Two weeks out, and it’s time to watch for teams falling off the bubble

NInth overall seed Providence and 10th overall seed Boston College both could be in line for a move to the East Regional. Which one would the committee pick? (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 come selection time 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, the reader, 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 March 3:

1 North Dakota
2 Minnesota State
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Miami
5 Omaha
6 Boston University
7 Michigan Tech
8 Denver
9 Providence
10 Boston College
11 Minnesota
12t Quinnipiac
12t Yale
14 Bowling Green
15t Michigan
15t Massachusetts-Lowell
25 Robert Morris

Current conference leaders or regular season champions based on tiebreakers established by each conference:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris (regular season champion)
Big Ten: Michigan
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac (regular season champion)
Hockey East: Boston University (regular season champion)
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota State


• Bracketology assumes that the season has ended and there are no more games to be played — i.e., the NCAA tournament starts tomorrow.

• I’m using the conference tiebreakers to determine the No. 1 seed for that conference’s tournament. This team is my assumed conference tournament champion and recipient of the autobid.

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 team that is not is Robert Morris.

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

There are two ties, Quinnipiac and Yale and Michigan and Massachusetts-Lowell.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: North Dakota, Minnesota State, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami

No. 2 seeds: Omaha, Boston University, Michigan Tech, Denver

No. 3 seeds: Providence, Boston College, Minnesota, Quinnipiac

No. 4 seeds: Yale, Bowling Green, Michigan, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

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

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

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

No. 8 Denver is placed in No. 1 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 7 Michigan Tech is placed in No. 2 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 6 Boston University is placed in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 5 Omaha is placed in No. 4 Miami’s regional, the East 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 Providence is placed in No. 8 Denver’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Boston College is placed in No. 7 Michigan Tech’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Minnesota is placed in No. 6 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 12 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 5 Omaha’s regional, the East 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 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Michigan is sent to No. 2 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Bowling Green is sent to No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 13 Yale is sent to No. 4 Miami’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
12 Quinnipiac vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Bowling Green vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Michigan vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Boston College vs. 7 Michigan Tech

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Providence vs. 8 Denver

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have none this week.

Then let’s leave everything as it is. Now, you know that can’t happen, right?

Why not?

Let’s look at the East and Northeast Regionals.

There are three western teams in the Northeast Regional and two ECAC Hockey teams in the East Regional. I’m not so concerned about the East as I am the Northeast.

We have Providence and Boston College sitting in the West and Midwest Regionals, respectively, and it would be nice to bring one of them back East to help bolster attendance.

With Boston University sitting in the two band and in the East, you can’t bring back both of them. So we need to decide which team to bring back.

I will look at the PWR: Providence is 9, Boston College is 10. So let’s work on bringing Providence back East.

Providence, though not the host in the East Regional, is still a nice draw in Providence. So I would like to place them there.

This means that Quinnipiac must move to Manchester, and in turn, Minnesota to take Providence’s spot.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
9 Providence vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Bowling Green vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Michigan vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Boston College vs. 7 Michigan Tech

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
11 Minnesota vs. 8 Denver

And there you have it.

We’ve maximized what we have had in terms of Eastern teams in the East Regional.

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):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
9 Providence vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Bowling Green vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Michigan vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Boston College vs. 7 Michigan Tech

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
11 Minnesota vs. 8 Denver

Conference breakdowns

NCHC — 5
Hockey East — 3
WCHA — 3
Big Ten — 2
ECAC Hockey — 2
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: Yale

Out: St. Cloud State

Attendance woes?

I think we are OK.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
13 Bowling Green vs. 4 Miami
12 Providence vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 St. Cloud State vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Denver


Playoff time

It’s playoff time, and some teams head into action this week while others have a bye. What’s important here is the bubble and how to stay alive. Some teams can’t do anything until next week to improve their lot on the PWR.

So teams such as St. Lawrence and Colgate can’t do anything to get off the bubble as of yet. But teams like Harvard, Vermont and Northeastern can.

