NCAA Tournament Bracket ABCs: March 17 Update
Analysis, Breakdown, and Comparison
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
We said last week that the top four should stay stable, but that Miami was poised to break back into the top four once it played enough games against TUCs. That would happen, we said, assuming it got past the quarterfinals, and played a TUC in the CCHA semis.
However, that kicked in early, because Northern Michigan became a TUC by virtue of winning its series over Michigan State. That gave Miami some extra TUC wins, got them over the 10-game threshold required for the Record vs. TUC component to count, and bumped Miami up the charts.
NMU will drop out of TUC status if it loses a couple of games, but by then, Miami will have played Notre Dame in the CCHA semis, and all will be well again.
The big deal on the bubble right now is Clarkson's defeat in the ECAC playoffs. This means another ECAC team will take an at large spot, presumably Wisconsin's. It could also happen in Hockey East, with either BU or Vermont set to play in the final.
Below are some ideas on what may happen, and what the implications are for each team. But there are so many possible combinations of outcomes still, that it behooves you to run some scenarios yourself and see what happens — using CHN's "You Are The Committee" application. Give it a try.
The Wolverines moved back into the top spot because of the RPI flip-flop with Colorado College. CC's RPI only barely went up by going 2-0 vs. Alaska-Anchorage, while Michigan's went up more by defeating Nebraska-Omaha twice — enough to bump Michigan's RPI over CC's.
If Wisconsin stays out of the tournament (see below), it really makes things easier for everyone in terms of placing the top four teams. We spoke last week about the complication of protecting the highest seeds, but also avoiding first-round same-conference matchups.
Wisconsin's losses put it No. 14 at the moment, and with three automatic qualifiers requiring slotting, that bumps out the Badgers. But the Badgers can move up if Notre Dame loses two games — not exactly a far-fetched scenario.
If Miami splits, CC wins two games, and Northern drops out of being a TUC again ... then CC would win that comparison with Miami again.
3. New Hampshire
We said last week that it didn't look like UNH could move up or down. And with everything else going on around the Wildcats, that held true. All their comparison matchups stayed the same. For New Hampshire to win the Miami comparison, it needs to win two and Miami lose two. The bottom line is, it looks like UNH is going to be the No. 1 seed in Worcester, and likely as the No. 2 or 3 overall.
The real issue for UNH is, what happens if a WCHA team is at No. 13, as Minnesota State currently is, and a WCHA team is at No. 4, as it currently is. If UNH is a No. 3 overall, then it will be paired with the ECAC champion — but in order to avoid the same-conference matchup at 4-13, the committee could switch Minnesota State with the ECAC champ. That gives UNH a tougher game.
4-5. Colorado College, North Dakota
As mentioned before, CC dropped two comparisons because it now loses to Michigan and Miami. This dropped the Tigers to No. 4 overall. Taking a close look at the comparison, there's a lot of flux here still. If North Dakota defeats CC in the WCHA final, for example, the RPIs will change enough to flip things, making CC a No. 2 seed in its own regional.
Either way, the committee will have the dilemma mentioned above, where Minnesota State would be in line to play the Tigers. But, trying to avoid that same-conference matchup, the Mavericks could be flipped with the ECAC champ.
There's another scenario with Air Force (see below).
North Dakota and CC would then be aligned for a second-round game in Colorado Springs, after perhaps just having played in St. Paul. This is not really favorable to anyone, and I've recommended in the past that the committee try to avoid these second-round matchups, like it used to do. But it hasn't done that since going to a 16-team field in 2003. It now ignores second-round implications.
6-7-8. Boston College, Denver, St. Cloud State
These teams have some upward mobility if they win the conference tournament, but whether it's enough to get to a No. 1 seed is unlikely. The teams below these guys in the 9-10 spots are both out of their respective tournaments. So where these teams end up Regional-wise is based upon a variety of factors, but coming down to, essentially, where they line up with the top seed. In other words, the committee is going to stick to lining up the 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 second-round matchups ... so wherever No. 1 is, that's where No 8 will be, and so on.
