SHARE
Zach Sanford, Adam Gilmour and Boston College have to wait to learn their NCAA tournament fate, and whether it would involve a game close to home (photo: Melissa Wade).

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.

This is the penultimate edition for the 2014-15 season. We’ll have our final prediction after Saturday night’s games are done; the selection show is at noon EDT Sunday on ESPNU. We’ll also have updates on the Bracketology Blog through the weekend.

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 number seeds in all conference tournaments through all games of March 18:

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

Highest remaining seeds in their conference tournaments:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston University
NCHC: North Dakota
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.

• The highest seeded team remaining in its conference tournament 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 number one seeds in conference tournaments 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 St. Cloud State.

We break all of our ties based upon the RPI.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

No. 2 seeds: Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Omaha

No. 3 seeds: Boston College, Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State, Bowling Green

No. 4 seeds: Minnesota, Providence, Harvard, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

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

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
11 St. Cloud State vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Minnesota vs. 4 Boston University
12 Bowling Green vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Harvard vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Quinnipiac vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

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

Looking at these bandings, where can we move St. Cloud? The only possible opponent that St. Cloud can have in the second band is Michigan Tech. So we have to have that matchup.

You may argue that with six NCHC teams in the field, the committee has the right to allow a first-round game between teams from that league. But the committee has shown in the past that if it can avoid a intra-league matchup, it will.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
12 Bowling Green vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Minnesota vs. 4 Boston University
11 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Harvard vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Quinnipiac vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

Now we can start maximizing the atmosphere in terms of attendance in the Eastern regionals. We’ve had this problem all year because of the imbalance of Eastern and Western teams. So it’s been difficult to put the Eastern teams back in the Eastern regionals.

How creative can we get?

Who would we like to bring back East?

Providence and Boston University are already there. So we want to bring back Harvard, Quinnipiac and Boston College.

Let’s start off with a Harvard-Minnesota swap.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
12 Bowling Green vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Harvard vs. 4 Boston University
11 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
13 Minnesota vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Quinnipiac vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

Let’s next swap Quinnipiac with Bowling Green. That works out pretty well, getting Bowling Green back to a regional closer to it as well.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
10 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Harvard vs. 4 Boston University
11 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
13 Minnesota vs. 2 Minnesota State
11 Bowling Green vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

Now, can we get Boston College back?

We can’t swap Boston College with St. Cloud, because of the creation of the NCHC-NCHC matchup.

But what we can do is swap the entire matchup.

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
10 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Harvard vs. 4 Boston University
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
13 Minnesota vs. 2 Minnesota State
11 Bowling Green vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
11 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Michigan Tech

And look at that. We have all of the Eastern teams (minus No. 16 overall seed Robert Morris) in Eastern regionals.

And there you have it.

As the week goes on check the Bracketology Blog for more insights leading up to selection Sunday.

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

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
14 Providence vs. 3 Denver
10 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
15 Harvard vs. 4 Boston University
9 Boston College vs. 8 Omaha

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
13 Minnesota vs. 2 Minnesota State
11 Bowling Green vs. 7 Miami

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 North Dakota
11 St. Cloud State vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: St. Cloud State, Harvard

Out: Yale, Michigan State

Attendance woes?

I think we are OK.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Providence):
13 Yale vs. 4 Miami
9 Providence vs. 5 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
14 Minnesota vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
12 Quinnipiac vs. 6 Boston University

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
15 Robert Morris vs. 2 Minnesota State
11 Bowling Green vs. 8 Denver

West Regional (Fargo):
16 Michigan State vs. 1 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha