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North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth could be the top two seeds in the West Regional in Fargo, N.D., as the PairWise Rankings stand today (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 would wind up 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.

We’ll keep bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 22.

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.

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.

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 as of Jan. 20:

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

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Michigan
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston University (by head-to-head over Lowell)
NCHC: Omaha
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 — Michigan, Quinnipiac 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 Vermont and Merrimack at 12.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, Omaha, Bowling Green, North Dakota

No. 2 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Harvard, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Yale, Michigan Tech, Vermont

No. 4 seeds: Merrimack, Michigan, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

North Dakota, as a host institution, is placed first.

No. 4 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in Fargo.
No. 1 Minnesota State is placed in the Midwest Regional in South Bend.
No. 2 Omaha is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 3 Bowling Green 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

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Omaha
10 Yale vs. 7 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Michigan vs. 3 Bowling Green
11 Michigan Tech vs. 6 Miami

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Boston University

West Regional (Fargo):
13 Merrimack vs. 4 North Dakota
12 Vermont vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have two: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Boston University and Yale vs. Harvard.

We can swap BU with Miami and also Yale with Michigan Tech to solve these problems.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Omaha
11 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Michigan vs. 3 Bowling Green
10 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
13 Merrimack vs. 4 North Dakota
12 Vermont vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Now that we have the intra-conference matchups out of the way, let’s work on the other items, i.e. attendance.

One quick fix would be to swap Michigan with Merrimack. That would bring Merrimack back east and bring Michigan back West.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Omaha
11 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Merrimack vs. 3 Bowling Green
10 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Michigan vs. 4 North Dakota
12 Vermont vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

We can also swap Massachusetts-Lowell and Michigan Tech for the same reasons.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Omaha
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Merrimack vs. 3 Bowling Green
10 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
11 Michigan Tech vs. 6 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Michigan vs. 4 North Dakota
12 Vermont vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

I think that we can all agree that this is best bracket attendance-wise that we can put together.

So that looks like our bracket for the week.

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):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Omaha
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Merrimack vs. 3 Bowling Green
10 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
11 Michigan Tech vs. 6 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Michigan vs. 4 North Dakota
12 Vermont vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Merrimack

Out: Colgate

Attendance woes?

South Bend continues to be iffy. It brings up an interesting question, however. Notre Dame is in Hockey East, so would local fans in South Bend want to see western teams or Hockey East/eastern teams?

Fargo is already sold out, but that is one powerful bracket.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Harvard
10 Vermont vs. 7 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Colgate vs. 4 Omaha
11 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 Minnesota-Duluth
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
12 Michigan Tech vs. 6 North Dakota

Tidbits

You can see how one little switch in the No. 1 seeds can shift everything. North Dakota having to be placed in Fargo does a lot of different things.

  • Watch out for Castleton, they are going to be the team to watch down the stretch. After winning 7 straight, having two of the top 4 scorers in the country(one being the leader), and beating what I believe to be a grossly over ranked Norwich team they are moving forward as all these top teams keep slipping each week.

  • Ckljsmom

    i don’t understand Castleton ranked 10th after going 4-0 jump 2 spots Norwich goes 2-2 tthy jump from 7 to 3

    • Exactly! I’m pretty sure these pollsters just throw darts at a board to pick the top 15 and absolutely have a bias towards certain teams.

  • masshole

    If NEC can get some more balanced scoring they can aswell be a force towards the end. Right now their team relies too much on the Uola twins but if they get the other guys going aswell they will shake up some of the top teams.