So take a look at the series this weekend that involve Vermont, Northeastern and Harvard. If your team is on the bubble, such as Lowell and St. Cloud State, you certainly want these teams to lose their series this weekend.


  1. A very tough year for UNH indeed :(

    they’ve been in decline as a program for the last couple year, not making the NCAAs and all that, but they at least seemed competitive at times (almost won the HE tourney last year). They have just gone off the rails this year.

    • It’s been tough to even want to use the season tickets this year, but it will get better. With Glenn Stewart coming in and Tortorella leaving, the recruiting just took a major jump ahead. This Freshman class looks good and the next two years appear to be good, on paper, so far. If Stewart could get some good quality players to go to Merrimack, I would think he should have good success at his alma mater.
      The DeSmith debacle hurt, a lot. The fact that UNH rarely plays more than a couple of Freshman because they don’t get the type of recruits BC, Minn, No. Dakota, Michigan get and therefore not quite ready to play yet (pretty much practice players for a year in most cases), will pay dividends in the future too… although it hurts to watch now.

    • Almost won the Hockey East Tournament last year? They got crushed in the final, 4-0, by Lowell. I don’t think DeSmith would count that as an “almost win” for his last game as a Wildcat.

  2. It will be interesting to see who NU starts in net next Monday night against BC in round one of the Beanpot. Jim Madigan has two legit number 1 goalies in Derick Roy and Clay Witt. I was happy to see Maine play well at home and on the road this weekend.

  3. Ohhh, Mason Joy: sagacious seer of all things hockeyish and
    bracketological–will my team Big State Tech A & M make the NCAA tournament field this year?

  4. How do you figure that Harvard is a bubble team? They dont deserve a chance to be in based on how terrible they have been since the first of the Year. I hope brown takes it to them..And no way Yale should be staying east. They should be shipped out west.

      • I’ll take that bet this year if you want to make one. Yale was a much better team than they got credit for clearly, but I think that both UND and MN were maybe a little overrated. This year UND is the real deal. Sucks they lost MacMillan, that is going to hurt a bit, but it wouldn’t hurt against Yale.

    • The NCAA ball-washers can’t wait for another showdown like last year’s FF semi. Literally, can’t wait till the FF, so why not match them up in the same regional? It’s along the lines of 5 NCHC teams, 3 #1 seeds and 2 #2 seeds, all being stuffed into 3 regionals. Tournament integrity has left the building…

      • Tim, are you suggest that having the 5 NCHC teams in only three regionals somehow messes with bracket integrity? If you are, take a look at the bracket before any switches were made. If this week’s bracket was kept with perfect integrity (1v16, 2v15, etc.), the 5 NCHC teams would have ended up in only 3 regionals anyway. Put another way, none of the NCHC teams were moved in this version of the bracket, so there’s absolutely no bracket integrity issues in terms of not having an NCHC team in each regional.

        Now, moving Minn to Fargo and the other moves in the 3rd band? That’s another story, but it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Gophers will end up in Fargo if they make the tourney.

        • Not completely how I was implying it, but close. I have every confidence that Denver and/ or Duluth, maybe even Omaha will fall into the 3 or 4 seed after playoffs. Your endpoint is my biggest gripe. The Gophs haven’t played good enough to warrant playing in the west, but their PWR may change for the good, also. Regardless, they will be put in Fargo. Not that I’m dreading that matchup, cuz I stillcringe when I think about last year, but cmon. It’s almost set in stone.

          • Yeah Tim, I wasn’t implying the Gophers have played good enough to warrant playing in the West. In fact, I’d argue they’ve played bad enough that they are likely going to end up there if they make the field. I’d rather see them in any other region, frankly, but I doubt that will happen. Can’t complain too much if they end up in Fargo, as at least it’ll mean Minnesota made the tourney.

    • They’re not the host school. The host school is Brown. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a technicality, but there it is.

      Also, you can’t put them in South Bend, because MSU is the no 1 seed and that’s closer to home for them.

