Looking at the PairWise as 2017 rolls out

Robert Morris wins the 2016 Three Rivers Classic (Omar Phillips)
Robert Morris has won two straight Three Rivers Classic titles, but how would the Colonials fare in the NCAA tournament? (photo: Omar Phillips).

We’re at that time of the year where one thing is on everyone’s minds.

Will my team make the NCAA tournament? Where does it sit in the PairWise Rankings (PWR)?

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.

Five of the last six 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.

With that in mind, 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 might look like 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.

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.

This is the next installment of Bracketology for 2017, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 19.

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 – Cincinnati, Ohio; 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. The host institutions this year: Brown in Providence, New Hampshire in Manchester, Miami in Cincinnati 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 January 3:

1 Minnesota-Duluth
2 Penn State
3 Denver
4t Harvard
4t Massachusetts-Lowell
4t Boston University
7 Western Michigan
8 Union
9 North Dakota
10 Minnesota
11 Vermont
12 Notre Dame
13 Ohio State
14 Omaha
15t Boston College
15t St. Cloud State
19 Air Force
21 Bemidji State

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
Big Ten: Penn State
ECAC Hockey: Union
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: Minnesota-Duluth
WCHA: Bemidji 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 Air Force and Bemidji State.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of none this week.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Minnesota-Duluth
2 Penn State
3 Denver
4 Harvard
5 Massachusetts-Lowell
6 Boston University
7 Western Michigan
8 Union
9 North Dakota
10 Minnesota
11 Vermont
12 Notre Dame
13 Ohio State
14 Boston College
15 Air Force
16 Bemidji State

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Penn State, Denver, Harvard

No. 2 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston University, Western Michigan, Union

No. 3 seeds: North Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, Notre Dame

No. 4 seeds: Ohio State, Boston College, Air Force, Bemidji State

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the West Regional in Fargo
No. 2 Penn State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 3 Denver is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 4 Harvard is placed in the East Regional in Providence.

Why do we place Denver in Manchester and Harvard in Providence? An ECAC team is hosting in Providence is one reason, and Providence is also closer to Harvard by a few miles. Since Denver has to fly, we try to get the number one seeds as close to their homes as possible.

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 Union is placed in No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 7 Western Michigan is placed in No. 2 Penn State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 6 Boston University is placed in No. 3 Denver’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 4 Harvard’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.

North Dakota is a host, therefore they are placed first in this pod:

No. 9 North Dakota is placed in No. 8 Union’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Minnesota is placed in No. 7 Penn State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 11 Vermont is placed in No. 6 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 12 Notre Dame is placed in No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell’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 Bemidji State is sent to No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 15 Air Force is sent to No. 2 Penn State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 14 Boston College is sent to No. 3 Denver’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 13 Ohio State is sent to No. 4 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Harvard
12 Notre Dame vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Denver
11 Vermont vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Penn State
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Minnesota-Duluth
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Union

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two – Notre Dame vs. Massachusetts-Lowell and Vermont vs. Boston University.

Let’s solve this.

Looks like we have some issues. North Dakota can’t be moved in the third-seed pod. Thus we only have Minnesota as a spot where we can move. Who do we swap Minnesota with – Vermont or Notre Dame?

I’ll look at attendance here. Notre Dame will draw better in Cincinnati than Vermont. I make that swap.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Harvard
10 Minnesota vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Denver
11 Vermont vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Penn State
12 Notre Dame vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Minnesota-Duluth
9 North Dakota vs. 8 Union

That still leaves us with one intra-conference matchup. It can’t possibly be avoided by moving number three seeds at this point in time.

But can we actually eliminate this intra-conference matchup?

That answer is yes – by moving the two seeds.

How can we do that?

We can move one of the Hockey East seeds to Fargo, and move Union into the slot.

Meaning, we swap Union and Boston University.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Harvard
10 Minnesota vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Denver
11 Vermont vs. 8 Union

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Penn State
12 Notre Dame vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Minnesota-Duluth
9 North Dakota vs. 6 Boston University

And now you have no more intra-conference matchups.

Yes, the BU fans are up in arms now, but this eliminates all of the intra-conference matchups.

How can we improve attendance at these regionals?

I kind of like how it is right now, though I would put some consideration into swapping the location of Minnesota-UML and Vermont-Union.

I think this is about all we can do this week.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

But remember: There are so many changes between now and the actual bracket announcement.

See you here in a few weeks for the next Bracketology.

