Bracketology: Analysis

With the brackets out there, it’s time to see if we can explain what the committee did. Our final Bracketology article nailed the field of 16, but there were a few discrepancies in seeding and location.

Here is how the PairWise Rankings ordered the teams selected for the tournament, with ties broken by head-to-head comparison:

1 Cornell
2 Colorado College
3 Minnesota
4 New Hampshire
5 Boston University
6 Maine
7 Ferris State
8 Boston College
9 Michigan
10 North Dakota
11 Ohio State
12 Harvard
13 Minnesota State
14 St. Cloud State
15 Mercyhurst
16 Wayne State

So this is how the Top 16 were initially seeded.

In Sunday morning’s Bracketology, we came up with these brackets:

West Regional:

Minnesota vs. Mercyhurst
Ferris State vs. North Dakota

Midwest Regional:

Colorado College vs. Wayne State
Boston College vs. Michigan

Northeast Regional:

Cornell vs. St. Cloud State
Boston University vs. Ohio State

East Regional:

New Hampshire vs. Minnesota State
Maine vs. Harvard

The differences between our field and reality:

  • Cornell went to the East Regional and New Hampshire to the Northeast Regional.
  • Ohio State and Harvard swapped regionals.
  • Maine and Boston College swapped regionals.

    Those were the only three differences in our bracket with the actual NCAA bracket. So what happened?

    Let’s spell out the actual NCAA tournament, using the seeds shown above.

    West Regional
    3 Minnesota vs. 15 Mercyhurst
    7 Ferris State vs. 10 North Dakota

    Midwest Regional
    2 Colorado College vs. 16 Wayne State
    6 Maine vs. 9 Michigan

    East Regional
    1 Cornell vs. 13 Minnesota State
    8 Boston College vs. 11 Ohio State

    Northeast Regional
    4 New Hampshire vs. 14 St. Cloud State
    5 Boston University vs. 12 Harvard

    The first thing that stands out is an element the committee wanted to preserve, something that selection committee chair Ian McCaw called “competitive equity.”

    It appears that the committee wanted to set it up so that the regional finals had 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5.

    This did not happen in the two western regionals, where it could not be done because of the fact that Minnesota and Michigan are host schools.

    This explains a lot.

    Most particularly, it explains why Maine was sent to the Midwest Regional and Boston College to the East Regional. The committee made sure that the if all the top seeds advance, that the regional finals would have the No. 1 team playing the No. 8 team.

    The same reasoning puts Cornell in the East Regional and New Hampshire in the Northeast. Because BU is locked into the Northeast Regional as host, that would put BU, the No. 5 team overall, against No. 4, which in this case is New Hampshire.

    And with Ohio State and Harvard in the two eastern regionals, who plays whom? vWell, Harvard, as No. 12, should play No. 5 in the first round. Therefore, the Harvard-BU matchup; at the same time, the two ECAC teams end up in different regionals.

    There is still one more difference to be explained.

    It seems that Cornell is playing a higher seed in the first round than New Hampshire, i.e., Cornell is playing Minnesota State rather than St. Cloud State, even though Minnesota State is a higher seed than St. Cloud State in the straight PairWise.

    For this, we go to the “bonus.”

    Using the bonus as we have done in the past — .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win, and .001 for a good home win — the top 16 changes in one way. St. Cloud moves past Minnesota State, and we see why Cornell plays Minnesota State: MSU is the lowest-ranked team available.

    As McCaw said, the committee went by the numbers and tried to preserve competitive equity while avoiding intra-conference matchups.

    That’s exactly what they did, and that’s why the tournament field is the way it is.