Bracketology: Jan. 13, 2009

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 might shape up if the season ended today.

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

This is the first 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. And this year, check out our Bracketology blog, where we’ll keep you entertained, guessing and educated throughout the rest of the season.

Here are the facts:

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

• There are four regional sites (East – Bridgeport, Conn., Northeast – Manchester, N.H., 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. There are four host institutions this year, Yale in Bridgeport, New Hampshire in Manchester, Western Michigan in Grand Rapids and Minnesota in Minneapolis.

• 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.”

• For now, here’s a big maybe. At the NCAA Convention this week, the college presidents will vote whether or not to institute a geographic-proximity-based bracketing technique. If it does happen, we’ll talk more about it later on.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders (through all games of January 12, 2009):

1 Boston University
2 Cornell
3 Vermont
4t Northeastern
4t Notre Dame
6 Michigan
7t Denver
7t Princeton
9t Miami
9t Minnesota
11t Ohio State
11t Boston College
13 New Hampshire
14t Air Force
14t Maine
16 Dartmouth
— Niagara

Current conference leaders:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
CHA: Niagara
CCHA: Notre Dame
ECAC: Cornell
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: Denver


• 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.

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 not in the Top 16. The only team that is not is Niagara.

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

The bubbles consist of Northeastern and Notre Dame at 4, Denver and Princeton at 7, Miami and Minnesota at 9, Boston College and Ohio State at 11, and Air Force and Maine at 14.

Looking at the head-to-head PairWise comparisons we break all of our ties. Northeastern, Denver, Miami, Boston College and Air Force win the individual PairWise comparisons.

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

1 Boston University
2 Cornell
3 Vermont
4 Northeastern
5 Notre Dame
6 Michigan
7 Denver
8 Princeton
9 Miami
10 Minnesota
11 Boston College
12 Ohio State
13 New Hampshire
14 Air Force
15 Maine
16 Niagara

Step Two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 Seeds – Boston University, Cornell, Vermont, Northeastern
No. 2 Seeds – Notre Dame, Michigan, Denver, Princeton
No. 3 Seeds – Miami, Minnesota, Boston College, Ohio State
No. 4 Seeds – New Hampshire, Air Force, Maine, Niagara

Step Three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals. Following the guidelines, there are no host teams in this grouping, so that rule does not need to be enforced.

We now place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites.

No. 1 Boston University is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 2 Cornell is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 3 Vermont is placed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 4 Northeastern is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.

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 Princeton is placed in No. 1 BU’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Denver is placed in No. 2 Cornell’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Michigan is placed in No. 3 Vermont’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Notre Dame is placed in No. 4 Northeastern’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.

But we also have a host school in this round, so we must seed it first. That would be Minnesota.


No. 10 Minnesota is placed in No. 5 Notre Dame’s Regional, the West Regional.
No. 9 Miami is placed in No. 8 Princeton’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 11 Boston College is placed in No. 7 Denver’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 12 Ohio State is placed in No. 6 Michigan’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.

No. 4 Seeds

One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc. But again, we have a host school here in New Hampshire. So we seed it first.

No. 13 New Hampshire is placed in No. 1 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 16 Niagara is sent to No. 2 Cornell’s Regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Maine is sent to No. 3 Vermont’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Air Force is sent to No. 4 Northeastern’s Regional, the West Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional:

Air Force vs. Northeastern
Minnesota vs. Notre Dame

Midwest Regional:

Maine vs. Vermont
Ohio State vs. Michigan

East Regional:

Niagara vs. Cornell
Boston College vs. Denver

Northeast Regional:

New Hampshire vs. Boston University
Miami vs. Princeton

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have a few:

Maine vs. Vermont
Ohio State vs. Michigan
New Hampshire vs. Boston University

For Ohio State vs. Michigan we can only make one change and that’s to switch Ohio State with Boston College, because switching the Buckeyes with Miami gives us another CCHA-CCHA matchup, and we cannot move Minnesota because it is a host school. So we make this switch.

We do have a bit of a conundrum with the last two matchups. Because there are three Hockey East schools as number-one seeds and two Hockey East schools as number-four seeds, we will get an all-Hockey East matchup no matter what we do.

The question is, which matchup do we make and how do we make it the most equitable of all? And we also have the situation where New Hampshire is hosting the Regional, so it essentially has a home game. Who gets to play New Hampshire?

Let’s start out the process with the one thing that we definitely know, and that is that No. 13 New Hampshire has to play in the Northeast Regional.

If you want bracket integrity, then you should have No. 4 Northeastern play New Hampshire. Since we know we have to have an all-Hockey East matchup in this round, let’s make that game happen.

Now, let’s see what we have left.

Two Hockey East squads and one ECAC squad as number-one seeds are left, and there is one Hockey East squad left. So, it’s natural to make the matchup of the lone HE squad as the number-four seed with the lone ECAC squad as the number-one seed.

That means we get Maine vs. Cornell.

Now we don’t have to deal with intraconference games, so we give the highest seed left, No. 1 Boston University, the lowest seed left, No. 16 Niagara, as its opponent. That leaves No. 3 Vermont taking on No. 14 Air Force, so we actually now also have the best bracket integrity as well.

Now we have to determine where to place these four games.

We know the Northeast Regional will be New Hampshire vs. Northeastern.

Let’s start with the highest seed and the geography.

No. 1 Boston University will play Niagara in Bridgeport, the East Regional.
No. 2 Cornell will play Maine in Grand Rapids, the Midwest Regional.
No. 3 Vermont will play Air Force in Minneapolis, the West Regional.

So our tournament now is:

West Regional:

Air Force vs. Vermont
Minnesota vs. Notre Dame

Midwest Regional:

Maine vs. Cornell
Boston College vs. Michigan

East Regional:

Niagara vs. Boston University
Ohio State vs. Denver

Northeast Regional:

New Hampshire vs. Northeastern
Miami vs. Princeton

So that’s our tournament.

But is it fair? To get the right bracket integrity and matchups, we moved Cornell away from its closest Regional, and we did the same with BU.

To be honest, I think Cornell is happier with this arrangement, rather than getting switched with BU, resulting in a UNH-Cornell matchup in Manchester. So we’ll stick with this.

Now let’s take a look at what would happen should the geographic bracketing rule pass at the NCAA Convention.

Remember, it’s all about geography, except for the number-one seeds, which can be sent anywhere.

Let’s take a look at what I think would happen should this go into effect:

West Regional:

Air Force vs. Vermont
Minnesota vs. Notre Dame

Midwest Regional:

Niagara vs. Northeastern
Ohio State vs. Michigan

East Regional:

Maine vs. Cornell
Miami vs. Princeton

Northeast Regional:

New Hampshire vs Boston University
Boston College vs. Denver

That’s what I think the tournament would look like, based upon geography.

The number-one seeds — we know how that will fall.

Of the number-two seeds, Michigan and Princeton are no-brainers, as they are closest to Grand Rapids and Bridgeport respectively. Denver will fly anyway, so let’s get Notre Dame to the closest location, and that is Minneapolis, which is within a bus ride of South Bend.

Among the number-three seeds, Minnesota must play at home, Ohio State is closest to Grand Rapids and BC is closest to Manchester, so that leaves Miami going to Bridgeport.

For the number-four seeds, New Hampshire must play at home. Maine is closest to Bridgeport, Niagara to Grand Rapids and Air Force must fly no matter what.

So there you have it: the bracket should the geographic initiative pass.

More thoughts and education and plain wit on the blog. Check there every day and we’ll see you here next week for the next Bracketology.