Penn State takes over top spot in PairWise Rankings

03 Dec 16:  The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers host the Ohio State University Buckeyes in a B1G matchup at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN (Jim Rosvold/University of Minnesota)
Where would Minnesota and Ohio State play if the 2017 NCAA tournament started today? (photo: Jim Rosvold/University of Minnesota)

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 17:

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

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Air Force
Big Ten: Penn State (by virtue of winning percentage over Ohio St in tiebreaker over Minnesota)
ECAC Hockey: Union
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: Denver
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 Penn State
2 Denver
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Boston University
5 Massachusetts-Lowell
6 Union
7 North Dakota
8 Minnesota
9 Western Michigan
10 Vermont
11 Cornell
12 Harvard
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: Penn State, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Boston University

No. 2 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Union, North Dakota, Minnesota

No. 3 seeds: Western Michigan, Vermont, Cornell, Harvard

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

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Penn State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 2 Denver is placed in the West Regional in Fargo
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 4 Boston University 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 is a host, therefore they are placed first in this pod:
No. 7 North Dakota is placed in No. 2 Denver’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 8 Minnesota is placed in No. 1 Penn State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 6 Union is placed in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 4 Boston University’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 Western Michigan is placed in No. 8 Minnesota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 10 Vermont is placed in No. 7 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Cornell is placed in No. 6 Union’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 12 Harvard is placed in No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell’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 Bemidji State is sent to No. 1 Penn State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 15 Air Force is sent to No. 2 Denver’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Boston College is sent to No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 13 Ohio State is sent to No. 4 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Cornell vs. 6 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Boston University
12 Harvard vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Penn State
9 Western Michigan vs. 8 Minnesota

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Denver
10 Vermont vs. 7 North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one – Cornell vs. Union.

Let’s solve this.

We have to move Cornell out but we can’t swap them with Harvard because that would create another all-ECAC matchup. We can swap Vermont back to the East and match Vermont with Union though.

Now it’s a matter of who takes Vermont’s place. In this case, I go for the lower seeded team that moves. Thus, Harvard takes Vermont’s place. Cornell goes to Manchester and Vermont to Providence and Harvard to Fargo.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
10 Vermont vs. 6 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Boston University
11 Cornell vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Penn State
9 Western Michigan vs. 8 Minnesota

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Denver
12 Harvard vs. 7 North Dakota

Looking at this, I want to make one more change.

Air Force and Bemidji are 22 and 23 in the PWR. No big difference there. But to maximize some more attendance, I will bring Bemidji to Fargo and Air Force to Cincinnati.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
10 Vermont vs. 6 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Boston University
11 Cornell vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 1 Penn State
9 Western Michigan vs. 8 Minnesota

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 2 Denver
12 Harvard vs. 7 North Dakota

Someone posed the option of putting Penn State in Providence and then filling out the bracket from there. This would put Denver in Cincinnati and Minnesota-Duluth in Fargo.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Air Force vs. 1 Penn State
10 Vermont vs. 6 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Boston University
11 Cornell vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Bemidji State vs. 2 Denver
9 Western Michigan vs. 8 Minnesota

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Harvard vs. 7 North Dakota

This set of brackets doesn’t really work for me for a number of reasons. To maximize attendance, you have to really screw with the integrity of the bracket.

Therefore, I stay put with what I have above.

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):
14 Boston College vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
10 Vermont vs. 6 Union

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Ohio State vs. 4 Boston University
11 Cornell vs. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Air Force vs. 1 Penn State
9 Western Michigan vs. 8 Minnesota

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Bemidji State vs. 2 Denver
12 Harvard vs. 7 North Dakota

Conference breakdowns

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

Last Week’s Bracket

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Air Force vs. 2 Harvard
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell

East Regional (Providence):
14 St. Lawrence vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Union vs. 5 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Bemidji State vs. 1 Penn State
12 Boston College vs. 8 Western Michigan

West Regional (Fargo):
13 Ohio State vs. 3 Denver
10 Vermont vs. 7 North Dakota

90 COMMENTS

          • It’s a thin line for DU being in the west…..need to not be the same seed as UND (if both make it), and make sure no one else in that seed is closer to that regional. Doable, but it will be hard for them.

          • Of course, every team in the NACHO should make the tournament. The conference tournament should replace the NCAA tournament because NACHO teams are the only teams that matter and win all the games anyway.

          • Things will change before this is final. Not only DU/UND being in same band, but also can’t be in bands (1/4 or 2/3) that play first game in Regional. Think your “thin line” comment is generous. Also, I believe it will be bad for CH if DU/UND get eliminated by each other in Regional. It would be much cheaper for me, however.

          • Ever since the WCHA has 4 teams in the frozen four its like they have tried their best to not get 1 team from the same conference in each regional.

          • A trip to Chicago is always worth the money hahah
            …hopefully BU UND DU and UMD/BC all get put in separate brackets when it shakes out. Any of those 4 would make for an unreal Frozen four

          • It’s a thin line for DU being in the west…..need to not be the same seed as UND (if both make it), and make sure no one else in that seed is closer to that regional. Doable, but it will be hard for them.

          • Of course, every team in the NACHO should make the tournament. The conference tournament should replace the NCAA tournament because NACHO teams are the only teams that matter and win all the games anyway.

          • Things will change before this is final. Not only DU/UND being in same band, but also can’t be in bands (1/4 or 2/3) that play first game in Regional. Think your “thin line” comment is generous. Also, I believe it will be bad for CH if DU/UND get eliminated by each other in Regional. It would be much cheaper for me, however.

          • Ever since the WCHA has 4 teams in the frozen four its like they have tried their best to not get 1 team from the same conference in each regional.