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

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Harvard
10 Minnesota vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Denver
11 Vermont vs. 8 Union

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Penn State
12 Notre Dame vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Minnesota-Duluth
9 North Dakota vs. 6 Boston University

Conference breakdowns

Hockey East — 5
NCHC — 4
Big Ten — 3
ECAC Hockey — 2
WCHA — 1
Atlantic Hockey – 1

Last Week’s Bracket

East Regional (Providence):
13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Harvard
12 Boston College vs. 5 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Cornell vs. 3 Denver
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Army vs. 1 Penn State
10 Western Michigan vs. 8 Ohio State

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Bemidji State vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 North Dakota vs. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell

52 COMMENTS

  1. Just checked power rankings for first time this year. No UM or MSU in Top 28. Has this ever happened before this year? I am not sure when they started making them public. Love the blog.

  2. Just checked power rankings for first time this year. No UM or MSU in Top 28. Has this ever happened before this year? I am not sure when they started making them public. Love the blog.

  3. Been saying that about Michigan all season, Paula. Isn’t it funny what great goaltending hides and what poor goaltending exposes?

  4. Been saying that about Michigan all season, Paula. Isn’t it funny what great goaltending hides and what poor goaltending exposes?

  5. Why is BC in over Omaha? Wouldn’t BC and SCSU get booted in favor of the alleged WCHA and AIC conf. tourney champs?

    • Apparently, the old copy and paste method has flaws.

      Ex: “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 Minnesota State and Holy Cross.”

      PWR
      #28-MNSU
      #43-Holy Cross

    • You forgot that BC is currently leading the Hockey East. As such, they are assumed to have HE’s automatic berth. As a result, BC is effectively ignored in terms of selecting the at large berths.

  6. Why is BC in over Omaha? Wouldn’t BC and SCSU get booted in favor of the alleged WCHA and AIC conf. tourney champs?

    • Apparently, the old copy and paste method has flaws.

      Ex: “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 Minnesota State and Holy Cross.”

      PWR
      #28-MNSU
      #43-Holy Cross

    • You forgot that BC is currently leading the Hockey East. As such, they are assumed to have HE’s automatic berth. As a result, BC is effectively ignored in terms of selecting the at large berths.

    • These brackets look fine to me. They will change as the season progresses, likely quite a bit. I have a feeling BU is going to win a bunch of games starting this weekend. As soon as I saw DU going to Manchester I just about spit my coffee out. The Pios get shafted virtually every single year.

      • DU will definitely get the short end of the stick again this year. No matter where they finish, they will not go to Fargo (UND) or Cincinnati (PSU is “closer”). Just an FYI for you and GoldenChokers, Denver Post had a great article Sunday on Tyson Jost. No doubt he will leave after this year. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL and they need “an infusion of new talent”. Sakic will probably personally call him. Attendance at Avalanche games is pitiful, more visitors fans at most games. I went to see Rangers play last Saturday and paid $30 for $95 tickets, even scalpers are suffering.

          • Even though I would tend to think Jost would leave, I hope he stays. I hate when players leave before their junior year. Would be nice if NC$$ would work with NHL to change the policy to keep players in college for at least three years. BU is going to feel the way our league has for years, some of their freshman bailing early, depending on their drafting teams needs.

        • That article by Chambers was an absolute joke. Basically said that because Jost’s mom is a single mother, Jost will bolt after one year. Not a shred of fact in there other than the Avs are bad and really want him. Jost has always said his plan is two years. Could he go after one year? Absolutely. But to report it as fact in that entire “article” with zero basis of knowledge, Chambers is doing nothing but making assumptions and being a horrendous journalist. Chambers is a disaster.

          • He won’t bolt because of his mother, I agree that part was horrendous. If the Avalanche offer him a good contract, and him knowing he has a great chance to play at the Pepsi Center next year, it will be hard for him to refuse. When he was choosing schools, DU was among them, he made it known if he “filled out” and was ready, he would go to the NHL as soon as possible.

          • All of that is fine, but again, stating it as fact as he did in the article, is garbage journalism. Kind of like when he wrote that article saying that Auston Matthews was going to be a Pio :) Boeser got offered a big contract last year and didn’t bolt. Since day 1, all the talk on Jost was he was a two-year guy and he’s taken the path of Toews and admires him, etc., etc… Again, he could absolutely go after this year, but it is in NO WAY a fact that he will, at this point.

          • I found the article interesting since I knew nothing about Jost’s background and early hockey life. It only becomes a fact when he decides what to do at the end of the year. Just saying, almost every college players goal is to get to the NHL parent club as soon as possible. Both our schools have heard this tune way to often. I did not take anything as fact from the article, common sense says he could very well bail.

          • Glad you didn’t take any fact from it because it was pure assumption. But, when you said “no doubt he will leave after this year” in your first post about this, you sure seem like you’re believing it as such.

