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Providence and Quinnipiac are both No. 3 seeds as the PairWise Rankings stand 10 weeks out from selection Sunday (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

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.

For the past four 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 first installment of Bracketology for 2015, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 22.

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 — South Bend, Ind.; 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. There are four host institutions this year: Brown in Providence, New Hampshire in Manchester, Notre Dame in South Bend 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 Jan. 6:

1 Harvard
2 Minnesota State
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Miami
5 Bowling Green
6 Omaha
7 North Dakota
8 Boston University
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 Providence
11t Minnesota
11t Michigan Tech
13 Vermont
14 Denver
15 Merrimack
16 Quinnipiac
22t Penn State
— Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Penn State (greater number of conference wins)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Massachusetts-Lowell
NCHC: Miami/Minnesota-Duluth (Coin Toss)
WCHA: Bowling Green

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 Penn State and Robert Morris.

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 Tech at 11.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

1 Harvard
2 Minnesota State
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Miami
5 Bowling Green
6 Omaha
7 North Dakota
8 Boston University
9 Massachusetts-Lowell
10 Providence
11 Minnesota
12 Michigan Tech
13 Vermont
14 Quinnipiac
15 Penn State
16 Robert Morris

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Harvard, Minnesota State, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami

No. 2 seeds: Bowling Green, Omaha, North Dakota, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Providence, Minnesota, Michigan Tech

No. 4 seeds: Vermont, Quinnipiac, Penn State, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Harvard is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 2 Minnesota State is placed in the West Regional in Fargo.
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the Midwest Regional in South Bend.
No. 4 Miami 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, as a host institution, is placed first.

No. 7 North Dakota is placed in No. 2 Minnesota State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 8 Boston University is placed in No. 1 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 6 Omaha is placed in No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Bowling Green is placed in No. 4 Miami’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 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Boston University’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Providence is placed in No. 7 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Minnesota is placed in No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Michigan Tech is placed in No. 5 Bowling Green’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 Robert Morris is sent to No. 1 Harvard’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 15 Penn State is sent to No. 2 Minnesota State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Quinnipiac is sent to No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Vermont is sent to No. 4 Miami’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
12 Michigan Tech vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two, so let’s solve them.

We have Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Boston University and Michigan Tech vs. Bowling Green.

We can solve this pretty easily by swapping the two teams.

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

What else can we do with this bracket at the moment to maximize attendance?

It would be nice to bring Providence and/or Quinnipiac back East, but that can’t happen for a few reasons.

You can only really swap Quinnipiac with Vermont, and that doesn’t make sense because you’re just swapping two East teams.

Then you can’t swap Robert Morris because the committee always protects the overall No. 1 seed by allowing it to play the 16 seed.

As for Providence, you create a Hockey East-Hockey East matchup if you move Providence back East and bring Michigan Tech West.

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

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

But remember: So much changes between now and the actual bracket announcement.

See you here next week for the next Bracketology.

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

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

Conference breakdowns

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