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UMass-Lowell is the last at-large team in the NCAA tournament field in this week’s Bracketology (photo: Omar Phillips).

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. 9:

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

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota (conference wins over Michigan)
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Notre Dame (conference wins over 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 Boston College
5 Providence
6 Michigan
7 Notre Dame
8 Boston University
9 Omaha
10 Yale
11 Harvard
12 Denver
13 Massachusetts-Lowell
14 Robert Morris
15 Minnesota State
16 Minnesota

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

No. 2 seeds: Providence, Michigan, Notre Dame, Boston University

No. 3 seeds: Omaha, Yale, Harvard, Denver

No. 4 seeds: Massachusetts-Lowell, Robert Morris, Minnesota State, Minnesota

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 Boston College 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 Notre Dame is placed in No. 2 St. Cloud State’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 6 Michigan is placed in No. 3 North Dakota’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Providence is placed in No. 4 Boston College’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 Yale is placed in No. 7 Notre Dame’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 11 Harvard is placed in No. 6 Michigan’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Denver is placed in No. 5 Providence’s regional, the East Regional.

No. 4 seeds

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

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

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

The brackets as we have set them up:

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

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Robert Morris vs. 3 North Dakota
11 Harvard vs. 6 Michigan

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

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

We can only switch Massachusetts-Lowell with Robert Morris or Minnesota State. We switch with Robert Morris in this case, trying to even out bracket integrity and protecting the No. 1 overall seed.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Robert Morris vs. 4 Boston College
12 Denver vs. 5 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
9 Omaha vs 8 Boston University

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

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

Now let’s look at more attendance aspects.

We can do some movement around the third band, bringing Yale and Harvard back to the East and Denver and Omaha to the West. We do this to maintain as much bracket integrity as possible.

East Regional (Albany):
14 Robert Morris vs. 4 Boston College
11 Harvard vs. 5 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
12 Denver vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs. 7 Notre Dame

Now let’s look at one more thing, and again, we’ll base this from the attendance point of view.

What if we swapped the entire East and Northeast regionals?

Now why would we do that? Worcester would be closer to Boston and Providence for three teams. While Worcester is closer for the two teams from the New Haven area, it would be farther away for Boston University.

But would that boost attendance at all? It’s hard to say.

But as the No. 1 seed, Quinnipiac deserves to be closest to its fan base. Thus, we keep the bracket the way it is.

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):
14 Robert Morris vs. 4 Boston College
11 Harvard vs. 5 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
15 Minnesota State vs. 1 Quinnipiac
10 Yale vs 8 Boston University

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
13 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 3 North Dakota
12 Denver vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
16 Minnesota vs. 2 St. Cloud State
9 Omaha vs. 7 Notre Dame

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 still iffy, even with North Dakota and Michigan there.

Last 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