Bracketology: Let’s get started picking the field of 16 for the 2018 NCAA tournament

8 Apr 17: The Denver University Pioneers play against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in the National Championship game of the 2017 NCAA Men's Division I Frozen Four at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Jim Rosvold)
Denver won the 2017 national championship, but if the NCAA tournament began today, where would the Pioneers start defense of their crown? (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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.

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 first installment of Bracketology for 2018, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 18.

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 – Bridgeport, Conn.; Northeast – Worcester, Mass.; Midwest – Allentown, Pa.; West – Sioux Falls, S.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: Yale in Bridgeport, Holy Cross in Worcester, Penn State in Allentown and North Dakota in Sioux Falls.
• 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 16:

1 Notre Dame
2 Clarkson
3 St. Cloud State
4 Cornell
5 Ohio State
6 Denver
7 Western Michigan
8 Minnesota State
9 Providence
10 North Dakota
11 Omaha
12 Penn State
13 Northeastern
14 Minnesota Duluth
15t Minnesota
15t Michigan
28 Canisius
Current conference leaders based on winning percentage BOLDED Above:

Atlantic Hockey: Canisius
Big Ten: Notre Dame
ECAC Hockey: Clarkson
Hockey East: Northeastern
NCHC: St. Cloud State
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 is not is Canisius.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of Minnesota and Michigan at 15.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Notre Dame
2 Clarkson
3 St. Cloud State
4 Cornell
5 Ohio State
6 Denver
7 Western Michigan
8 Minnesota State
9 Providence
10 North Dakota
11 Omaha
12 Penn State
13 Northeastern
14 Minnesota Duluth
15 Minnesota
16 Canisius

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Notre Dame, Clarkson, St. Cloud State, Cornell

No. 2 seeds: Ohio State, Denver, Western Michigan, Minnesota State
No. 3 seeds: Providence, North Dakota, Omaha, Penn State
No. 4 seeds: Northeastern, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, Canisius

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Notre Dame is placed in the Midwest Regional in Allentown
No. 2 Clarkson is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport
No. 3 St. Cloud State is placed in the West Regional in Sioux Falls
No. 4 Cornell is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester

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 Minnesota State is placed in No. 1 Notre Dame’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 7 Western Michigan is placed in No. 2 Clarkson’s regional, the East Regional
No. 6 Denver is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional
No. 5 Ohio State is placed in No. 4 Cornell’s regional, the Midwest 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 and Penn State are hosts, therefore they need to be placed first in this pod:

No. 10 North Dakota is placed in No. 6 Denver’s regional, the West Regional
No. 12 Penn State is placed in No. 8 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 9 Providence is placed in No. 7 Western Michigan’s regional, the East Regional
No. 11 Omaha is placed in No. 5 Ohio State’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 Canisius travels to No. 1 Notre Dame’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 15 Minnesota travels to No. 2 Clarkson’s regional, the East Regional
No. 14 Minnesota Duluth travels to No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional
No. 13 Northeastern travels to No. 4 Cornell’s regional, the Northeast Regional

The brackets as we have set them up:

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
16 Canisius vs. 1 Notre Dame
12 Penn State vs. 8 Minnesota State

East Regional (Bridgeport):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 Clarkson
9 Providence vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Sioux Falls):
14 Minnesota Duluth vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 North Dakota vs. 6 Denver

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
13 Northeastern vs. 4 Cornell
11 Omaha vs. 5 Ohio State

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have an all-NCHC regional in Sioux Falls.

Let’s solve these shall we?

Let’s look at the NCHC matchup of Duluth and St. Cloud in the 1-4 band first.

Duluth needs to get swapped out, and Minnesota looks like a good swapping partner here.

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
16 Canisius vs. 1 Notre Dame
12 Penn State vs. 8 Minnesota State

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota Duluth vs. 2 Clarkson
9 Providence vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Sioux Falls):
1 Minnesota vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 North Dakota vs. 6 Denver

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
13 Northeastern vs. 4 Cornell
11 Omaha vs. 5 Ohio State

Now we look at the 2-3 bands.

We need to swap Denver out of Sioux Falls, as North Dakota is a host and can’t be moved.

Looking at the others in the second band, a Denver-Minnesota State swap seems like a good move.

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
16 Canisius vs. 1 Notre Dame
12 Penn State vs. 6 Denver

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota Duluth vs. 2 Clarkson
9 Providence vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Sioux Falls):
15 Minnesota vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 North Dakota vs. 8 Minnesota State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
13 Northeastern vs. 4 Cornell
11 Omaha vs. 5 Ohio State

And now we have no more intra-conference matchups.

How can we improve attendance at these regionals?

There’s not a lot you can do with a lot of “Western” teams in the mix here.

So 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 next week for the next Bracketology.

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

This week’s brackets

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
16 Canisius vs. 1 Notre Dame
12 Penn State vs. 6 Denver

East Regional (Bridgeport):
14 Minnesota Duluth vs. 2 Clarkson
9 Providence vs. 7 Western Michigan

West Regional (Sioux Falls):
15 Minnesota vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 North Dakota vs. 8 Minnesota State

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
13 Northeastern vs. 4 Cornell
11 Omaha vs. 5 Ohio State

Conference breakdowns

NCHC — 6
Big Ten — 4
ECAC Hockey — 2
Hockey East — 2
WCHA — 1
Atlantic Hockey – 1

A Year Ago

What did the first Bracketology last year look like?

Let’s take a look.

The Brackets I predicted in the first Bracketology last year – Christmas 2016.

