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Harvard is the last of the No. 1 seeds as the PairWise Rankings stand nine weeks away from Selection Sunday (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

We’re at that time of the year where one thing is on everyone’s minds: Will my team make the NCAA tournament? Where does it sit in the PairWise Rankings?

Those of you who 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.

I am the only prognosticator to have correctly predicted the exact brackets for the NCAA tournament in four of the last five years, meaning that I have predicted how the committee thought when putting together the brackets.

With that in mind, 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 might look like 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 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.

This is the first installment of Bracketology for 2016, and we’ll be bringing you a new one every week until we make our final picks before the field is announced on March 20.

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 — Albany, N.Y.; Northeast — Worcester, Mass.; Midwest — Cincinnati; West — St. Paul, Minn.).

• 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 three host institutions this year: Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul (Albany is hosted by ECAC Hockey, not by Rensselaer or Union).

• 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 2016 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, and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 12:

1 Quinnipiac
2 North Dakota
3 St. Cloud State
4 Harvard
5 Cornell
6 Providence
7 Omaha
8 Michigan
9 Boston University
10 Boston College
11 Notre Dame
12 Yale
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Penn State
16 Minnesota-Duluth
17t Rensselaer
17t Minnesota State
21 Holy Cross

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Holy Cross
Big Ten: Michigan (greater number of conference wins)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
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.

• 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 Minnesota State and Holy Cross.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion. We break all of our ties based upon the RPI, but there are none this week.

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

1 Quinnipiac
2 North Dakota
3 St. Cloud State
4 Harvard
5 Cornell
6 Providence
7 Omaha
8 Michigan
9 Boston University
10 Boston College
11 Notre Dame
12 Yale
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Minnesota State
16 Holy Cross

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

No. 1 seeds: Quinnipiac, North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Harvard

No. 2 seeds: Cornell, Providence, Omaha, Michigan

No. 3 seeds: Boston University, Boston College, Notre Dame, Yale

No. 4 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Denver, Minnesota State, Holy Cross

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 Quinnipiac is placed in the East Regional in Albany.
No. 2 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 St. Cloud State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Harvard is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

Step four

Now we place the other 12 teams so as to avoid intraconference 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 Michigan is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 7 Omaha is placed in No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Providence is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Cornell is placed in No. 4 Harvard’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 University is placed in No. 8 Michigan’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 10 Boston College is placed in No. 7 Omaha’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Notre Dame is placed in No. 6 Providence’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Yale is placed in No. 5 Cornell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.

No. 4 seeds

One more time, taking No. 16 vs. No. 1, No. 15 vs. No. 2, etc.

Since Holy Cross is a host institution, it must be placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.

No. 16 Holy Cross is sent to No. 4 Harvard’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 14 Denver is sent to No. 2 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell is sent to No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Michigan vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 4 Harvard
12 Yale vs. 5 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have a few, so let’s solve them.

We have Yale vs. Cornell, Notre Dame vs. Providence and Denver vs. North Dakota.

Let’s solve these.

The first thing we do is swap Cornell and Boston University.

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 4 Harvard
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now we have to solve Denver vs. North Dakota.

Let’s take a closer look at the 1-4 bracketing here.

Because we had to put Holy Cross in Worcester, we have an interesting item here. We aren’t protecting the No. 1 seed, which is Quinnipiac.

So let’s solve this by swapping Quinnipiac and Harvard.

East Regional (Albany):
15 Minnesota State vs. 4 Harvard
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Denver vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now how to solve the rest of this? We can try to move Massachusetts-Lowell back East, but that doesn’t work because you create another matchup between two NCHC teams.

Thus, Denver has to go to Albany and Minnesota State comes to St. Paul.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
9 Michigan vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
10 Boston College vs. 7 Omaha

Now we have to solve Notre Dame-Providence.

The easy one here is to swap Notre Dame, Michigan and Boston College around.

Michigan has to come to Cincinnati unless we move Providence. But the 3-6 potential matchup is what the NCAA likes, thus we keep that intact and move Michigan to Cincinnati.

We now take geography into account, and thus, Boston College goes to Albany and Notre Dame to St. Paul.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
10 Boston College vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
11 Notre Dame vs. 7 Omaha

I think this is about all we can do this week.

So that is it. My bracket for the week.

But remember: There are so many changes between now and the actual bracket announcement.

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 (Albany):
14 Denver vs. 4 Harvard
10 Boston College vs. 5 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Yale vs. 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Michigan vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 North Dakota
11 Notre Dame vs. 7 Nebraska-Omaha

Conference breakdowns

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

A year ago

What did the first Bracketology last year look like at the beginning of January?

Let’s take a look.

The brackets I predicted as of Jan. 6, 2015:

East Regional (Providence):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Harvard
12 Michigan Tech vs. 8 Boston University

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Vermont vs. 4 Miami
9 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Bowling Green

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 3 Minnesota-Duluth
11 Minnesota vs. 6 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
15 Penn State vs. 2 Minnesota State
10 Providence vs. 7 North Dakota

And the actual bracket from last year (Editor’s note: An earlier version showed last year’s predicted bracket in this space, not the actual bracket. It has been revised below to show the actual bracket):

Midwest Regional (South Bend):
16 RIT vs. 1 Minnesota State
9 Harvard vs. 8 Omaha

West Regional (Fargo):
14 Quinnipiac vs. 2 North Dakota
12 St. Cloud vs. 7 Michigan Tech

Northeast Regional (Manchester):
13 Yale vs. 3 Boston University
10 Minnesota vs. 6 Minnesota-Duluth

East Regional (Providence):
15 Providence vs. 4 Miami
11 Boston College vs. 5 Denver

Who was in and who was out from the first Bracketology to the actual bracket?

Out: Robert Morris, Penn State, Vermont, Massachusetts-Lowell, Bowling Green

In: RIT, Yale, Boston College, Denver, St. Cloud State

We can’t really count Robert Morris/RIT because it was the only autobid from Atlantic Hockey. And Penn State was in the initial one because it was leading the Big Ten at that moment.

So things do change a lot.

  • Wizzard1

    I was Mike Martin who go the shut out against St. Johns. B. J. Obrien was on the bench for that Game.

    • Sharpblue 514

      Wizzard1: Mea culpa…Thanks for correcting that. Mike Martin did earn the shutout by stopping 14 shots.