NCAA committee sees straightforward path to generating a ‘really strong bracket’

Greg Amlong and RIT will play their first-round NCAA tournament game against top overall seed Quinnipiac in Albany (photo: Omar Phillips).

The process of selecting and bracketing the 2016 Division I men’s NCAA tournament was pretty straightforward, according to committee member and Minnesota senior associate athletic director Tom McGinnis, despite six of the 16 teams in the field coming from Hockey East.

The entire process took just 30-45 minutes, a little bit quicker than normal, and in establishing the four regional brackets the committee was able to accomplish one of its top goals — avoiding first-round matchups between conference opponents, particularly the six Hockey East schools.

“We were very fortunate this year, laying out the seeds and the way they fell into the brackets, with a couple of changes here and there as we wanted to avoid first-round conference matchups,” said McGinnis. “We felt we had a really strong bracket and we should have a really strong championship this year.”

Quinnipiac earned the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. In doing so, the Bobcats technically should have been placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, which is the closest regional to the school’s Hamden, Conn., campus.

But the second Eastern regional is in Albany, N.Y., and being hosted by Quinnipiac’s own conference, ECAC Hockey. So despite being an additional 50 miles from the Quinnipiac campus, the committee felt comfortable moving the Bobcats, along with bracket mates Rochester Institute of Technology, Quinnipiac’s first-round opponent, as well as another ECAC team Yale and UMass-Lowell, out to New York’s Capital District.

“When we looked at those two regionals in the eastern part of the country, looking at Quinnipiac’s proximity to Albany and Worcester, they were very similar in our minds,” said McGinnis. “Then we looked at each regional and the teams we had in there, and it goes back to providing some more attendance and a better opportunity for fans to be able to attend.

“So while technically [Quinnipiac] was closer to one [site] than the other, we kind of felt we could go either way based on what their location was.”

In making the switch and allowing Quinnipiac and its three bracket mates to move to Albany, it placed Boston College, Providence and Harvard — all within a 60-minute drive of Worcester, Mass. — in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, a move that should help drive attendance at that site.

When all was said and done, McGinnis said, the most important aspect to him and the committee was not necessarily to maximize attendance but rather avoid any conferences from having their teams play in the opening round.

“The fans want to see their team playing a different team than who they might see in their regular season,” said McGinnis. “The changes we made really avoided those first-round matchups while maximizing attendance and the experience at all the different sites.”

It is quite possible that Sunday’s seeding and selection could be one of the final times that the NCAA committee designs its bracket in four pre-determined regions, something that has been the norm since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003.

No regional sites have been selected past 2017. And, according to Kristin Fasbender, the NCAA’s director of championships and alliances, the committee and the college hockey body as a whole will explore whether a new structure to the regional portion of the tournament, which could include playing games at campus sites, is a more viable option.

“I think there is continued conversation about [changing the regionals],” said Fasbender. “The committee keeps talking about what [the tournament] looks like when we go forward.

“We’re in a year here where at our four regional sites, none of our host institutions are in them. So I think we’ll continue to have this conversation as we get into the championship in Tampa and at the coaches’ association meetings in April and the [NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey] committee meetings in June and trying to talk more about what we want to continue to look at globally for the whole tournament as we go forward.”

In her comments, Fasbender acknowledged that the transparency of the selection process and the extended prognostications done by the college hockey world ahead of selection Sunday made the process a little bit easier for the committee this year.

“Everybody’s watching everything going into [the selection process] from a committee member’s perspective, so folks did get on the phone [on Sunday] with some ideas in their head of how things could play out,” she said.

“So it was some good conversation with the group. While it wasn’t the longest [selection] call that we’ve had, I do think people came into the call thinking about [how to seed the field].”

25 COMMENTS

  1. I’d like to see them explore on on-campus alternative. I know there’s some complications, and you can’t guarantee that that host would win their first game (making for an awkward regional final), but there’s gotta be a better way to do it. Maybe require each team to keep a secondary rink as an alternative, as well, in case their main rink is occupied that weekend.

    One of the alluring factors about hockey, especially college hockey, is the unpredictability (especially in a single-elimination tournament). However, I do feel that top seeds should get at least the small advantage that would come with playing at home. They played 40 games to get that top seed and it may be a win percentage of 65% at home vs. a win percentage of 55-60% at the neutral site (which could be 500 miles away like UND this weekend)

    • I believe this was done in the old days. i remember Northern Michigan having to play Michigan in Yost for the right to go to the frozen four. That being said, what ever happened to the Colorado College rule from 20 years ago, when the regular season conference champs still got to the tournament when they were upset in the conference tournament. How do you leave out regular season champs Michigan Tech with an RPI of 16 and Robert Morris out of the tournament. Does the regular season mean anything anymore? Six teams from the Hockey East Conference? Four wasn’t enough?