FYI, St. Cloud was helped by Michigan Tech moving into TUC status, since it beat Tech four times. Tech got in by taking one of two from North Dakota. (hat tip: Tom Reale)
9-10. Michigan State, Clarkson
These teams can go as low as the 11-12 range, but are otherwise secure for a bid. And without a chance to play this weekend, it looks like it will be No. 3 seeds for them.
If the Gophers drop the play-in game on Thursday, their RPI will dip back below Minnesota State's, and Minnesota will lose that comparison. It will still be ahead of Minnesota State in the overall Pairwise, but will dip a spot to No. 12. It's likely that a WCHA team will be at No. 5, meaning the committee is going to need do some adjusting anyway, which could flip Minnesota right back to the virtual 11 spot. The Gophers might be able to move up a notch, but seem locked into a 3 seed.
I'm told there's one of those crazy scenarios out there where Minnesota doesn't get in. If you figure it out, let me know. It assuredly involves upsets in both Hockey East and the CCHA, squeezing the at-large field down to 12.
12. Notre Dame
The Irish took advantage of the WCHA cannibalism, and righting its own ship with two wins. It also earned significant mileage out of Northeastern and Providence dropping from the TUC list, and Northern Michigan moving in. This swapped what had been a bunch of comparison losses with Hockey East teams. The Irish are definitely OK with one win, but two losses at The Joe, and Notre Dame runs into trouble, dropping to 13 and running the risk of being bumped out if BU or Vermont wins the Hockey East title. The Irish could even drop to No. 14, and totally be out.
13-14. Minnesota State, Wisconsin
In all the scenarios I can come up with, the Mavericks stay ahead of Wisconsin. So if Notre Dame stays put, that means Wisconsin is out. Minnesota State would only be bumped out if BU or Vermont wins Hockey East, and one of them will be in the final, so it's possible.
But both Wisconsin and MSU can still get in, putting seven WCHA teams in the tournament, including one that would be under .500 (Wisconsin). The committee confirmed in a conference call today that, if Wisconsin qualifies with a sub-.500 record, it will still get in the tournament. All Wisconsin needs is two Notre Dame losses and a couple of other bounces.
This would throw things into upheavel, with Wisconsin needing to host its regional. Miami or Michigan would go to Madison if they are both No. 1 seeds, but if two WCHA teams are No. 1 seeds, it makes things really problematic.
15-18. Harvard, Princeton, Vermont, Boston University
Harvard can actually move as high as 12 overall with an ECAC tournament win, but can't move up by splitting the games, so it needs to win the tournament.
The same really holds true for all of these teams, with BU getting hurt by Providence and Northeastern dropping out of TUC status. Vermont and BU play each other in the semis, so one will have a shot at it in the final.
Last year, the only deviation the committee made from the straight serpentine order (1-16, 2-15, 3-14, etc...) was to switch Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force. Air Force was the 15 overall, and UAH was 16. Minnesota was the No. 1 seed in the Denver regional, with Denver and CC not making the tournament. So the committee placed No. 15 Air Force in Denver against Minnesota.
The committee now faces Air Force being in its home town of Colorado Springs. But Colorado College is the host team, and only CC needs to be placed there, and CC is in the tournament this year. Will the committee keep Air Force in Colorado Springs again?
This one would be much more unfair. Last year, you were simply swapping Air Force with Alabama-Huntsville. This year, the swap would be more significant. You could have CC as a No. 4 overall, set to play No. 13 overall, say Notre Dame. And that means the top seeds — say Michigan and Miami — "deserve" to play the lower seeds. Hockey is not like basketball — in basketball, all the No. 16 seeds are more or less patsies. In hockey, there's a big gap between a No. 4 seed like Air Force, and a No. 4 seed like Notre Dame — no offense to AFA, which nearly knocked off the Gophers last year.
So the committee couldn't make that switch this year, unless CC finishes as a No. 1 or 2 seed — then it's fine.