Bracketology: If NCAA tournament started today, top seeds would be St. Cloud State, UMass, Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth

3 Nov 18:  The Minnesota State University Mavericks host the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a non-conference matchup at Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Minnesota State clinched the WCHA regular-season title this year with weeks to spare in the schedule (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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.

We’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on the evening of March 24.

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. (March 30-31); Northeast – Manchester, N.H. (March 29-30); Midwest – Allentown, Pa. (March 30-31); West – Fargo, N.D. (March 29-30).

• 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, University of New Hampshire in Manchester, Penn State in Allentown 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 2019 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 highest seeds in their conference tournaments through all games of March 12:

1t St. Cloud State
1t Massachusetts
3 Minnesota State
4 Minnesota Duluth
5 Quinnipiac
6 Ohio State
7 Denver
8 Northeastern
9t Providence
9t Arizona State
11 Clarkson
12 Cornell
13 Western Michigan
14 Harvard
15 Notre Dame
16 Bowling Green
33 American International

Current highest seeds in their conference tournaments BOLDED Above:

Atlantic Hockey: American International
Big Ten: Ohio State
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Massachusetts
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.

• The highest remaining seed in all of the conference tournaments 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 American International.

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

The ties and bubbles consist of St. Cloud State and Massachusetts at 1, and Providence and Arizona State at 9

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 St. Cloud State
2 Massachusetts
3 Minnesota State
4 Minnesota Duluth
5 Quinnipiac
6 Ohio State
7 Denver
8 Northeastern
9 Providence
10 Arizona State
11 Clarkson
12 Cornell
13 Western Michigan
14 Harvard
15 Notre Dame
16 American International

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: St. Cloud State, Massachusetts, Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth
No. 2 seeds: Quinnipiac, Ohio State, Denver, Northeastern
No. 3 seeds: Providence, Arizona State, Clarkson, Cornell
No. 4 seeds: Western Michigan, Harvard, Notre Dame, American International

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 St. Cloud State is place in Fargo
No. 2 Massachusetts is placed in Manchester
No. 3 Minnesota State is placed in Allentown
No. 4 Minnesota Duluth is placed in Providence

This has been done based on distance – nothing else. Minnesota State is closer to Allentown than 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 Northeastern is placed in No. 1 St. Cloud’s regional, the West Regional
No. 7 Denver is placed in No. 2 Massachusetts’ regional, the Northeast Regional
No. 6 Ohio State is placed in No. 3 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 5 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 4 Minnesota Duluth’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 Northeastern’s regional, the West Regional
No. 10 Arizona State is placed in No. 7 Denver’s regional, the Northeast Regional
No. 11 Clarkson is placed in No. 6 Ohio State’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 12 Cornell is placed in No. 5 Quinnipiac’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 American International travels to No. 1 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional
No. 15 Notre Dame travels to No. 2 Massachusetts’ regional, the Northeast Regional
No. 14 Harvard travels to No. 3 Minnesota State’s regional, the Midwest Regional
No. 13 Western Michigan travels to No. 4 Minnesota Duluth’s regional, the East Regional

The brackets as we have set them up:

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
9 Providence vs. 8 Northeastern

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
14 Harvard vs. 3 Minnesota State
11 Clarkson vs. 6 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
12 Cornell vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Massachusetts
10 Arizona State vs. 7 Denver

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have Cornell versus Quinnipiac, Western Michigan versus Minnesota Duluth and Providence versus Northeastern.

Looking at the third band, we have to move Providence and Cornell. Of course a simple swap would do the trick, but let’s take the opportunity to also keep Cornell in a regional closer to home. That would be either Manchester, or even Allentown.

Let’s look at Cornell and Clarkson and their distances to Allentown and Manchester.

To Manchester Cornell is 322.6 miles and to Allentown 180.4 miles

To Manchester Clarkson is 281 miles and to Allentown 347.6 miles

I think the answer is obvious here, we switch everyone around in the third band.

