Nine weeks out, and conferences, geography come into play

Boston University and Michigan both get moved from their original position in this week’s Bracketology (photo: Melissa Wade).

It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology, college hockey style. It’s our weekly look at how I believe the NCAA tournament would wind up using what we know now.

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

We’ll keep bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 22.

Those of you that are veterans of the college hockey scene know that it is all about the PairWise Rankings. This is USCHO’s numerical approach that simulates the way the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee chooses the teams that make the NCAA tournament.

Since USCHO began the PairWise Rankings, we have correctly identified all of the teams that have been selected to the NCAA tournament.

For the past four years, I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

This is not a be-all, end-all analysis of the bracket. I am trying to give you an idea of what the committee might be thinking and not exactly what they are thinking.

If you want to skip the inner workings and get to the results of the analysis, then click here.

Here are the facts:

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

• There are four regional sites (East — Providence, R.I.; Northeast — Manchester, N.H.; Midwest — South Bend, Ind.; West — Fargo, N.D.).

• A host institution that 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: Brown in Providence, New Hampshire in Manchester, Notre Dame in South Bend and North Dakota in Fargo.

• Seedings will not be switched. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intra-conference games (see below), teams will be moved among regionals, not reseeded.

Here are the NCAA’s guidelines on the matter, from the 2015 pre-championship manual:

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 the likelihood of a playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are 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. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds.

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

Given these facts, here is the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 13:

1 Minnesota State
2 Minnesota-Duluth
3 Harvard
4 Omaha
5 Bowling Green
6 North Dakota
7 Miami
8 Boston University
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 Vermont
11 Yale
12 Michigan Tech
13 Colgate
14t Quinnipiac
14t Minnesota
16 Providence
19 Michigan
— Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Michigan
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston University (by win-loss versus Connecticut)
NCHC: Omaha
WCHA: Minnesota State

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 amount 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 after applying the tiebreakers.

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. The only teams that are not are Michigan and Robert Morris.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion.

The ties and bubbles consist of Quinnipiac and Minnesota at 14. This is a big tiebreaker.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Minnesota State
2 Minnesota-Duluth
3 Harvard
4 Omaha
5 Bowling Green
6 North Dakota
7 Miami
8 Boston University
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 Vermont
11 Yale
12 Michigan Tech
13 Colgate
14 Quinnipiac
15 Michigan
16 Robert Morris

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, Minnesota-Duluth, Harvard, Omaha

No. 2 seeds: Bowling Green, North Dakota, Miami, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Vermont, Yale, Michigan Tech

No. 4 seeds: Colgate, Quinnipiac, Michigan, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Minnesota State is placed in the West Regional in Fargo.
No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the Midwest Regional in South Bend.
No. 3 Harvard is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 4 Omaha is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.

Step four

Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intra-conference 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 would be played by No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5.

So therefore:

No. 2 seeds

North Dakota, as a host institution, is placed first.

No. 6 North Dakota is placed in No. 1 Minnesota State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 8 Boston University is placed in No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 7 Miami is placed in No. 3 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 5 Bowling Green is placed in No. 4 Omaha’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 and 15; another with 3, 6, 11 and 14; and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

No. 9 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Boston University’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 10 Vermont is placed in No. 7 Miami’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Yale is placed in No. 6 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 12 Michigan Tech is placed in No. 5 Bowling Green’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

No. 16 Robert Morris is sent to No. 1 Minnesota State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Michigan is sent to No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Quinnipiac is sent to No. 3 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 13 Colgate is sent to No. 4 Omaha’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan Tech vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Michigan vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Boston University

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
11 Yale vs. 6 North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have three, so let’s solve them.

We have Quinnipiac vs. Harvard, Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Boston University and Michigan Tech vs. Bowling Green.

We can solve this pretty easily by swapping two teams. But which two teams?

Let’s start adding in the tangibles now. The one tangible that I will use now is getting a higher seed closer to its home base. So in this case, I swap Bowling Green with Boston University.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Michigan vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
11 Yale vs. 6 North Dakota

Now we also have Quinnipiac vs. Harvard to solve. We can’t swap Quinnipiac with Colgate, so we have to swap Quinnipiac with either Michigan or Robert Morris. But remember, the committee has protected the No. 1 seed in the past, so they certainly will do it again. So Quinnipiac has to be swapped with Michigan.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
11 Yale vs. 6 North Dakota

What else can we do with this bracket at the moment to maximize attendance?

Examining the bracket, we can do one thing: swap Michigan Tech with Yale to get each one into “West” and “East.”

East Regional (Providence):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
11 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
12 Michigan Tech vs. 6 North Dakota

Now this looks like our bracket for the week.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

Here’s a summary of everything that we have covered.