          • A trip to Chicago is always worth the money hahah
            …hopefully BU UND DU and UMD/BC all get put in separate brackets when it shakes out. Any of those 4 would make for an unreal Frozen four

  1. I heard that the Fargo regional is already sold out so the Bemidji/Air Force move can’t be to bring Bemidji to Fargo…it must be to bring Air Force to Cincinnati. Air Force will move attendance higher in Ohio?

  2. I heard that the Fargo regional is already sold out so the Bemidji/Air Force move can’t be to bring Bemidji to Fargo…it must be to bring Air Force to Cincinnati. Air Force will move attendance higher in Ohio?

  3. You do not want to protect the overall #1 seed this time? Why is that? You always say the #1 overall gets the #16 no matter what unless they are in the same conference.

  4. You do not want to protect the overall #1 seed this time? Why is that? You always say the #1 overall gets the #16 no matter what unless they are in the same conference.

  5. Not sure who’s ranking the teams. Penn State has a very unfair home/away schedule this year, off top of my head 21 home games 11 away. What gives?. Wish my team scheduled such a ridiculous schedule then maybe we could be ranked first. My nephew from State College says “ice is ice”. I say travel is a beast and their schedule is ridiculously home advantaged not to mention weak competition. Good luck on neutral ice against fair competition

  6. Not sure who’s ranking the teams. Penn State has a very unfair home/away schedule this year, off top of my head 21 home games 11 away. What gives?. Wish my team scheduled such a ridiculous schedule then maybe we could be ranked first. My nephew from State College says “ice is ice”. I say travel is a beast and their schedule is ridiculously home advantaged not to mention weak competition. Good luck on neutral ice against fair competition

  7. Don’t understand Minnesota-Duluth to Providence. Why not send PSU to Providence (same distance as Cincy) and put Duluth in much closer Cincinnati?

  8. Don’t understand Minnesota-Duluth to Providence. Why not send PSU to Providence (same distance as Cincy) and put Duluth in much closer Cincinnati?

  9. I am not sure I understand Penn State going to Cincinnati and Minnesota-Duluth to Providence. Penn State is an eastern school, so the East regional makes more sense for them and Minnesota is Midwestern so the Midwestern regional makes more sense for them. Penn State sells out the arena if the games are in Providence – in Cincinnati they probably don’t

  10. I am not sure I understand Penn State going to Cincinnati and Minnesota-Duluth to Providence. Penn State is an eastern school, so the East regional makes more sense for them and Minnesota is Midwestern so the Midwestern regional makes more sense for them. Penn State sells out the arena if the games are in Providence – in Cincinnati they probably don’t

  11. Penn State smells like the new Minnesota State-Mankato, circa 2014-2015.

    Play in a lousy conference, get the #1 overall seen in the NCAA’s, and get rolled by the #16 overall seed the first night of the tourney while scoring but one goal, and, on the power play at that.

  12. Penn State smells like the new Minnesota State-Mankato, circa 2014-2015.

    Play in a lousy conference, get the #1 overall seen in the NCAA’s, and get rolled by the #16 overall seed the first night of the tourney while scoring but one goal, and, on the power play at that.

  13. Moy’s reasoning for moving Bemidji State to the West Regional in Fargo to increase attendance is a moot point because that regional is going to be packed even if UND doesn’t make the tournament, which is unlikely anyways.

    • Everyone knows UND fans will pack all the stadiums everywhere hockey is being played… it doesn’t matter. The Fighting Sioux Hawks fans always want hockey —- no matter when or where….

  14. Moy’s reasoning for moving Bemidji State to the West Regional in Fargo to increase attendance is a moot point because that regional is going to be packed even if UND doesn’t make the tournament, which is unlikely anyways.

    • Everyone knows UND fans will pack all the stadiums everywhere hockey is being played… it doesn’t matter. The Fighting Sioux Hawks fans always want hockey —- no matter when or where….

  15. “The Badgers have such an advantage at LaBahn and the game sold out, including standing room only, in less than two minutes.”

    It is a nice piece of a ‘story’, but hardly accurate.

    There was a ten day of so period – Monday Feb 19 through Wed Feb 28 – when UW season ticket holders and donors, etc., could submit ‘applications’ for tickets to the game. What became available, and ‘sold out in two minutes’ on Monday must have been a small number of tickets which went ‘unclaimed’ during that application period; I’m a little surprised there were any such tickets at all, but apparently there were. To the best of my knowledge, ‘standing room’ went on-sale later on Monday.

    I am VERY much hoping that the ‘advantage at LaBahn’ part holds up!

  16. “The Badgers have such an advantage at LaBahn and the game sold out, including standing room only, in less than two minutes.”

    It is a nice piece of a ‘story’, but hardly accurate.

    There was a ten day of so period – Monday Feb 19 through Wed Feb 28 – when UW season ticket holders and donors, etc., could submit ‘applications’ for tickets to the game. What became available, and ‘sold out in two minutes’ on Monday must have been a small number of tickets which went ‘unclaimed’ during that application period; I’m a little surprised there were any such tickets at all, but apparently there were. To the best of my knowledge, ‘standing room’ went on-sale later on Monday.

    I am VERY much hoping that the ‘advantage at LaBahn’ part holds up!

  17. It was a poor decision to put two powerhouse teams against eachother in the first round. Wisconsin and Minnesota have dominated the league and championships. It’s obvious the committee is trying to improve the chances for a team in the east.

  18. It was a poor decision to put two powerhouse teams against eachother in the first round. Wisconsin and Minnesota have dominated the league and championships. It’s obvious the committee is trying to improve the chances for a team in the east.

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