      • Bluelion,
        You made some great points.The ncaa needs to figure something out when a team with 24 wins get’s left out.Notre dame made it with 19 wins(14 of them against unranked non tourney teams).RIT at 18-14 yes the won the conference tourney.It all comes down to attendance issues and the ncaa would rather have ND in Cincy and not Mich Tech because more fans MIGHT show up for ND.If Minnesota would of made the tourney at the 13th,14th,15th or 16th team in they would of went to St.Paul.Come on NCAA put the teams in that deserve it.

        • Look up how they calculate the Pairwise rankings up at the top. It’s entirely objective and transparent and is mostly driven by the fact that these smaller conferences have terrible out-of-conference records against the big conferences. That’s howthe Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC teams gain the Pairwise comparison points.

          • JT I understand the pairwise and how it works.But a big part of seeding them is attendance and the ncaa has admitted it this in articles on USCHO.Hockey east is a monster no doubt and deserve multiple teams.A conference winner barely over 500 does not deserve to go.Do you anyone remember about 5-7 years ago when a 7 and 23 Huntsville Alabama team made the tourney?They won the coference tourney and were horrible.The NCAA needs to fix some things.

          • Yes I do remember it. So what’s your proposal? Regular season and conference tourney winners make the NCAA’s? Doesn’t that take some of the drama away? If a team loses all 14 of its non-conference games but then goes 13-7 and gets first place in their conference….they automatically deserve a spot?

            Holy Cross was 10-19 and hadn’t won a single road game all year (basketball) and won four straight road games before getting killed by Oregon. That’s how it’s always been in these small school conferences for both sports.

          • I am not 100 percent sure what my proposal would be and remember some small schools aren’t so small in hockey.I understand it is the way it’s worked for years.I use notre dame as a example because they won 19 games and 14 came against unranked non tourney teams.Is Hockey east the best conference?YES,but Notre dame doesn’t deserve a spot over a 25 win team from Mich Tech.Mich tech didn’t make it because Ferris got hot in the tourney and I believe Tech is ranked between 11th and 13th.Like it or not the NCAA put more into location for hockey thn any other tourney sport,attendence is historically bad so let’s throw ND in Cincy and maybe more fans will show up.And by the way nice chatting with you it is usually guys calling each other names and acting tough on the computer.

      • The Pairwise ranking system is not perfect, but it’s entirely transparent and objective. NCAA basketball does the same thing with its smaller school conferences…20+ games of regular season games mean nothing until you get to the one-and-done conference tournaments. Hockey East, NCHC, and ECAC have ridiculous out of conference records against the Big 10, WCHA, and Atlantic Hockey. That’s how they get the advantages over the smaller conferences

  2. They should host at campus sites because there should be some reward for being a top seed, not being sent a kajillion miles away rather than being given an hour trip because you’re in Massachusetts.

  3. North Dakota was penalized for having great fans, looks like. NCAA wanted to keep teams close to home to draw better — hence St. Cloud State gets to stay at home. Absolute bullcrap.

    I notice how this article didn’t dare ask about that.

      • Doesn’t mean any of their fans will show up. Wasn’t it in 2010, wisco and SCSU were in the regional in St. Paul…….lower level wasn’t even 3/4 full…..Hard 80 mile drove from St. Cloud

        • Sounds like sour grapes. Also, aren’t Hawks fans the ones who always pride themselves on saying “we’ll follow our team anywhere”?

          • Remind me where I said UND doesn’t travel. I’m saying St. Cloud fans don’t travel….80 miles is just too far.

    • Ron, you make all of us North Dakota fans look like whiny idiots on these comment threads. Move on and stop making us all look bad. If we are going to win it all, we will have to beat great times somewhere in the next month.

      • Times? There’s no racing, this isn’t a time trial. You seem confused. Sit down, have a glass of warm milk, perhaps.

        Who’s the idiot?

        Just because you’re too stupid to realize you got screwed doesn’t mean I should stop saying it. UND fans have been doing a lot of taking it in the azz from the NCAA lately, it seems.

        Maybe UND will play against the Fighting Irish, whose name isn’t ethnically insensitive at all.

        But people like you just bend over again and again.

  4. What the NCAA needs to do is have two Regional sites. One on the East Coast, (Boston, Hartford, Pittsburg, and maybe New York), and one on the West (St, Paul, Detroit, Denver, Chicago). The fan base is just not large enough in hockey to be playing these games in large arenas. It really makes the sport look weak.

  5. Two Super Regionals, East and West
    East Regional: (all games played in Boston)
    Quninnipiac-Rit
    BU-UMass Lowell

    Providence-BC
    Harvard-Northeastern

    West Regionals: (all games played in St Paul)
    St Cloud-Ferris State
    Denver-Yale

    North Dakota-MN Dulth
    Michigan-Notre Dame
    Should be great crowds at the two sites.

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