  5. Man it sucks to be Omaha. Go from playing Boston in Boston (effectively) to playing Providence in Providence. Why not send Providence and UNO to Manchester and Quinnipiac and Boston U to Providence. It’s not like Manchester and Providence are all that far apart anyway

  6. Every week you put Minnesota in Fargo with North Dakota? Why have seedings if you just ignore them and make attendance decisions.

  7. I would rather Miami not be a #1 seed and see them closer to home. That Providence regional just doesn’t seem right with Providence and Yale being there. It would be the third time in five years that we get shipped up north.

    Also sucks to see Minn-Duluth in Manchester!

    • projecting out a few weeks – if BU runs the table, does it end up a top 4 seed? There will be fratricide in the NCHC tournament, as one of the current top 4 seeds is guaranteed to not make the tournament final and another is guaranteed not to win it. Figure one of those teams drops behind BU, assuming BU wins HE.

        • Actually, he’s completely correct Joseph. Three of the current top 4 overall seeds are from the NCHC. Simple math says that three teams can’t make the NCHC tournament final and two teams can’t win it. So, it is actually guaranteed that at least one of the 3 NCHC teams in the top 4 won’t make the NCHC final and at least 2 of them won’t win the tournament, which would pave the way for another team, like BU, to possibly grab a #1 seed.

          • I misinterpreted what he was saying as I was looking at the Top 4 in the NCHC, not the Top 4 in the NCAAs

  8. Providence being at Providence doesn’t matter their fan base is a joke. Went to their area for a winner take all game for the Hockey East regular season title and it was like a home game for UML. PC is a basketball school.

  9. Perhaps in future seasons we should have a Far West Regional, a West regional, a Midwest regional and an East Regional. I think we 4-5 teams from the east this year in the 16-team field.

  10. Providence playing at Providence doesn’t matter their fan base is a joke. Went to their area for a winner take all game for the Hockey East regular season title few years back and it was like a home game for UML. PC is a basketball school.

  11. One could sell out regionals in Grand Forks and Minneapolis every year. The east and midwest rarely sell well even with home draws. So, put a regional in Grand Forks, Minneapolis, Chicago and Boston.

    • I hear this same BS from Minnesota fans EVERY year. They DID NOT sell out last year as they had under 10,000 for both days in an arena that holds 18,000. Check the facts. Regionals have a tough time selling out because fans paid a lot of money to see their team in their own league quarterfinals, semis and Finals. Then they have to pony up too much money for the NCAA Regionlas. Every year we hear how Minnesota will sell out their Regional. It just doesn’t happen. Minnesota has great fans, but the NCAA charges way too much.

      • Minnesota sells MUCH better than most any place east of Chicago. I’m not sure they don’t sell better than ANY place east of Chicago. I’ve seen UND play a regional final in an eastern rink before less than 1000 fans against an eastern team.

        I agree about the NCAA.

        • Minnesota has good attendance, but every year someone says that they easily sell out in Minneapolis and that building was half full with the University of Minnesota playing both days. That is a fact. It is probably double or triple the size of any (good) eastern school. It would be nice if Boston could host a Regional more often ( instead of Manchester, Worcester or Providence ), but the Garden has the Celtics and Bruins taking up a lot of its time. The Frozen Four is finally back this year.

  12. Agreed. Moving Minnesota to the west regional does nothing for attendance there as it’s already sold out, so then you should keep bracket integrity!

    • It isn’t about helping out west. It’s to get Providence back to Providence where they will help with attendance for that regional.

  13. No one should get too upset over the brackets now (since they will change three more times). What bothers me is teams being moved for attendance. Outside of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and maybe the Boston teams the other schools don’t travel well enough to justify moving teams around. JMO

  14. How about round 1 be played at the schools. Then do a Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8 team final. These regionals are a joke!

    • I hope you were not serious. Round 1 played at which school (at Miami of course), what ranked team plays what ranked team, where would the 3-day team finals be played (at Miami of course)? This will change at least 3 times so don’t fret, you can complain when the league tourneys are done and the field gets finalized. You have to win 4 games to become champion, it doesn’t matter where you play.

