Bracketology: Feb. 28, 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 27, 2007):

1 Minnesota
2 New Hampshire
3 Notre Dame
4 St. Cloud
5 Clarkson
6 Boston University
7 Maine
8 Denver
9 North Dakota
10 Michigan
11t Miami
11t Boston College
13t Colorado College
13t Vermont
13t Michigan Tech
16t Massachusetts
16t St. Lawrence
16t Michigan State
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 and Boston College at number 11, and Colorado College, Vermont and Michigan Tech at number 13.

Looking at the individual comparisons, Miami defeats BC, so Miami is 11 and BC is 12. Then CC defeats Vermont and Michigan Tech, so CC is 13. Spots 14 and 15 are of no use because St. Lawrence, Niagara and Sacred Heart will take spots 14-16, so Vermont and Michigan Tech are left out.

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 Denver
9 North Dakota
10 Michigan
11 Miami
12 Boston College
13 Colorado College
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, Denver
No. 3 Seeds – North Dakota, Michigan, Miami, Boston College
No. 4 Seeds – Colorado College, St. Lawrence, Niagara, Sacred Heart

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Following the guidelines, we now place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

Because 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 Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 Notre Dame is placed in the East Regional in Rochester.
No. 4 St. Cloud is placed in the West Regional in Denver.

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Colorado College vs. St. Cloud
North Dakota vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. Minnesota
Michigan vs. Maine

East Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. Notre Dame
Boston College vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

Niagara vs. New Hampshire
Miami vs. Boston University

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two right now in the All-WCHA West Regional.

We switch North Dakota with the next seed, which is Michigan. And we do the same with Colorado College, which is St. Lawrence.

So the tournament is now fixed.

West Regional:

St. Lawrence vs. St. Cloud
Michigan vs. Denver

Midwest Regional:

Sacred Heart vs. Minnesota
North Dakota vs. Maine

East Regional:

Colorado College vs. Notre Dame
Boston College vs. Clarkson

Northeast Regional:

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

An Alternative Way Of Thinking

Okay, so we went by the strictest of rules. We said that the number-one seeds went to the closest Regionals to them and filled in from there, where it all fell into place.

What if we tried another method? The NCAA says that a plane trip is required if the trip is over 300 miles from the school. Why does this make a difference? Because Minneapolis is 586 miles from Grand Rapids, Minnesota is getting on a plane to a regional. What does this mean?

Basically it means that once you’re on a plane, you can go anywhere.

So, now let’s look at it a little differently. Let’s stay with bracket integrity as much as possible. What does this mean? Well it means that we’re trying to stay in the 1-8-9-16, 2-7-10-15, 3-6-11-14, 4-5-12-13 groupings as much as possible.

In order for us to do this, we have to slot all the host institutions first.

Meaning we put UNH and Denver into place.

Then we fill in the brackets.

Doing this, we come up with:

West Regional

16 Sacred Heart vs. 1 Minnesota
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Denver

Midwest Regional

14 St. Lawrence vs. 3 Notre Dame
11 Miami vs. 6 Boston University

Northeast Regional

15 Niagara vs. 2 New Hampshire
10 Michigan vs. 7 Maine

East Regional

13 Colorado College vs. 4 St. Cloud
12 Boston College vs. 5 Clarkson

We have to switch North Dakota in one game and CC in another game. So we switch North Dakota with Michigan and Colorado College with St. Lawrence.

Our new brackets:

West Regional
16 Sacred Heart vs. 1 Minnesota
10 Michigan vs. 8 Denver

Midwest Regional
13 Colorado College vs. 3 Notre Dame
11 Miami vs. 6 Boston University

Northeast Regional

15 Niagara vs. 2 New Hampshire
9 North Dakota vs. 7 Maine

East Regional

14 St. Lawrence vs. 4 St. Cloud
12 Boston College vs. 5 Clarkson

So there’s another point of view.

The Decision

Well, we have two methods of doing it. Which one do we choose? In weeks past, I have teetered through both methods, not choosing one, but switching from week to week with no reason.

Well, now it’s time for me to render a decision as to which way I think it’s going to go with the committee.

And here it is.

You can not place a third-banded team before placing a first-banded team.

So the second method can’t be justified because it will penalize a number-one seed. And those number-one seeds are the ones that get all the preference.

So, I have to go with the first method.

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