Bracketology: Feb. 14, 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, 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 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, in which case 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 — 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 the 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 are the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings, with the bonus and the conference leaders (through all games of February 13, 2007):

1 New Hampshire
2 Minnesota
3t St. Cloud
3t Notre Dame
3t Maine
6t Clarkson
6t Denver
8 Boston University
9 North Dakota
10 Michigan
11 Colorado College
12t Michigan State
12t Miami
12t Vermont
12t Michigan Tech
16 Boston College
17 St. Lawrence
18 Niagara
— 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 the current leader in each conference. 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 St Cloud, Notre Dame and Maine at 3, Clarkson and Denver at 6, and Michigan State, Miami, Vermont and Michigan Tech at 12.

Since we have a round-robin at 3 between the schools, we break the tie using RPI. In this case St. Cloud is placed higher than Notre Dame, which is placed higher than Maine.

Clarkson beats Denver in the individual comparison, so Clarkson gets the higher seed.

For the 12th seed, Michigan State wins all three comparisons over Miami, Vermont and Michigan Tech. Therefore Michigan State is 12. Then we have a round robin for 13, which we break by RPI. Miami gets 13 based upon this.

Then, because St. Lawrence, Niagara and Sacred Heart will take spots 14-16, the tie between Vermont and Michigan Tech becomes moot, as they, along with Boston College, are pushed out of the tournament.

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

1 New Hampshire
2 Minnesota
3 St. Cloud
4 Notre Dame
5 Maine
6 Clarkson
7 Denver
8 Boston University
9 North Dakota
10 Michigan
11 Colorado College
12 Michigan State
13 Miami
14 St. Lawrence
15 Niagara
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 – Maine, Clarkson, Denver, Boston University
No. 3 Seeds – North Dakota, Michigan, Colorado College, Michigan State
No. 4 Seeds – Miami, St. Lawrence, Niagara, Sacred Heart

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Because New Hampshire is hosting a regional, the Wildcats are placed first.

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. 7 Denver is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud’s Regional, the West Regional, since Denver is a host institution.
No. 5 Maine is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Clarkson is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 8 Boston University 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 North Dakota is placed in No. 1 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 2 Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Colorado College is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 12 Michigan State is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame’s Regional, the East 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 Niagara is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 St. Lawrence is sent to St. Cloud’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Miami is sent to Notre Dame’s Regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. St. Cloud
Colorado College vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Niagara vs. Minnesota
Michigan vs. Clarkson

East Regional:

Miami vs. Notre Dame
Michigan State vs. Maine

Northeast Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. New Hampshire
North Dakota vs. Boston University

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two: Colorado College vs. Denver and Miami vs. Notre Dame.

Wouldn’t the Denver regional love that matchup? — but we can’t let it happen. So we switch Colorado College with Michigan State.

Then we can switch Miami with St. Lawrence.

So the tournament is now fixed.

West Regional:

Miami vs. St. Cloud
Michigan State vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Niagara vs. Minnesota
Michigan vs. Clarkson

East Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Notre Dame
Colorado College vs. Maine

Northeast Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. New Hampshire
North Dakota vs. Boston University

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.

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