      • No first round the top 8 get a home game and the bottom 8 travel! The 3 day final would be played at a big site like the frozen four is now. Just make it 8 teams instead of 4. Everyone is worrying about attendance, I guarantee that you would sell out a big stadium with 8 teams fans instead of just 4.

        • A “big site” would be empty if no teams close to it were playing. How many fans would show up in Boston if all 8 teams were from NCHC, B1G and WCHA? Likewise for a game at Excel in Minnesota with all 8 teams from ECAC, AHC and HE. Also, having teams play 3 games in 3 days is not feasible, especially if there were any OT games. You do realize you would have to play 4 games in one day, also not feasible unless you started first game at 1000, due to possible longer games. How many teams, and fans, would appreciate that. Why not wait until you really have something to worry about?

        • Yeah I was at the FF in Denver a few years ago. Certainly wasn’t a sell out and you had BC, UND, Michigan and Notre Dame all teams that either travel pretty well (by college hockey standards) or have huge fan bases everywhere (Notre Dame). Selling out shouldn’t be a goal as I think it is hard to come by.

  15. But, but… all the brackets suck. None of the teams mentioned should make the field. Plus fans all have to travel to the wrong places. Sure my team has lost twenty games in a row. Doesn’t matter. It should still be a #1 seed and play on campus in its home rink. And another thing…

  16. is it a mystery that the SOS in the pwr is still flawed? Nodak and Mankato have identical records (24-6-3) and yet they’re 3 thousandths separated in the pwr. their schedules are FAR from similar.

  17. North Dakota is the greatest hockey team ever. We’re gonna win another championship. The BADgers suck. The Gophers are garbage. Wisco has 20 accounts. I hate everything that isn’t North Deekota!

  18. Son (Chockes),

    Are we going to Joe Black’s this weekend? I had a great time with you last weekend. Will your mother let me see you two weekends in a row?


    Dad (Ken Kenakenski)

    • I was at that game and the guy should not have done it for sure. But which college hockey team hasn’t had a fan go a little nuts. I will tell you that the Gopher fans in the building that night were so disgusted that UND made it and the Gophers didn’t that they were just looking to start something. The guy that was sitting next to me can thank his lucky stars that my mom was sitting on the other side of me, cause me and a couple of other buddies that were there were more than happy to take him up on his invitation outside. They were saying some pretty awful stuff about scalping, wounded knee was another comment I heard. So yeah not all fans act appropriately at these games.

      • Wow! Where to start?

        You’re such a humanitarian. One guy is offering to fight your entire group, and you didn’t destroy him. You’re the man!

        I would disagree with the description of the fan’s actions as a little nuts.

        I thought Wounded Knee happened in South Dakota, not North Deekota. I guess somebody on this site is right about the Fighting Mount Rushmores.

        • Guess I should have been more specific there were 5 of them and 3 of us. And yes they were just drunk enough that the extra two of them were just about making it a fair fight. I tried to find the loud mouth later but he disappeared before the end of the game.

          • That’s better.

            A couple questions. Was your mom part of the three, or did she make your group four?

            Was Chockes with you? That guy’s a menace, and I wouldn’t mess with him. That’s probably why the loudmouth fled the scene.

            Good luck this weekend against the Hawks!

    • As a Michigan fan, I have to say that was one of the most satisfying wins of any Michigan team I’ve ever seen. The number of North Dakota fans howling about how the final score would be 5-0, 6-0, 7-0 on here was deafening. I imagine that fellow was one of them.

      • Thank you for your post, Brandon.

        Do you remember if Chockes was one of those loudmouth Nodakers?

        9 > 7
        Go Big Blue!

  19. Completed brackets after last night’s games. Appears there is no way to move Gophers to west based on current PWR/RPI. Appears to be a contentious issue non the less. Realize there are games today but I don’t think the outcomes will matter. Maybe Vermont, but unlikely to move into the field. The only possible attendance swap I see is Gophers (14) NE with UML (15) MW. The rankings will most certainly change in the next 2 weeks but I enjoy this exercise to see if I can come up with the same as Moy.


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