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With St. Cloud State in as a No. 4 seed and Minnesota-Duluth as one of three No. 1 seeds from the NCHC, we have some competing priorities to weigh (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

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 through all games of Feb. 24:

1 Minnesota State
2 North Dakota
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Miami
5 Michigan Tech
6 Miami
7 Denver
8 Omaha
9 Boston College
10 Minnesota
11t Quinnipiac
11t Providence
13 Bowling Green
14 St. Cloud State
15 Yale
16 Massachusetts-Lowell
19 Michigan
23 Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on tiebreakers established by each conference:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Michigan (Most conference wins)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston University
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Minnesota State

This is a change from past weeks and is designed to show the team that has the inside track at the top seed for the league playoffs now that all of the contenders have played the same number of games.

Notes

• Bracketology assumes that the season has ended and there are no more games to be played — i.e., the NCAA tournament starts tomorrow.

• I’m using the conference tiebreakers to determine the No. 1 seed for that conference’s tournament. This team is my assumed conference tournament champion and recipient of the autobid.

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 Michigan and Robert Morris.

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

There is one tie, Quinnipiac and Providence.

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 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Miami
5 Michigan Tech
6 Miami
7 Denver
8 Omaha
9 Boston College
10 Minnesota
11 Quinnipiac
12 Providence
13 Bowling Green
14 St. Cloud State
15 Michigan
16 Robert Morris

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami

No. 2 seeds: Michigan Tech, Boston University, Denver, Omaha

No. 3 seeds: Boston College, Minnesota, Quinnipiac, Providence

No. 4 seeds: Bowling Green, St. Cloud State, Michigan, 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 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 4 Miami is placed in the East Regional in Providence.

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
13 Bowling Green vs. 4 Miami
12 Providence vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 St. Cloud State vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

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

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Michigan vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Denver

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one this week in St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota-Duluth.

If you take a look at where you can move St. Cloud, there is only one spot that you can do it — against the No. 1 overall seed Minnesota State. Because there are three other NCHC teams in the No. 1 band, that’s the only spot.

People will refer to the rule that if you have more than five teams in the field, then first-round intraconference matchups are OK. But, as we have seen in the past, the committee will try to avoid it if it can, no matter how many teams there are from one conference.

The committee also has shown a tendency, however, to protect the No. 1 overall seed and make sure it draws the No. 16 overall seed in the first round, so there are some competing factors here.

But we’ll make the switch and then adjust the seedings downward.

East Regional (Providence):
13 Bowling Green vs. 4 Miami
12 Providence vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 St. Cloud State vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Denver

Is there anything else that we can do? It doesn’t look like it at all.

You have to wonder about attendance in the East and Northeast regionals now with all those Western teams.

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 Bowling Green vs. 4 Miami
12 Providence vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Michigan vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 St. Cloud State vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Minnesota vs. 7 Denver

Conference breakdowns

NCHC — 6
Hockey East — 3
WCHA — 3
Big Ten — 2
ECAC Hockey — 1
Atlantic Hockey — 1

On the move

In: St. Cloud State, Michigan

Out: Yale, Harvard

Attendance woes?

With so many Western teams, I worry about the East and Northeast now.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
14 Yale vs. 3 Boston University
12 Providence vs. 6 Miami

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Harvard vs. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Boston College vs. 5 Omaha

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

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