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Minnesota and North Dakota could be on course for a rematch of last season’s national semifinal, won by the Gophers (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 PairWise Rankings (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Feb. 10:

1 Minnesota State
2 North Dakota
3 Boston University
4 Omaha
5 Minnesota-Duluth
6 Michigan Tech
7 Miami
8 Bowling Green
9 Denver
10 Providence
11 Boston College
12 Michigan
13t Quinnipiac
13t Minnesota
15 Massachusetts-Lowell
16 Harvard
25t 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 team that is not is Robert Morris.

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

There is one tie, Quinnipiac and Minnesota

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 Minnesota-Duluth
6 Michigan Tech
7 Miami
8 Bowling Green
9 Denver
10 Providence
11 Boston College
12 Michigan
13 Quinnipiac
14 Minnesota
15 Massachusetts-Lowell
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: Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Miami, Bowling Green

No. 3 seeds: Denver, Providence, Boston College, Michigan

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Minnesota vs. 3 Boston University
11 Boston College vs. 6 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Omaha
12 Michigan vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Denver vs. 8 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Providence vs. 7 Miami

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

Purists will say let’s just leave it as is — it’s perfect for bracket integrity.

But as we have seen in the past, the committee likes to make changes to bring teams closer to their geographic regions, both for travel advantages for teams and for attendance purposes.

Because of this, one has to believe that the same will happen this year.

Therefore, what else can we do to make the bracket more appealing in terms of attendance and more of a geographic fit?

We look to bring Eastern teams to the East and Western teams to the West.

In this particular case we look at the West Regional, where we have Lowell and Providence, and try to bring them back East.

Even though Providence is not the host school in Providence, it would be nice to have the Friars there.

So we do some work in the third band and move Providence to Providence, Boston College to Manchester and Michigan to Fargo.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Minnesota vs. 3 Boston University
10 Providence vs. 6 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Omaha
11 Boston College vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Denver vs. 8 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 2 North Dakota
12 Michigan vs. 7 Miami

What is next? We try to bring Minnesota to the West and Lowell to the East.

In order to do this and not create any intraconference matchups, we swap the fourth band around. Minnesota to the West Regional, Lowell to the Northeast and Quinnipiac to the East.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
10 Providence vs. 6 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Omaha
11 Boston College vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Denver vs. 8 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 North Dakota
12 Michigan vs. 7 Miami

Is there anything else that we can do?

Moving Michigan to South Bend would give it a little boost, but having Bowling Green there is also a boost. But moving Michigan only would create an intraconference matchup between Denver and Miami, which we would not be able to solve.

Therefore the alternative becomes swapping the entire matchups — i.e., Denver vs. Bowling Green goes to Fargo and Michigan vs. Miami goes to South Bend.

Do you make this change?

If it ended like this, you have to think about what would happen.

Today, I leave it as is. And yes, that West Regional is something, isn’t it?

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):
13 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Boston University
10 Providence vs. 6 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Omaha
11 Boston College vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Denver vs. 8 Bowling Green

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 North Dakota
12 Michigan vs. 7 Miami

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Minnesota

Out: Harvard

Attendance woes?

South Bend is OK, but I am still not sure.

Last week’s brackets

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

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Omaha
11 Harvard vs. 5 Minnesota-Duluth

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

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Michigan vs. 2 North Dakota
9 Denver vs. 7 Michigan Tech