Bracketology: Jan. 24, 2007

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology — College Hockey Style. It’s our weekly look at how the NCAA tournament would wind up if the season ended today.

It’s a look into the possible thought processes behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament.

This is the next installment of Bracketology, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced.

Here are the facts:

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

• There are four regional sites (East — Rochester, N.Y., Northeast — Manchester, N.H., Midwest — Grand Rapids, Mich., West — Denver, Colo.)

• A host institution which is invited to the tournament plays in the regional for which it is the host, and cannot be moved. There are three host institutions this year, New Hampshire in Manchester, Western Michigan in Grand Rapids, and Denver in Denver.

• 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 includes a bonus factor for “good” nonconference road wins and throws out “bad” wins, i.e. those wins that lower your RPI. The NCAA also will only use the Teams Under Consideration criterion if that team has played at least 10 games against TUCs.

Because of this bonus factor, we won’t even talk about our PairWise Rankings (PWR) without an added bonus. We know that the bonus is at least .003 for a quality road win, so everything we talk about will use this number already factored in.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), with the bonus and the conference leaders (through all games of January 23, 2007):

1 New Hampshire
2 Minnesota
3 St. Cloud
4 Notre Dame
5 Denver
6 Clarkson
7 Maine
8 Michigan State
9 Vermont
10t Michigan
10t Colorado College
12t Miami
12t Boston College
14 Boston University
15 North Dakota
16 Niagara
22 St. Lawrence
— Sacred Heart

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: RIT (served by Sacred Heart)
CHA: Niagara
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECACHL : St. Lawrence
Hockey East : New Hampshire
WCHA: Minnesota

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 number of games played inside each conference, I will be using winning percentage, not points accumulated, to determine who the current leader in each conference is. This team is my assumed conference tournament champion.

• RIT is ineligible for the NCAA tournament, therefore the next highest team in Atlantic Hockey gets the automatic bid per my criteria stated above. That team is Sacred Heart.

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. Those teams are St. Lawrence, Niagara and Sacred Heart.

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

The bubbles consist of Michigan and Colorado College, tied for 10th, and Miami and BC, tied for 12th.

Because St. Lawrence and Sacred Heart will take spots 15-16, Boston University and North Dakota are left out.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons it shows that Michigan defeats CC and Miami defeats BC.

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

1 New Hampshire
2 Minnesota
3 St. Cloud
4 Notre Dame
5 Denver
6 Clarkson
7 Maine
8 Michigan State
9 Vermont
10 Michigan
11 Colorado College
12 Miami
13 Boston College
14 Niagara
15 St. Lawrence
16 Sacred Heart

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – New Hampshire, Minnesota, St. Cloud, Notre Dame
No. 2 Seeds – Denver, Clarkson, Maine, Michigan State
No. 3 Seeds – Vermont, Michigan, Colorado College, Miami
No. 4 Seeds – Boston College, Niagara, St. Lawrence, Sacred Heart

Step Three

Because of the fact that New Hampshire is hosting a regional, the Wildcats are placed first. We then place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

No. 1 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 2 Minnesota is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 St. Cloud is placed in the West Regional in Denver.
No. 4 Notre Dame is placed in the East Regional in Rochester.

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. 5 Denver is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud’s Regional, the West Regional, since Denver is a host institution.
No. 6 Clarkson is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Maine is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 8 Michigan State is placed in No. 1 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

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.

Therefore:

No. 9 Vermont is placed in No. 8 Michigan State’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 7 Maine’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Colorado College is placed in No. 6 Clarkson’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 12 Miami is placed in No. 5 Denver’s Regional, the West Regional.

No. 4 Seeds

One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.

No. 16 Sacred Heart is sent to New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 St. Lawrence is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Niagara is sent to St. Cloud’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Boston College is sent to Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Niagara vs. St. Cloud
Miami vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Minnesota
Michigan vs. Maine

East Regional:

Boston College vs. Notre Dame
Colorado College vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. New Hampshire
Vermont vs. Michigan State

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have none. So the tournament is fixed.

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 West and Midwest Regionals face each other in one semifinal (St. Cloud and Minnesota’s brackets), while the winners of the Northeast and East Regionals (New Hampshire and Notre Dame’s brackets) play the other semifinal.

Another Take

As you can see above, we almost have the perfect bracket. In an ideal world if you add up the seed numbers you should come to 34, e.g., take the East Bracket. UNH is 1, MSU is 8, Vermont is 9 and SHU is 16. Add up the seeds and you get 34.

Can we get all four brackets to 34?

Absolutely.

Let’s also remember the one simple rule that I brought up last week:

You can move teams within a band, but not out of them.

So, what if we started out differently?

No. 1 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 2 Minnesota is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 St. Cloud is placed in the East Regional in Rochester.
No. 4 Notre Dame is placed in the West Regional in Denver.

No. 5 Denver is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame’s Regional, the West Regional, since Denver is a host institution.
No. 6 Clarkson is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Maine is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 8 Michigan State is placed in No. 1 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

No. 9 Vermont is placed in No. 8 Michigan State’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 7 Maine’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Colorado College is placed in No. 6 Clarkson’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 12 Miami is placed in No. 5 Denver’s Regional, the West Regional.

No. 16 Sacred Heart is sent to New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 St. Lawrence is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Niagara is sent to St. Cloud’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 13 Boston College is sent to Notre Dame’s Regional, the West Regional.

So our new tournament would look like this:

West Regional:

Boston College vs. Notre Dame
Miami vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Minnesota
Michigan vs. Maine

East Regional:

Niagara vs. St. Cloud
Colorado College vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. New Hampshire
Vermont vs. Michigan State

In the words of St. Louis Blues President John Davidson, “Oh Baby!”

Perfect bracket. No shuffling, no switching, each regional adds up to 34.

Let’s look at attendance.

In Denver you have Denver, Notre Dame, BC and Miami. Sounds like a winner to me.

In Grand Rapids you have Minnesota, Maine and Michigan. Another winner.

In Manchester you have UNH and Vermont. Great winner.

In Rochester you have two New York teams, Clarkson and Niagara. Another winner.

I don’t think you can get any better than this with the way the PWR has fallen out.

To the dismay of the other teams, I say let’s start the tournament right now.

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