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Omaha and Denver are two of the five NCHC teams in the top 11 spots of the PairWise Rankings (photo: Michelle Bishop).

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 the end of play on Jan. 28:

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

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Michigan
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston University
NCHC: North Dakota (by head-to-head over 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. The only teams that are not are 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 Boston University, Omaha and Harvard at 3.

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, North Dakota, Boston University, Omaha

No. 2 seeds: Harvard, Bowling Green, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami

No. 3 seeds: Providence, Michigan Tech, Denver, Michigan

No. 4 seeds: Boston College, Vermont, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

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

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Vermont vs. 3 Boston University
11 Denver vs. 6 Bowling Green

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Boston College vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan vs. 5 Harvard

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Providence vs. 8 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Minnesota-Duluth

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

We have Vermont vs. Boston University. We can swap Vermont with Quinnipiac.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Denver vs. 6 Bowling Green

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Boston College vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan vs. 5 Harvard

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Providence vs. 8 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Vermont vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Minnesota-Duluth

What else can we do to make the bracket more appealing in terms of attendance?

We can swap Michigan with Providence.

East Regional (Providence):
15 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
11 Denver vs. 6 Bowling Green

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Boston College vs. 4 Omaha
9 Providence vs. 5 Harvard

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
12 Michigan vs. 8 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Vermont vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Minnesota-Duluth

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. 3 Boston University
11 Denver vs. 6 Bowling Green

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Boston College vs. 4 Omaha
9 Providence vs. 5 Harvard

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
12 Michigan vs. 8 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Vermont vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Michigan Tech vs. 7 Minnesota-Duluth

Conference breakdowns

NCHC — 5
Hockey East — 4
WCHA — 3
ECAC Hockey — 2
Big Ten — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: Denver, Boston College, Providence

Out: Yale, Massachusetts-Lowell, Merrimack

Attendance woes?

I think we’re OK this week.

Last 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