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It’s time once again to do what we like to call Bracketology — College Hockey Style, a weekly look at how the NCAA tournament would shake out if the season ended today, and a look into the thought process behind selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament teams.

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

Here are the facts:

  • Sixteen teams are selected to participate in the national tournament.
  • There are four regional sites (Northeast – Worcester, Mass.; East – Albany, N.Y.; Midwest – Green Bay, Wis.; West – Grand Forks, N.D.)
  • A host institution which is invited to the tournament plays in the regional for which it is the host, and cannot be moved.
  • Seedings will not be switched, as opposed to years past. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intraconference games (see below), teams will be moved among regionals, not reseeded.

    Here are the NCAA’s guidelines on the matter, per a meeting of the Championship Committee:

    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 likelihood of playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For the model, the following is a basic set of priorities:

    • The top four teams as ranked by the committee are the four 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.

    • Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home.

    • No. 1 seeds are placed as close to home as possible in order of their ranking 1-4.

    • Conference matchups in first round are avoided, unless five or more teams from one conference are selected, then the integrity of the bracket will be preserved.

    • Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s ranking of 1-16. The top four teams are the No. 1 seeds. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds. These groupings will be referred to as “bands”.

    Additionally, the NCAA includes a bonus factor for “good” nonconference wins. The exact amount of the bonus is kept secret, but experience in previous seasons has given us some idea as to how large it must be.

    Because of this bonus factor, we won’t even talk about the PairWise Rankings (PWR) without an added bonus. We know that the bonus is at least .003 for a quality road win, .002 for a quality neutral-site win and .001 for a quality home win. So everything that we do will reference the 3-2-1 bonus as a base.

    Given these facts, here are the top 16 of the current PairWise Rankings (PWR), with a 3-2-1 bonus, plus any other teams currently leading their conferences, but are not in the top 16 (through all games of February 21, 2006):

    1 Minnesota
    2 Wisconsin
    3 Miami
    4t Boston University
    4t Michigan State
    6 Nebraska-Omaha
    7 Colorado College
    8t Cornell
    8t Michigan
    10 Maine
    11 Boston College
    12t Ohio State
    12t Harvard
    14t St. Lawrence
    14t Denver
    16 North Dakota
    21 Holy Cross
    — Alabama-Huntsville

    Let’s take something into account at this point in time. Alabama-Huntsville is currently not a TUC, but if given the autobid, it would be a TUC by rule. So let’s take that into account and make UAH a TUC.

    Adding UAH into the PairWise, we now get a Top 16, plus teams that are currently leading their conferences, giving us:

    1 Minnesota
    2 Wisconsin
    3 Miami
    4t Boston University
    4t Michigan State
    6 Nebraska-Omaha
    7 Colorado College
    8 Cornell
    9t Maine
    9t Michigan
    11t Boston College
    11t Harvard
    13 Ohio State
    14t St. Lawrence
    14t Denver
    16 North Dakota
    21 Holy Cross
    31 Alabama-Huntsville

    As you can see, adding in UAH as a TUC has changed around the rankings, most notably because Ohio State has lost and tied to UAH and UNO has beaten UAH.

    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 Holy Cross and Alabama-Huntsville.

    Now let’s break the ties.

    Boston University wins the individual comparison with Michigan State. Likewise, Maine wins the comparison with Michigan, Boston College with Harvard and St. Lawrence with Denver.

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

    1 Minnesota
    2 Wisconsin
    3 Miami
    4 Boston University
    5 Michigan State
    6 Nebraska-Omaha
    7 Colorado College
    8 Cornell
    9 Maine
    10 Michigan
    11 Boston College
    12 Harvard
    13 Ohio State
    14 St. Lawrence
    15 Holy Cross
    16 Alabama-Huntsville

    Step Two

    Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

    No. 1 Seeds – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Miami, Boston University
    No. 2 Seeds – Michigan State, Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, Cornell
    No. 3 Seeds – Maine, Michigan, Boston College, Harvard
    No. 4 Seeds – Ohio State, St. Lawrence, Holy Cross, Alabama-Huntsville

    Step Three

    We place the other No. 1 seeds based on proximity to the regional sites. But we place Boston University first, as it is a host school.

    No. 4 Boston University is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
    No. 1 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Grand Forks.
    No. 2 Wisconsin is then placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
    No. 3 Miami is placed in the East Regional in Albany.

