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March 23, 2008 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Breaking Down the Brackets: UPDATE

Committee Chair Maturi Confirms Choice to 'Protect' Michigan, Miami was Logic Behind Placement

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Well, you could say the men's ice hockey committee threw us a couple of curves this year. But, once you break it down, it's logical.

The committee made a conscious decision to "protect" the top overall seeds in the tournament, by not placing them in regions where host schools had teams — i.e. Colorado College in the West, and Wisconsin in the Midwest.

(See brackets at right, and compare to our Saturday night analysis.)

Once that decision is made, slotting the four top seeds fell into place.

Joel Maturi, the chair of the men's ice hockey committee and the athletic director at Minnesota, confirmed that the thought process behind Michigan's move to Albany was to "protect" the top seeds.

In fact, Maturi said, the committee also wanted to protect No. 2 overall Miami from having to play in a regional where a host team was situated. So that left Miami to play in Worcester, which bumped out New Hampshire. And at that point, it was clear that No. 4 overall UNH may as well line up with No. 5 overall Colorado College out West.

"We believed it was appropriate for the No. 1 and 2 (overall) seeds not to go to the site of one of the host cities," Maturi said when reached by cell phone Sunday afternoon. "We've had a consistency in the committee of trying to protect the highest seeds.

"Somebody had to go to Madison and somebody had to go to Colorado Springs. We agonized over it, I can assure you that."

We have written extensively about this possibility in the past few weeks. We talked about how the committee would, and should, "protect" Michigan in that scenario, and not give the top seed in the whole tournament and unfair first-round game.

But we didn't think the committee would "protect" the top seed all the way through the second round. We didn't think it would be a factor once Wisconsin came down as a No. 3 seed.

But the committee decided to go that route anyway.

For what it's worth, I support the committee's decision — even though, alas, it plays havoc with the brackets predicted here at CHN.

We said all along that the committee had a few options, neither of which were right or wrong, necessarily. So, once the committee deviated from something we expected early in the process, it trickled down throughout the process.

After that, you have no option but to send New Hampshire out West somewhere ... so, at that point, you might as well preserve the 3-6, 4-5 pairings. That means New Hampshire (4) against Colorado College (5); while North Dakota (3) is left with the Midwest, where it's ultimately paired with (6) Denver.

Once we have that, the No. 2 seeds fall into place easily as well.

No. 8 St. Cloud is still matched up with No. 1 Michigan. It's 7-2 with Boston College-Miami. And it's 5-4, as we've already documented.

That leaves Denver to get the short straw, so to speak, and be matched up in a 6-3 scenario with North Dakota — which means, of course, that Denver winds up having to play Wisconsin in the first round. A tough matchup, but it also violates the policy on avoiding intra-conference first-round matchups. As we know, however, with five WCHA teams in the 2-3 seed slots, there was going to have to be a first-round all-WCHA matchup.

"If you solve one problem, you create another," Maturi said. "In the end, we feel that we realized there will be some questions, but I welcome anybody to give me the soluition to it."

Like Maturi said, two WCHA teams were going to play each other in the first round. It might as well be Denver — the highest remaining No. 2 seed after CC (which is locked into the West) — against the "lowest" No. 3 seed in Wisconsin.

What has been created, however, is the WCHA Invitational in Madison, with only Princeton spoiling the party.

Again, everything else fell into place from there ... except one little spot: Moving No. 15 Niagara away from Miami (the natural 2-15 matchup) and over to play Michigan instead. The only logic for this is that it saves Niagara a flight, and that swapping those two teams is not a big deal. We'll have to assume that's the logic for now.

"Part of our selection criteria is to improve the atmosphere of the regional sites," Maturi said. "Obviously, Niagara and Clarkson are two of the closer teams to that site."

In regards to attendance, however, this raises the question of moving New Hampshire away from Worcester. The committee has been consistent in recent years, though, that it will only worry about attendance when it doesn't severely impact "bracket integrity" elsewhere.

"All of those kinds of things were discussed, but at same time, if you put (New Hampshire in Worcester), where do you put Michigan? Where do you put Miami?" Maturi said. "We made a conscious decision to keep the No. 1 and 2 (overall) seeds away from host teams. I suppose you can argue with that, but that's the reason we went that way."

That leaves the final question — which those of us who follow the process know the answer to, but needs to be asked anyway: Why did a sub-.500 Wisconsin make it over Minnesota State. The answer, of course, is because Wisconsin had better Pairwise criteria — when all was said and done — than the Mavericks. But it does look funny to some. And should Wisconsin get in at under .500.

"In all honesty, that's a disucssion for the summer and our AHCA coaches meeting," Maturi said. "But the reality is, these are the directions we've been given (to follow the numbers). It's something the college hockey coaches have always wanted. It really takes it out of the hands of the committee as to who makes the field. As a result, there was no extensive discussion about it.

"As challenging it might be to explain how they got there (to those unfamiliar with the process), how hard would it be to explain how they didn't get there when the numbers say they should. ... And I should mention, (Wisconsin) hosting had absolutely nothing to do with it."

As I said earlier, for what it's worth, I think the committee did a good job. And once again we have great matchups, and no smokey back rooms.

"In my time on the committee, with the guys here, there's the real sense of always trying to do the right thing for the right reasons," Maturi said.

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