          • You are correct, my bad. Didn’t even realize I said that, meant to say “good possibility”. The only players that really don’t have immediate goal of getting to NHL as quick as possible are those that play for Air Force and Army, since they have Service commitment.

          • I think Jost and Boeser will both be gone after this year. When an NHL team is ready to pay….pretty hard to turn down.

    • These brackets look fine to me. They will change as the season progresses, likely quite a bit. I have a feeling BU is going to win a bunch of games starting this weekend. As soon as I saw DU going to Manchester I just about spit my coffee out. The Pios get shafted virtually every single year.

      • DU will definitely get the short end of the stick again this year. No matter where they finish, they will not go to Fargo (UND) or Cincinnati (PSU is “closer”). Just an FYI for you and GoldenChokers, Denver Post had a great article Sunday on Tyson Jost. No doubt he will leave after this year. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL and they need “an infusion of new talent”. Sakic will probably personally call him. Attendance at Avalanche games is pitiful, more visitors fans at most games. I went to see Rangers play last Saturday and paid $30 for $95 tickets, even scalpers are suffering.

          • Even though I would tend to think Jost would leave, I hope he stays. I hate when players leave before their junior year. Would be nice if NC$$ would work with NHL to change the policy to keep players in college for at least three years. BU is going to feel the way our league has for years, some of their freshman bailing early, depending on their drafting teams needs.

        • That article by Chambers was an absolute joke. Basically said that because Jost’s mom is a single mother, Jost will bolt after one year. Not a shred of fact in there other than the Avs are bad and really want him. Jost has always said his plan is two years. Could he go after one year? Absolutely. But to report it as fact in that entire “article” with zero basis of knowledge, Chambers is doing nothing but making assumptions and being a horrendous journalist. Chambers is a disaster.

          • He won’t bolt because of his mother, I agree that part was horrendous. If the Avalanche offer him a good contract, and him knowing he has a great chance to play at the Pepsi Center next year, it will be hard for him to refuse. When he was choosing schools, DU was among them, he made it known if he “filled out” and was ready, he would go to the NHL as soon as possible.

          • All of that is fine, but again, stating it as fact as he did in the article, is garbage journalism. Kind of like when he wrote that article saying that Auston Matthews was going to be a Pio :) Boeser got offered a big contract last year and didn’t bolt. Since day 1, all the talk on Jost was he was a two-year guy and he’s taken the path of Toews and admires him, etc., etc… Again, he could absolutely go after this year, but it is in NO WAY a fact that he will, at this point.

          • I found the article interesting since I knew nothing about Jost’s background and early hockey life. It only becomes a fact when he decides what to do at the end of the year. Just saying, almost every college players goal is to get to the NHL parent club as soon as possible. Both our schools have heard this tune way to often. I did not take anything as fact from the article, common sense says he could very well bail.

          • Glad you didn’t take any fact from it because it was pure assumption. But, when you said “no doubt he will leave after this year” in your first post about this, you sure seem like you’re believing it as such.

          • You are correct, my bad. Didn’t even realize I said that, meant to say “good possibility”. The only players that really don’t have immediate goal of getting to NHL as quick as possible are those that play for Air Force and Army, since they have Service commitment.

          • I think Jost and Boeser will both be gone after this year. When an NHL team is ready to pay….pretty hard to turn down.

  7. “How can we improve attendance at these regionals?”

    West Regional is already sold out, so nothing…. except moving the West Regional to Ralph Engelstad Arena… ;)

  8. “How can we improve attendance at these regionals?”

    West Regional is already sold out, so nothing…. except moving the West Regional to Ralph Engelstad Arena… ;)

  9. The west regional is going to do well regardless of who is there between a combination of UND, Duluth, and Bemidji. The only way to better improve that regional is to play in a bigger stadium.

    • The NC$$ would never allow that……but they sure do love to watch eastern regionals with 1000 people in the stands…

  10. The west regional is going to do well regardless of who is there between a combination of UND, Duluth, and Bemidji. The only way to better improve that regional is to play in a bigger stadium.

    • The NC$$ would never allow that……but they sure do love to watch eastern regionals with 1000 people in the stands…

  11. I don’t understand why North Dakota isn’t number one and all the games should be played at the Ralph (aka the big Puke)

    • I agree, but only if NoDak draws surprise entrant Michigan State in the first round. Hey, at least you can still have a Green team to follow for the rest of the tournament…

  12. I don’t understand why North Dakota isn’t number one and all the games should be played at the Ralph (aka the big Puke)

    • I agree, but only if NoDak draws surprise entrant Michigan State in the first round. Hey, at least you can still have a Green team to follow for the rest of the tournament…

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