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 UMass Lowell

And the actual bracket from last year:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Harvard
12 Air Force vs. 6 Western Michigan

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Notre Dame vs. 4 Minnesota
11 Cornell vs. 5 UMass Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
16 Michigan Tech vs. 1 Denver
9 Penn State vs. 8 Union

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Ohio State vs. 2 Minnesota Duluth
10 North Dakota vs. 7 Boston University

Who was in and who was out from the first Bracketology to the actual bracket?

Out: Boston College, Bemidji State, Army

In: Providence, Michigan Tech, Air Force

Two were autobids (Atlantic Hockey and WCHA) and Providence took Boston College’s place. Boston College was a 12 seed in the first Bracketology and Providence wound up being 14.

Sometimes things don’t change too much.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Wouldn’t the Cornell bracket, as a whole, help attendance in Bridgeport? Clarkson is about equal distances to both Worcester and Bridgeport.

    • I came here to say the same thing. Google Maps puts Potsdam 20 minutes closer to DCU Center than Webster Bank Arena. Google Maps also puts me within an hour of Bridgeport. Go Red.

    • Pennsylvania had a much more “Midwest” feel in most of the state than people realize. It’s certainly more “Midwest” than Connecticut. But anyway, since I know your reputation on here, I won’t waste any more of my time. Blocked.

      • I have a hard time considering anything east of Michigan and Ohio as “Midwest”. The brackets should be placed by region not culture. I realize it would probably break some sort of contract but it would make more sense to have Allentown as the East region and the Midwest region located somewhere like Chicago or St. Paul.

        • There are no contracts. Schools bid to host regionals. UND bid to host a regional in Sioux Falls and got it. Only reason Allentown was selected because Penn was the only school that bid for the Midwest regional. Was also the reason why Notre was able to host a regional in their home rink because no other schools bid to host that regional that year.

          • Why are you even bothering to try to explain how CH functions, bud? Newer fans just don’t understand how the bidding works, especially if only one team bids in that area and they have to label the regional something it really isn’t.

          • Eh, I was bored. Figured I’d humor the “Midwest” feel of Pennsylvania and laugh at how people try and justify it being “Midwest” for the purposes of the regional and not actually how bidding works.

        • Western and Central PA remind me greatly of the more traditional parts of “The Midwest”, such as Ohio and Michigan. But I do see your point, Allentown is toward the Eastern Edge of PA. Perhaps the location choice was due to factors beyond the realm of logical geographic distribution.

      • Kind of ironic, you responded to someone you “blocked”. To use your Midwest vernacular, isn’t that a tad bit hypercritical? I grew up in upstate NY, by your logic Albany could qualify for a Midwest regional since it has a “Midwest” feel.
        PS- I fully expect you to block me too.

      • And I’ll keep replying. If you don’t want to be engaged, don’t engage yourself on the comment board. Pretty simple logic huh, or should I dumb it down a little more?

        • “To me, it was the right call,” Berry said. “Hoff went into the zone and you can’t see from our side (of the bench). But they took time to look at it, and there’s very credible people making the call and they made the right call.”
          —————————–
          “the guideline for the new offsides rule”????????? Link?

          • It’s out there. Find the new offside review rules. The video they show is that exact play where BU gains control of the puck and then turns it back over, in the defensive zone. A team cant review for offsides after a goal has been scored IF they gained control of the puck within their own zone.
            And of course Berry isn’t going to rip the refs, he’s not one to do that publicly.

          • You should try google sometime…..pretty easy to find things. Took literally 5 seconds. USCHO wont post the link, though

      • You’re right, but they got heavily out played in that game in front of about 7000 green plague. Their result in those circumstances is the exception, not the norm. Generally, even higher seeds don’t fare well when they play at a “neutral” site on the road. And let’s be real too, if UND is playing, they have more fans travelling than almost anyone else already.

  2. Looks like that eastern venue in Allentown is really throwing the pie back into the NCAA’s face, considering close to 75% of the field will be teams from the west.

  3. Jim Dahl, on his web site “College Hockey Ranked” seems to paint a scenario in his “Pairwise by wins forecast” whereby it is theoretically possible that Omaha, or Minnesota-Duluth could technically qualify above the AQ’s in Pairwise to be “in” the NCAA’s, yet also potentially have a losing record that would disqualify them.

    I want to emphasize the word “potentially” here.

    For example, Omaha is currently 12-9-1. If they went 4-8 in remaining regular season play, he has them as potentially high as 11 if they went 4-8, leaving them at 16-17-1. In, but out.

    The wild card here, of course, is league tourney games after the regular season and its effect on this, something Jim Dahl does not take into account in his Pairwise by Wins forecast tool. Dunno if Omaha could go 2 and que in the tourney and still be higher than any AQ’s.

    Has any team ever qualified in the Pairwise only to be excluded because of a sub-.500 record? My guess is
    that is has not. It would seem extremely unlikely to have occurred
    before the field was expanded to 16 teams, no matter what.

    • They made that rule not long ago because there was a regional in Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and the Badgers qualified for it with a record under .500. The only reason they made it was because they were the “host” team and the NCAA wanted to sell a lot more tickets. If I remember correctly, they ended up playing Denver, who had just won the Broadmoor Trophy, and the Badgers won their first game. They lost in the 2nd round to North Dakota. There was a lot of controversy involved with it that year so the NCAA made a rule about being at least .500 or better to qualify. St Cloud had that issue 3 years ago and they were hovering around .500 most of the season. They finished 1 game over .500 but there was some doubt for months about whether they could stay at .500 or better playing the tough opponents in the NCHC. The NCHC had 6 teams qualify for the NCAAs that season.

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