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Colgate vs. 2 Boston College
12 Minnesota State vs. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Union
9 Providence vs. 6 Quinnipiac

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Colgate, Minnesota State
Out: Cornell, Northeastern

Attendance woes?

I do have some concerns now because of the way teams are spread out.

Last week’s brackets

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Mercyhurst vs. 1 Minnesota
12 Vermont vs. 5 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Cornell vs. 4 Wisconsin
11 Providence vs. 6 Ferris State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
14 Michigan vs. 2 Boston College
10 North Dakota vs. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell

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

Interesting …

This weekend will tell a lot. I have nine teams that are definitely in the tournament: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, Ferris State, Wisconsin, Quinnipiac, Massachusetts-Lowell, Notre Dame and the Atlantic Hockey champion.

That leaves seven spots up for grabs. St. Cloud State is almost guaranteed a spot, while Providence is also almost there. That leaves five spots. We’ll see how the weekend progresses.

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