Bracketology: March 14, 2005

It’s time once again for what we like to call Bracketology — college hockey style. It’s a weekly look at how the NCAA tournament might look if the season ended today.

More than that, it’s a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament teams.

This is the penultimate installment of Bracketology, and we’ll make our final picks just before the field is announced on Saturday night.

Here are the facts:

• Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.

• There are four regional sites (East – Worcester, Massachusetts, Northeast – Amherst, Massachusetts, Midwest – Grand Rapids, Mich., West – Minneapolis, Minn.)

• A host institution which is invited to the tournament plays in the regional for which it is the host, and cannot be moved.

• Seedings will not be switched, as opposed to years past. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intraconference games (see below), teams will be moved among regionals, not reseeded.

Here are the NCAA’s guidelines on the matter, per a meeting of the Championship Committee:

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 likelihood of playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For the model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

• The top four teams as ranked by the committee are the four 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.

• Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

• No. 1 seeds are placed as close to home as possible in order of their ranking 1-4.

• Conference matchups in first round are avoided, unless five or more teams from one conference are selected, then the integrity of the bracket will be preserved.

• Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s ranking of 1-16. The top four teams are the No. 1 seeds. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds. These groupings will be referred to as “bands.”

Additionally, the NCAA recently clarified its selection criteria to include a bonus factor for “good” nonconference wins, which are wins against non-league opponents in the top 15 of the Ratings Percentage Index.

Given these facts, here are the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), regular-season conference champions (Quinnipiac, Michigan, Cornell, Boston College and Denver), and Bemidji State, the CHA champion (through all games of Sunday, March 13, 2005):

1t Colorado College
1t Denver
1t Boston College
4 Minnesota
5 Cornell
6t Harvard
6t Michigan
8 Boston University
9 North Dakota
10 New Hampshire
11t Maine
11t Wisconsin
11t Colgate
14 Dartmouth
15 Vermont
16 Ohio State
23 Bemidji State
— Quinnipiac

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 all of the conference leaders, based on winning percentage.

From there, we can start looking at the bubble in a more detailed fashion.

Breaking ties in the PWR using head-to-head comparisons among the tied teams, the 16 teams in the tournament, in rank order, are:

1 Colorado College
2 Denver
3 Boston College
4 Minnesota
5 Cornell
6 Harvard
7 Michigan
8 Boston University
9 North Dakota
10 New Hampshire
11 Maine
12 Wisconsin
13 Colgate
14 Dartmouth
15 Bemidji State
16 Quinnipiac

All ties were broken because of individual comparison wins.

Our biggest difference from Sunday morning is that Colgate is now in the tournament and Ohio State is out. Bowling Green getting swept by Alaska-Fairbanks — and therefore falling out of the Teams Under Consideration — really, really, really hurt both Ohio State and Michigan.

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds — Colorado College, Denver, Boston College, Minnesota
No. 2 Seeds — Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Boston University
No. 3 Seeds — North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maine, Wisconsin
No. 4 Seeds — Colgate, Dartmouth, Bemidji State, Quinnipiac

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

We place host schools first and then place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

No. 4 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis as the host school.
No. 1 Colorado College is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 2 Denver is placed in the East Regional in Worcester.
No. 3 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Amherst.

Step Four

Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intraconference 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 are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

So therefore:

No. 2 Seeds

No. 8 Boston University is placed in No. 2 Denver’s Regional, the East, as the host.
No. 5 Cornell is placed in No. 4 Minnesota’s Regional, the West.
No. 6 Harvard is placed in No. 3 Boston College’s Regional, the Northeast.
No. 7 Michigan is placed in No. 1 Colorado College’s Regional, the Midwest.

No. 3 Seeds

Our bracketing system has one Regional containing seeds 1, 8, 9, and 16, another with 2, 7, 10, 15, another with 3, 6, 11, 14 and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

In this case with the No. 2 seeds being displaced, we’re trying to get the 8-9, 7-10, 6-11, and 5-12 matchups as close as possible.


No. 9 North Dakota is placed in No. 8 Boston University’s Regional, the East.
No. 10 New Hampshire is placed in No. 7 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest.
No. 11 Maine is placed in No. 6 Harvard’s Regional, the Northeast.
No. 12 Wisconsin is placed in No. 5 Cornell’s Regional, the West.

No. 4 Seeds

One more time, and this time we’re going back to taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.

