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Notre Dame is one of five Hockey East teams in the second or third band in this week’s Bracketology, which would guarantee a first-round intraconference matchup (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, 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 Feb. 2:

1 Quinnipiac
2 St. Cloud State
3 North Dakota
4 Michigan
5 Boston College
6 Providence
7 Harvard
8 Boston University
9 Omaha
10 Notre Dame
11 Massachusetts-Lowell
12 Denver
13 Yale
14 Rensselaer
15t Dartmouth
15t Cornell
17t Minnesota State
20 Minnesota
22t Robert Morris

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota (holds conference wins tiebreaker over Michigan)
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, Minnesota and Robert Morris.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion. There are none this week.

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

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

No. 2 seeds: Boston College, Providence, Harvard, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Omaha, Notre Dame, Massachusetts-Lowell, Denver

No. 4 seeds: Yale, Minnesota State, Minnesota, Robert Morris

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 Michigan is placed in the East Regional in Albany.

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 Boston University is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 7 Harvard is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Providence is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Boston College is placed in No. 4 Michigan’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 Omaha is placed in No. 8 Boston University’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Harvard’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 6 Providence’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Denver is placed in No. 5 Boston College’s regional, the East Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

Since Minnesota is a host institution, we must place Minnesota in the West Regional.

No. 15 Minnesota is sent to No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Robert Morris is sent to No. 1 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Minnesota State is sent to No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Yale is sent to No. 4 Michigan’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Providence

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

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have one this week in Massachusetts-Lowell versus Providence.

But if you take a look at it, you can’t avoid a Hockey East-Hockey East matchup in that banding of teams!

There are three Hockey East teams in the second banding and two in the third banding, which means that you have to have an intraconference matchup somewhere along the line.

How do we determine what is that matchup? Attendance.

Cincinnati needs a little help, so I want to have Notre Dame there. It can boost attendance by a little. Thus, I just switch Notre Dame and Massachusetts-Lowell.

East Regional (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Now let’s look at more attendance aspects.

How can we make attendance better? Honestly, I don’t see anything.

Yes, we can put Michigan in Cincinnati and move North Dakota to Albany, but does that make much of a difference? Not really, and we can maintain some bracket integrity, too.

So that’s about all we can do for this 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 (Albany):
13 Yale vs. 4 Michigan
12 Denver vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Providence

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
11 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Harvard

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: None

Out: None

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati is iffy.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Denver vs. 4 Providence
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 5 Harvard

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs. 7 Boston College

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Minnesota State vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Boston University vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs 8 Notre Dame