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A Notre Dame-Michigan first-round matchup could attract more fans in Cincinnati than St. Paul (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 will wind up come selection time.

It’s a look into what are 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 20.

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.

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.

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 — 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 four host institutions this year: Union in Albany (This was confirmed this week, as ECAC Hockey was the host but had to choose either Union or Rensselaer to host), Holy Cross in Worcester, Miami in Cincinnati and Minnesota in St. Paul.

• Seedings will not be switched. To avoid undesirable first-round matchups, including intraconference 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 (PWR), and the conference leaders through all games of Jan. 19:

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Providence
5 Omaha
6 Harvard
7 Michigan
8 Cornell
9 Boston College
10 Notre Dame
11 Yale
12 Boston University
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Denver
15 Penn State
16t Minnesota
16t Minnesota-Duluth
19t Minnesota State
23t Holy Cross

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Holy Cross
Big Ten: Penn State
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Notre Dame
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, but there are none that factor in this week.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

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

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

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

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

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

Last week, I started with Quinnipiac going to Albany. This week, I have them going to Worcester for a number of reasons. Proximity is first; last week was a “What If?” The other reason is that if we jump ahead to the 16 seed, it is Holy Cross, which has to be in Worcester. And the No. 1 seed should get the No. 16 seed in the first round unless there is a lot going on with the bracket. Therefore, this week, we have Quinnipiac 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 Cornell is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Michigan is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Harvard is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Omaha is placed in No. 4 Providence’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 Cornell’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Michigan’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Yale is placed in No. 6 Harvard’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Boston University is placed in No. 5 Omaha’s regional, the East 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. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 15 Minnesota State is sent to No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 14 Penn State is sent to No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Massachusetts-Lowell is sent to No. 4 Providence’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Penn State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 6 Harvard

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

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

We have Yale vs. Harvard and Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Providence.

Let’s look at Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Providence. We can switch Lowell with either Penn State or Minnesota State.

Now, it has to be Penn State, right? Because why would you take Minnesota State out of Minnesota for attendance purposes? Logic says to keep the Mavericks in St. Paul.

So we swap Lowell with Penn State.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 5 Omaha

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 6 Harvard

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

Now we look at Yale and Harvard.

If we move Yale, we can swap with either Boston University or Boston College.

But do we want to do that? How about switching out Harvard with Omaha instead?

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

Now we’re looking OK.

Now let’s look at attendance.

Don’t kid yourselves, folks: Attendance is a huge part of where teams go.

How can we make attendance better? I can see movement on all fronts.

What do I mean by that? Wouldn’t you think Notre Dame vs. Michigan would draw better in Cincinnati than in St. Paul?

Wouldn’t you think Boston University vs. Harvard would draw better in Worcester than in Albany?

That’s the kind of thinking that will happen.

So let’s do it. We’ll move matchups to different locations.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

Cincinnati could be hurting a bit on the attendance front, but it is sure better now than it was with the previous matchups.

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 Penn State vs. 4 Providence
9 Boston College vs 8 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Holy Cross vs. 1 Quinnipiac
12 Boston University vs. 6 Harvard

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 7 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota State vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Yale vs. 5 Omaha

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Penn State

Out: Denver

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati could be iffy.

Last 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 Omaha

  • TheSandMan

    If Kessel isn’t in the Hobey picture than what is the point in mentioning his name in an article titled “Hobey Watch”?

    Idiot amateur writer.

    • AlphaParticle

      This is an article comparing the writer’s preseason picks to current reality. Read the first paragraph before insulting the writer.

    • Scott Stone

      Seriously buddy, READ THE ARTICLE! Elliot, while I think he does have a little east coast bias (see 14 preseason east picks vs. 11 preseason west picks), he is a professional and an excellent writer. Shut your mouth and if you think you can write professional work, apply to one of these places and see if you can….

    • Bharvey13

      these were guys that he mentioned at the beginning of the season. revisiting his picks.

      thompson should be in the talk now after another huge weekend

  • Hockeyeast10

    Paul Thompson from UNH???

    • J108710

      I am very surprised none of the first line forwards, particularly Paul Thompson, are even mentioned.

    • UofM

      Indeed, Paul Thompson is tied for 4th in the nation in points, tied for 5th in the nation for goals, and 22nd in assists. I’m little suprised.

  • Wetmullet

    Where’s John Muse (Boston College)? The kid has backboned BC to 2 national championships and is a serious contender for a 3rd.