    Step Four

    Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intraconference 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 are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

    So therefore:

    No. 2 Seeds

    No. 5 Michigan State is placed in No. 4 Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.
    No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha is placed in No. 3 Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 7 Colorado College is placed in No. 2 Wisconsin’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
    No. 8 Cornell is placed in No. 1 Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.

    No. 3 Seeds

    Our bracketing system has one Regional containing seeds 1, 8, 9, and 16, another with 2, 7, 10, 15, another with 3, 6, 11, 14 and another with 4, 5, 12 and 13.

    Therefore:

    No. 9 Maine is placed in No. 8 Cornell’s Regional, the West Regional.
    No. 10 Michigan is placed in No. 7 Colorado College’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
    No. 11 Boston College is placed in No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 12 Harvard is placed in No. 5 Michigan State’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

    No. 4 Seeds

    One more time, taking No. 16 v. No. 1, No. 15 v. No. 2, etc.

    No. 16 Alabama-Huntsville is sent to Minnesota’s Regional, the West Regional.
    No. 15 Holy Cross is sent to Wisconsin’s Regional, the Midwest Regional.
    No. 14 St. Lawrence is sent to Miami’s Regional, the East Regional.
    No. 13 Ohio State is sent to Boston University’s Regional, the Northeast Regional.

    The brackets as we have set them up:

    West Regional:

    Alabama-Huntsville vs. Minnesota
    Maine vs. Cornell

    Midwest Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Wisconsin
    Michigan vs. Colorado College

    Northeast Regional:

    Ohio State vs. Boston University
    Harvard vs. Michigan State

    East Regional:

    St. Lawrence vs. Miami
    Boston College vs. Nebraska-Omaha

    Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have none.

    Perfect as it can be.

    Some interesting stories can come out of these brackets, that’s for sure.

    In the West Regional, three of the four teams would be the same as last year’s West Regional — Minnesota, Cornell and Maine. Likewise, in the Midwest, three of the four teams would be the same — Colorado College, Michigan and Wisconsin.

    In the East Regional, you have Boston College, which won its last NCAA championship in the same building, and St. Lawrence, which last went to the Frozen Four in 2000 with a momentous quadruple-overtime win over Boston University in the same building.

    In the Northeast Regional, there’s … well, Boston University is there again. Harvard also plays in that building a lot as well.

    Bracketing the Frozen Four, if all four number-one seeds advance, then the top overall seed plays the No. 4 overall, and No. 2 plays No. 3. Therefore, the winners of the Midwest and East Regionals face each other in one semifinal (Wisconsin and Miami’s brackets), while the winners of the Northeast and West Regionals (Boston University and Minnesota’s brackets) play the other semifinal.

    Bonus Time

    We know there is a bonus component to the criteria, the NCAA’s tweak to the system which rewards “good” nonconference wins. We’ve determined that it is at least .003 for a good road win, .002 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    We also know that it’s not as high as .005 for a good road win, .003 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    So let’s find a medium here. Let’s take .004 for a good road win, .0025 for a good neutral win and .001 for a good home win.

    Does anything change?

    Yes it does.

    1 Minnesota
    2 Wisconsin
    3 Miami
    4t Boston University
    4t Michigan State
    6 Nebraska-Omaha
    7 Colorado College
    8t Cornell
    8t Michigan
    10 Maine
    11t Boston College
    11t Harvard
    13 Ohio State
    14 Denver
    15t North Dakota
    15t St. Lawrence
    21 Holy Cross
    31 Alabama-Huntsville

    Michigan and Maine have changed spots, and Denver has taken St. Lawrence’s place in the tournament.

    The 16 teams in the tournament are:

    1 Minnesota
    2 Wisconsin
    3 Miami
    4 Boston University
    5 Michigan State
    6 Nebraska-Omaha
    7 Colorado College
    8 Cornell
    9 Michigan
    10 Maine
    11 Boston College
    12 Harvard
    13 Ohio State
    14 Denver
    15 Holy Cross
    16 Alabama-Huntsville

    Our brackets are now:

    West Regional:

    Alabama-Huntsville vs. Minnesota
    Michigan vs. Cornell

    Midwest Regional:

    Holy Cross vs. Wisconsin
    Maine vs. Colorado College

    Northeast Regional:

    Ohio State vs. Boston University
    Harvard vs. Michigan State

    East Regional:

    Denver vs. Miami
    Boston College vs. Nebraska-Omaha

    No intraconference matchups here, so this bracket is all set.

    So, if we get one bracket, we are going to be able to get that bonus number down a little bit further.