Providence to Providence, Clarkson to Manchester, Cornell to Allentown and Arizona State to Fargo.

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
10 Arizona State vs. 8 Northeastern

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
14 Harvard vs. 3 Minnesota State
12 Cornell vs. 6 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
13 Western Michigan vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
9 Providence vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Massachusetts
11 Clarkson vs. 7 Denver

Now let’s take a look at Western Michigan vs. Minnesota Duluth. Pretty obvious play here in swapping Western with Harvard.

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
10 Arizona State vs. 8 Northeastern

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
13 Western Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota State
12 Cornell vs. 6 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
14 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
9 Providence vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Massachusetts
11 Clarkson vs. 7 Denver

Are there any other moves we can make?

Just one that I can see – a Denver and Northeastern swap.

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
10 Arizona State vs. 7 Denver

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
13 Western Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota State
12 Cornell vs. 6 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
14 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
9 Providence vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Massachusetts
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Northeastern

And that looks like it for this week.

See you next week for the next Bracketology.

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

This week’s brackets

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
10 Arizona State vs. 7 Denver

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
13 Western Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota State
12 Cornell vs. 6 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
14 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
9 Providence vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Notre Dame vs. 2 Massachusetts
11 Clarkson vs. 8 Northeastern

Conference breakdowns

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

Last Week’s Bracket

West Regional (Fargo):
16 American International vs. 1 St. Cloud State
12 Cornell vs. 8 Arizona State

Midwest Regional (Allentown):
15 Notre Dame vs. 3 Minnesota Duluth
10 Clarkson vs. 7 Ohio State

East Regional (Providence):
13 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota State
9 Providence vs. 5 Quinnipiac

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Western Michigan vs. 2 Massachusetts
11 Northeastern vs. 6 Denver

Out: None
In: None

36 COMMENTS

  1. St Cloud, Duluth, and Mankato all with number one seeds? From the SAME state? But what happened to the “flagship” program called the Gophers???

    • For the gahdin next weekend I’d like to see Providence, Northeastern, Lowell, New Hampshire. The regional bracketology gets more convoluted every week and I’ve already got my tickets, regardless of the teams I know I’ll see some great hockey.

      • Im in Florida, so II’ll be streaming games this weekend, however the reason why i want to avoid you is not for hockey east pride, I just don’t think we can overcome your stifling type of play. I was shocked how your defense was so effective against our top line. Good luck.

        • Thanks for the well wishes. Those games were definitely 2 of the Friars better defended this season, most of us think defensemen have been spotty but thank goodness our goalie has been outstanding.

  2. Can you figure out a way to put Northeastern in the Allentown, PA regional? They have a ton of supportive alumni in the NJ/Philadelphia/Metro NYC area and Allentown, PA is easily accessible.

  3. Doesn’t the committee tend to avoid expected intra-conference in round 2 when possible? And by expected I mean top seeds advancing. Wouldn’t that take priority over geographical? I doubt St Cloud and Denver end up in same region as 1 and 2. Also UMass and Northeastern at 1 and 2. If you left Denver and Northeastern where they were it would fix this

    • They avoid intra-conference matchups in the first round only. As a matter of fact, the NCAA tries to avoid the possibility of the same conference getting all four teams in the Frozen Four, dreading a repeat of 2005.

        • Might be a good thing you are not coming to Magness. We are getting our “normal” snow today, instead of the usual Friday dump. Snowing like hell now, forecast it 8″-10″. Cold weather should keep it around for a while. I don’t want to hear any of the “drought” talk in May/June. Mountains getting measured in feet, not inches. You would definitely not be able to visit your favorite stop, RMNP.

          • Ha….it will melt off and you’re guaranteed drought talk. We got absolutely dumped on in February…..then the same day we went down to Colo Springs……and then some more the day after we got back. Now it’s above freezing, and raining….should make for some flooding…..

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