SHARE
Charlie Sampair and Minnesota-Duluth have won four straight games to climb to 13th in the PairWise Rankings (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

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 or highest remaining seed in the conference playoffs through all games as of March 9:

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

Current conference leaders based on winning percentage or highest remaining seeds remaining in conference tournaments:

Atlantic Hockey: Robert Morris
Big Ten: Minnesota
ECAC Hockey: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
NCHC: North Dakota
WCHA: Michigan Tech (No. 1 seed in WCHA tournament)

Notes

• Bracketology assumes that the season has ended and there are no more games to be played — i.e., the NCAA tournament starts tomorrow.

• For Big Ten teams, who have two games left before the postseason starts, I will be using winning percentage, not points accumulated, to determine the current leader. This team is my assumed conference tournament champion.

• For leagues whose regular season is complete, the highest seed remaining in the conference tournament is my assumed conference tournament champion.

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 and Robert Morris.

From there, we can start looking at the ties and bubbles in a more detailed fashion.

The ties and bubbles consist of Denver and Yale, and Notre Dame and Boston University.

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

Step two

Now it’s time to assign the seeds.

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

No. 2 seeds: Boston College, Denver, Yale, Michigan

No. 3 seeds: Boston University, Notre Dame, Harvard, Massachusetts-Lowell

No. 4 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Robert Morris

Step three

Place the No. 1 seeds in regionals.

No. 1 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 2 Quinnipiac is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 3 St. Cloud State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Providence 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 Michigan is placed in No. 1 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 7 Yale is placed in No. 2 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 6 Denver is placed in No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 5 Boston College 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 University is placed in No. 8 Michigan’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Yale’s regional, the East Regional.
No. 11 Harvard is placed in No. 6 Denver’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 12 Massachusetts-Lowell 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. 1 North Dakota’s regional, the West Regional.
No. 16 Robert Morris is sent to No. 2 Quinnipiac’s regional, the Northeast Regional.
No. 14 Michigan Tech is sent to No. 3 St. Cloud State’s regional, the Midwest Regional.
No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth is sent to No. 4 Providence’s regional, the East Regional.

The brackets as we have set them up:

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

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 Quinnipiac
10 Notre Dame vs 7 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Michigan Tech vs. 3 St. Cloud State
11 Harvard vs. 6 Denver

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 1 North Dakota
9 Boston University vs. 8 Michigan

Our first concern is avoiding intraconference matchups. We have Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Boston College.

Like we did last week, let’s take a look at the third band and attendance drivers. We have to get Massachusetts-Lowell out of that spot, and the only team that can slot in there is Harvard, because all the other teams are Hockey East teams in that third band.

Therefore we know Harvard will play Boston College in Albany.

Now, how about the rest?

We have stated in previous blog posts that we would love to see Notre Dame in Cincinnati. So we put Notre Dame there.

Now, does Massachusetts-Lowell or Boston University get to go to Worcester? The higher seed does.

Thus, we have:

East Regional (Albany):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Providence
11 Harvard vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 Quinnipiac
9 Boston University vs 7 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Michigan Tech vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 6 Denver

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 1 North Dakota
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 8 Michigan

We move onto attendance aspects of the bracket.

I still like Michigan in Cincinnati, so we swap the Wolverines with Denver.

East Regional (Albany):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Providence
11 Harvard vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 Quinnipiac
9 Boston University vs 7 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Michigan Tech vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 8 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 1 North Dakota
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Denver

So that’s about all we can do for this week.

See you here next week for the final Bracketology before the conference championship weekend starts.

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

This week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 4 Providence
11 Harvard vs. 5 Boston College

Northeast Regional (Worcester):
16 Robert Morris vs. 2 Quinnipiac
9 Boston University vs 7 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
14 Michigan Tech vs. 3 St. Cloud State
10 Notre Dame vs. 8 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
15 Minnesota vs. 1 North Dakota
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 6 Denver

Conference breakdowns

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

On the move

In: Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech

Out: Omaha, Minnesota State

Attendance woes?

Cincinnati is looking a little better this week.

Last week’s brackets

East Regional (Albany):
13 Omaha vs. 4 Providence
11 Harvard vs. 5 Boston College

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

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati):
15 Robert Morris vs. 3 St. Cloud State
9 Notre Dame vs. 6 Michigan

West Regional (St. Paul):
14 Minnesota vs. 2 North Dakota
12 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 7 Denver

  • Union Alum ’97

    And what happens if the Big 10 tosses them out of the conference?   I kind of hope it happens.  College hockey should remain sacred.  We don’t need any 88 million dollar programs.  Thanks but no thanks PSU.