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
11 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
12 Michigan Tech vs. 6 North Dakota

Conference breakdowns

ECAC Hockey — 4
Hockey East — 3
NCHC — 4
WCHA — 3
Big Ten — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: Yale, Colgate, Michigan

Out: Providence, Penn State, Minnesota

Attendance woes?

South Bend could be iffy.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

42 COMMENTS

  1. I’m entering you both in the ECAC Pick The Playoffs Contest. You better be picking next week and the following week. :)

    • Minn-Duluth switched conferences at mid-season. Didn’t you see the memo? They decided B1G was MORE “like-minded” than NCHC.

    • Memo: Nine weeks out… it WILL change. I only find it a bit amusing, Minny is not there, even with all that paper talent.

      • Of course it will change. If it doesn’t someone wake up Fonzi, the shark is ready.

        MN doesn’t deserve consideration now. Until they show consistent effort, especially in the D zone, the struggles will continue.

        • Never said they deserved it, just another case of great teams on paper, as always. I am not an ECAC fan, but their top teams can still compete with top teams in any league.

          • Compete? Memo; “Your “best”! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f… the prom queen.” The ECAC is looking for a band geek (no offense to band geeks).

            “Never said they deserved it…..”-so what? Ya wanna meet by the bike rack after school.

          • Wow, that made a lot of sense. Again, not an ECAC fan at all, but “their best” have won two straight NC’s, in case you have a short memory.

          • You couldn’t make sense of it? Too bad. Time will tell how many the ECAC bring to the tourney but 4 isn’t happening, make sense?
            Gostisbehere was incredibly good in big game last year. (Where was your team?)
            And Yale was led by a very hot goaltender (good for hockey and the Minnesotan on the team)

          • Why so bitter? It’s only college hockey and your Gophs have plenty of time to turn things around. I agree, probably not going to be 4 and I could care less, since it’s ECAC. Your original comment about how the tourney would suck is just stupid. It may suck for you, but not for everyone. Even not being an ECAC fan, the last two FF’s have been a couple of the most fun to attend because of what were considered underdogs (even though people knew Union was very talented) won. Who cares where my team was? I cheer for my team but all in all am a college hockey fan, unlike you, I guess.

          • No bitterness buddy but find your deflections funny, keep it up.
            The tourney would suck because it doesn’t come close to bringing the best 16 teams together for a national champ. Pairwise, much akin to ESPNs QBR for quarterbacks, is a joke.

            To the paper champs, if they can bring intensity to the remaining schedule, they will be in the tourney.

            Have a great day. And let’s play hockey.

          • Deflections? And yes, there is bitterness. When I made the first post, I had no idea you were even a Minny fan, but that’s the very first program (and state) I think of when I think college hockey, so that’s why they were mentioned. I guess that’s some sort of compliment.
            I won’t disagree the Pairwise is a joke, but no matter the way the teams are decided, there is no way to have the best 16 teams in the tournament.
            I hope Minny has a great last couple of months and they should dominate the Big 10 (sorry, I hate the logo).
            Agreed… enjoy the season and get back to the games.

          • There is a way to get to the top 16, just get rid of the automatic qualifiers and take the top 16 in the pairwise (or the KRACH). Done, you now have the top 16 teams, at least in theory.

            Another way to do it would be to give the auto bids to the actual conference winners and not the tournament winners, at least that way you would more than likely only have one that may crash the party and not be part of the top 16, but when was the last time that at least 5 of the 6 conference winners weren’t also in the top 16? I would guess it’s been a long long time.

            So two ways to get a little closer. The issue is always the teams that were not going to make it but steal a spot by winning their conf tournament. Getting hot at the right time is fine but do they really belong in the tourney?

          • I do agree the KRACH may be slightly better, but not all that much. I don’t think you can get rid of auto-bids (would you go play at a school that had virtually no chance to ever play in the NCAA’s?), nor the auto bid going to the tourney winner for reasons stated above by jsfny.
            Your point about UND making it last year and going all the way to the final is certainly valid… look at the year before, Yale was the last team in (besides an auto) and won it all.
            There will always be differences and teams getting in that shouldn’t vs. teams that should, etc… but I don’t think changing the auto-bids, tourney champion and format is the answer. I think we should be trying to grow hockey as a sport, not lose teams like would happen without the auto-bids.

          • Not sure I agree with your comment about playing at a school that had virtually no chance to play in the NCAA’s – do you really think the guys that are playing at Air Force, RIT or Robert Morris think they will play in the NCAA or care about playing in the NCAA? if that was the goal, they wouldn’t be going to school there. This isn’t about everyone getting a chance to play or getting a ribbon.
            The question was asked about getting the best 16 teams in and there are ways to do that.

