Bracketology: Feb. 21, 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 (PWR), with the bonus and the conference leaders (through all games of February 21, 2007):

1 Minnesota
2 New Hampshire
3 Notre Dame
4 St. Cloud
5 Clarkson
6 Boston University
7 Maine
8t Miami
8t Boston College
8t Michigan
8t Denver
12 North Dakota
13t Michigan State
13t Colorado College
15 Vermont
16t St. Lawrence
16t Cornell
21t 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 Niagara and Sacred Heart.

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

The bubbles consist of Miami, Boston College, Michigan and Denver at 8, and Michigan State and Colorado College at 13.

Looking at individual comparisons among the four teams at 8, we see that Miami and BC both win two comparisons while Michigan and Denver win one each. Therefore Miami and BC are 8 and 9 and Michigan and Denver are 10 and 11. To break those ties, we go to individual comparisons. Miami defeats BC and Michigan defeats Denver. Therefore Miami is 8, BC is 9, Michigan is 10 and Denver is 11.

At 13, Michigan State defeats Colorado College in the individual comparison, so Michigan State becomes 13.

Then, because St. Lawrence, Niagara and Sacred Heart will take spots 14-16, Colorado College is pushed out of the tournament.

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

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

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

Step Three

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

No. 2 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 1 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Denver.
No. 3 Notre Dame is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 4 St. Cloud 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 Clarkson is placed in No. 4 St. Cloud’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Boston University is placed in No. 3 Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 7 Maine is placed in No. 2 New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 8 Miami is placed in No. 1 Minnesota’s Regional, the West 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. 11 Denver is placed in No. 8 Miami’s Regional, the West Regional, because Denver is the host institution.
No. 9 Boston College is placed in No. 7 Maine’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 6 Boston University’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 North Dakota is placed in No. 5 Clarkson’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 Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Niagara is sent to New Hampshire’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 St. Lawrence is sent to Notre Dame’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Michigan State is sent to St. Cloud’s Regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. Minnesota
Denver vs. Miami

Midwest Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Notre Dame
Michigan vs. Boston University

East Regional:

Michigan State vs. St. Cloud
North Dakota vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

Niagara vs. New Hampshire
Boston College vs. Maine

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one — Boston College vs. Maine.

We can’t switch Boston College with Denver, because DU is a host, and we can’t switch the Eagles with Michigan because that creates another all-Hockey East matchup. So we can only switch BC with North Dakota.

So the tournament is now fixed.

West Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. Minnesota
Denver vs. Miami

Midwest Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Notre Dame
Michigan vs. Boston University

East Regional:

Michigan State vs. St. Cloud
Boston College vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

Niagara vs. New Hampshire
North Dakota vs. Maine

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

More Questions Answered

As always, more questions arise all the time regarding the PWR. Here are some of the best of what people want to know.

Since the ECACHL is hosting in Rochester, does that mean an ECACHL team has to go to Rochester?

No — since it is not an individual institution that is hosting, but the conference, an ECACHL team is not designated to go to Rochester. I’m sure the ECACHL folks would love that, though.

RIT. What gives? Are they in, are they out? Do they count?

To put it plainly and simply, RIT counts like everyone else, except they can’t be chosen for an at-large bid. Remember that RIT cannot participate in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament, so it won’t get the autobid, and then it cannot be chosen as an at-large team either. But everything else counts. So if RIT is in the Top 25 of the RPI, the Tigers remain there and are compared like any other team in the Top 25.

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