No. 16 Quinnipiac is sent to Colorado College’s Regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Bemidji State is sent to Denver’s Regional, the East.
No. 14 Dartmouth is sent to Boston College’s Regional, the Northeast.
No. 13 Colgate is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the West.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

13 Colgate vs. 4 Minnesota
12 Wisconsin vs. 5 Cornell

Midwest Regional:

16 Quinnipiac vs. 1 Colorado College
10 New Hampshire vs. 7 Michigan

East Regional:

15 Bemidji State vs. 2 Denver
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional:

14 Dartmouth vs. 3 Boston College
11 Maine vs. 6 Harvard

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have none, so this is our bracket.

Bracketing the Frozen Four, if all four number-one seeds advance, then the top overall seed plays the No. 4 overall, and No. 2 plays No. 3. Therefore, the winners of the Midwest and West Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Colorado College and Minnesota’s brackets), while the winners of the East and Northeast Regionals (Denver and Boston College’s brackets) play the other semifinal.


Bonus Time

We know there is a bonus component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins.

Without official word on the size of the bonuses, we take these numbers: .003 for a good road win, .002 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

Now remember, nonconference wins against conference opponents do not count as a good win. For example, when Alaska-Anchorage defeated Minnesota in the Nye Frontier Classic, that didn’t count toward the bonus.

Our seedings are now:

1 Boston College
2 Colorado College
3 Denver
4 Minnesota
5 Cornell
6 Harvard
7 Michigan
8 Boston University
9 North Dakota
10 New Hampshire
11 Maine
12 Colgate
13 Dartmouth
14 Wisconsin
15 Bemidji State
16 Quinnipiac

There really is no difference here except that Boston College is now a clear No. 1 seed.

So, our new brackets, using bracket-filling as above, are as follows:

West Regional:

13 Dartmouth vs. 4 Minnesota
12 Colgate vs. 5 Cornell

Midwest Regional:

15 Bemidji State vs. 2 Colorado College
10 New Hampshire vs. 7 Michigan

East Regional:

16 Quinnipiac vs. 1 Boston College
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional:

14 Wisconsin vs. 3 Denver
11 Maine vs. 6 Harvard

We have to rid ourselves of intraconference matchups. The first is Wisconsin-Denver. The only place where Wisconsin can go is to play Boston College, since there are three WCHA teams in the rest of the No. 1 band.

As on Saturday, I will refer back to this rule:

Conference matchups in first round are avoided, unless five or more teams from one conference are selected, then the integrity of the bracket will be preserved.

As on Saturday morning, I invoke the five-team rule here. What’s important to note here is that I am not creating an intraconference matchup, I am just refusing to break one up — because of the sensitivity of the overall No. 1 seed playing a team that is not a TUC. That’s essentially what’s happening here. We haven’t had this situation arise since 2003 when Cornell wound up playing No. 14 seed Minnesota State despite being the No. 1 seed overall.

So, I will keep the Wisconsin-Denver matchup.

Now we have to switch up the Colgate-Cornell matchup. Colgate can be switched out with either North Dakota or New Hampshire. I like the 8-9 matchup of North Dakota-BU, so I will leave that intact. Therefore I will switch out Colgate and UNH.

We can take it one step further after this. Switching Colgate with UNH creates a 5-10 and a 6-11 matchup. I would prefer a 5-11 and 6-10 for competitive equity, so I will switch the 10 and 11 seeds. In this case it’s UNH and Maine.

So my brackets become:

West Regional:

13 Dartmouth vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Maine vs. 5 Cornell

Midwest Regional:

15 Bemidji State vs. 2 Colorado College
12 Colgate vs. 7 Michigan

East Regional:

16 Quinnipiac vs. 1 Boston College
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional:

14 Wisconsin vs. 3 Denver
10 New Hampshire vs. 6 Harvard

That’s our bracket heading into championship weekend.

What if we took these numbers: .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win?

Does anything change? Nope, so our bracket stays the same.

Here comes championship weekend. What can we say about it?

I was wrong about Maine either needing to sweep its last four regular-season games or win the HEA tournament to make it in.

Yes, I was wrong. Looking at Maine’s current position, it will be next to impossible for Maine not to make it.

In order for Maine to drop, it would have to lose comparisons that it has presently won. At worst, since Hockey East has no third-place game, Maine can go 0-1 this coming weekend, therefore its TUC record can fall only to 11-10-5 and its RPI can only slip a tiny bit.

Maine has already lost the TUC comparison to Colgate, and is far enough ahead of the Raiders in the RPI. The Black Bears won’t lose that comparison even if Colgate goes 2-0. The same for Dartmouth, as the Big Green can’t play any more after losing to Vermont last weekend. The comparison with Vermont, for reasons of RPI and Common Opponents, can’t be lost by Maine either.

The comparison with Ohio State — is it possible for Ohio State to overtake Maine? Not in the RPI. Maybe in TUC, but not RPI. So Maine will continue to win that comparison.