          • I do still think it’s a big deal to most kids to say they have played in the NCAA’s and for the smaller conferences, it’s the only chance they have. Either way, big underdogs and upsets are part of what makes any national tournament fun. Without the auto-bids and a conference tourney upset or two, those opportunities would be gone.
            Yes, there are ways, but still subjective and at the expense of possibly hurting some of the programs currently playing. NCAA Hockey is small enough already.

          • And you would replace the pairwise with… what exactly? the Let’sPlayHockey poll? the Pairwise doesn’t even try to bring the best 16, since every conference champ has to make it. Are you opposed to that, which has been true, roughly, forever?

          • Actually the con champs arent’ guaranteed a spot only the winner of the conf tourney. It would be better to award it to the actual conf winner, the team that played the best throughout the whole season but that will never happen. College hockey is always looking for a way to capture what the NCAA basketball tournament does but it just can’t and they should stop trying. The pairwise is a joke, if you wanted my opinion I would go with the KRACH as that seems to have a better way to capture the truly best teams by the end of the season. If the best 16 teams were just 6 from HE, 4 from NCHC, 3 from big 10 and 2 from WCHA and 1 from ECAC then I would prefer that would be the field.

            The idea of automatic bids works for BB because they take a huge field, if we want to have automatic bids then so be it but lets make the tourney a bit bigger to make sure that we don’t leave a deserving team at home. Last year for example UND just barely made the tourney and made it to the FF, does anyone think the tournament would have been better if UND had lost one more game and didn’t qualify? If we want a true national champion and the auto bids are a requirement than make the field 20 and give bye’s the first round to some teams or something. Just think there is a better way than the pairewise, it’s bad.

          • Yeah, I meant conf tournament champs, of course. The problem with awarding entry only to the conf regular season champs is that you give a lot of teams incentives to pack it in early — way early. KRACH may be slightly better than the pairwise, but the differences by the end of the season aren’t huge, though I grant for two or three teams a year it makes a difference. And there’s no way to keep the AHA champ out, who almost invariably bumps somebody.

  2. Please, oh please, let UNO end up in South Bend (nobody in Omaha calls them “Omaha”, Jayson, or ever will. Trev Alberts and his utterly clueless staff cannot rename our school no matter what kind of directive or press release they send you. Even the local media here does not comply with this idiocy). I would not wear an Omaha jersey at gunpoint, just like any other real UNO fan.

    There is no way they end up in Fargo unless UND and/or MSM implode. I’d make the trip to South Bend, but Manchester is out of the question

  3. Attendance at South Bend will always be iffy, unless Notre Dame somehow makes the tournament. That still doesn’t guarantee good attendance.

  4. The Gophers will sweep Ohio State at home. Robeson is a much better goalie than Scheirhorn and is able to make those big stops that change momentum that Scheirhorn does not make. My pick is a tight Friday game 4-3 OT MN and a blowout on Saturday 5-2 MN. MN has the deepest set of forwards in the league and the best next level player in the country (Mittelstadt) that is starting to impact in all phases of the game. Their weakness all year is their huge but young defensive corps that has improved greatly over the past 10 games. The Gophers will capture 3rd in the league, secure home ice and position themselves to make a deep NCAA run. Watch out for the gophers, UMD (NCHA) and MSU in the postseason…they will all be tough outs.

    • The “best next level player in the country”? Now that is really a joke, and more than laughable. He is probably not in the top 5. You should have added the “best” in the B1G. Check the Olympics roster for the top four; Greenway, Terry, Borgen, and Donato. I am sure Henrik Borgstrom will also be in the mx. You can make up your own biases, but not the facts. By the way, talk about your own “facts, there is no such conference as the NCHA.

        • Listen tool. I only come to this Small Seven site when a need a good laugh. If I want to have a serious conversation with people that are knowledgeable about college hockey, I go to the HEA or NCHC blog. Almost everyone on this site is like you, a total uninformed loser.

      • I wouldn’t even say he’s the “best” in the Big 10. He’s like 20th in points in the conference. Evans and Laczynski are much better point producers.

        • Disingenuous at best. Poehling isn’t the best player on SCSU, Terry isn’t the best player on DU? Both aren’t the best point producers on their respective teams but are their best players.

      • Robeson is a BIG difference maker. Tonight’s game should be a good one. On a separate note…Michigan also looks very dangerous. They face the same issue as the gophers having to recruit true 18’s and losing them after the first or second year. Once they acclimate to the college level they start to emerge late season. They will be a tough out as well.

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