One of NMU or Michigan State can turn the comparison on Maine, but at the same time, Ohio State will get knocked down because the only way that comparison can turn is by NMU or MSU winning the CCHA championship, which means that Ohio State would lose along the way.

So there you have it. Maine is as close to a lock for the tournament as it comes, and I was wrong. I’m blaming it on variables that I couldn’t control, though.

Dartmouth. Are the Big Green in trouble? Can it make the tournament without playing again?

There are so many permutations right now that it’s tough to tell. Dartmouth is going to have to lose comparisons in order for the Big Green to drop out. It won’t be hard for that to happen. All it would take is for Ohio State, Vermont, or even Wisconsin to win their tournaments and the Big Green would drop. But Dartmouth would have to lose at least two comparisons.

There is one thing I can tell you, though. The Atlantic Hockey championship is very important to Dartmouth. Currently the Big Green has a record against TUCs of 11-7-1, for a .6053 winning percentage. That’s not bad at the back end of the list. But should Quinnipiac win the AHA tourney, the Bobcats, by rule, become a TUC and Dartmouth gets another loss on its TUC record to go to 11-8-1 (.5750).

So we’ve set that table. What else should Dartmouth be looking at? How about Colgate and Brown?

Why Colgate and Brown, you ask? Because Colgate has played Brown four times this season, and because Brown’s RPI at the moment with our 3-2-1 bonus is .5010. See where I am heading?

Colgate’s overall record is very important to Brown to have a chance to remain a TUC, Colgate must win the ECACHL championship. If Colgate loses just one game this weekend, Brown drops out.

So, if Colgate goes 1-1 this weekend, and in turn, Brown drops out of being a TUC, Dartmouth, which was 2-0 against Brown this season, loses those two TUC wins and ends up with a TUC record of 9-7-1 (.5588), and if Quinnipiac wins the AHA tournament, it goes to 9-8-1 (.5278).

So, here are two key points if you’re a Dartmouth fan this weekend — hope Quinnipiac doesn’t win the AHA and hope that Colgate wins the ECACHL.

If those two things happen, UNH will turn its comparison with Dartmouth. Now, that knocks Dartmouth down one comparison win, but two wins by either Wisconsin or Ohio State would take away another comparison.

There are more permutations, for sure, but the two keys for Dartmouth are Quinnipiac not winning the AHA and Colgate winning the ECACHL.

Are there any teams that can help or hurt other teams just by winning one game?

The Dartmouth scenario was based upon teams winning two games in Quinnipiac and Colgate. But does a team have the capability of helping others with just one win?


Should Alaska-Fairbanks defeat Northern Michigan on Thursday, the Nanooks become a TUC, and will remain a TUC even if they drop their next two games.

Who does that affect, among teams with a shot at the NCAAs? Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Northern Michigan. NMU with the loss to UAF, will be out of the tournament.

Michigan State was 0-2 against UAF this season, but with a TUC record of 7-8-3 already, Michigan State isn’t going to lose any more comparisons by going to 7-10-3 in that category.

Michigan and Ohio State were both 2-0 against the Nanooks this season. For Michigan it doesn’t really matter much, as the only comparison with two more TUC wins it might turn is Cornell.

For Ohio State, it can be huge. If UAF were a TUC today, Ohio State would win comparisons with Vermont, Wisconsin, Colgate, and Boston University. That’s four more comparison wins for Ohio State., which would have the Buckeyes as the No. 12 seed right now.

How much trouble is Wisconsin in? The Badgers “should” have lost to UAA, shouldn’t they?

You hate to say it, but for NCAA tournament purposes, maybe the Badgers would have been better off losing to UAA. UAA would then have remained a TUC, and Wisconsin would have added a 5-2 mark to its TUC record to make it 16-12-3 (.5645).

That would have been good enough to permanently win the comparison against Vermont, and temporarily win comparisons with Colgate and UNH. That’s up to No. 10 for the Badgers right now, with everyone fighting for spots underneath them.

That being said, Wisconsin can lose the WCHA play-in game and still make the NCAA tournament if things go their way.

One other note, even if UAA had gone 0-1, or 1-2 in the WCHA Final Five, the Seawolves would have remained above .5000 in the RPI, and as a result, would have remained a TUC.

Who’s in and who’s out? How many spots remain?

In my best guesstimate, I think that the top 11 are in at the moment — everyone up to and including Maine.

That’s BC, CC, Denver, Minnesota, Cornell, Michigan, Harvard, BU, North Dakota, UNH and Maine. That leaves three spots for nine teams (Colgate, Dartmouth, Vermont, UAF, UNO, Michigan State, NMU, Ohio State and Wisconsin).

Until Saturday night.