Bracket ABCs, Final Analysis
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
With the games complete, the field for the 16-team NCAA tournament is now set (see below).
Michigan was the only team to upset the apple cart, so to speak, winning the CCHA tournament to qualify for its 20th consecutive NCAA tournament, coming out of the No. 7 seed in the league. That, combined with Ferris State's two losses in the CCHA tournament, knocked the Bulldogs out of the NCAA picture.
The beneficiary was Vermont, which despite finishing in eighth place in Hockey East, but thanks to its 3-game upset in the quarterfinals, qualified for the NCAA as the last team in. So the three Hockey East qualifiers were first-place New Hampshire, second-place Boston College, and eighth-place Vermont.
But really, these brackets are very easy. There are no intra-conference matchups to avoid. And none of the host schools made it, meaning nothing has to be flipped to accomodate that. There is only one question, and we'll get to that at the end.
Here's the Pairwise 1-14, with 15 and 16 added on — the Atlantic Hockey champ (RIT) and CHA champion (Alabama-Huntsville).
The one crazy part was the four-way tie in Pairwise Comparison wins at No. 11. This is broken relatively routinely, however, with the RPI, resulting in what's listed below.
4. Boston College
5. North Dakota
6. St. Cloud
8. Bemidji State
10. Northern Michigan
11. New Hampshire
This creates the following brackets.
Midwest (Fort Wayne)
1. Miami vs. 16. Alabama-Huntsville
8. Bemidji State vs. 9. Yale
2. Denver vs. 15. RIT
7. Cornell vs. 10. Northern Michigan
West (St. Paul)
3. Wisconsin vs. 14. Vermont
6. St. Cloud State vs. 11. New Hampshire
4. Boston College vs. 13. Alaska
5. North Dakota vs. 12. Michigan
The only real issue is whether Wisconsin's group is in St. Paul, or Denver's group is in St. Paul. We are projecting Wisconsin will be in St. Paul, with Denver in Albany. Let's explain:
One of the committee's guidelines, is that a No. 1 seed should be placed closest to home, when possible. And in placing the teams, the committee is supposed to go in order.
Miami, as No. 1 overall, is a no-brainer for Fort Wayne. Next comes Denver. Technically, the closest remaining spot to Denver is St. Paul, Minn. However, the committee has shown time and time again that, when it's a long flight anyway, this guideline really doesn't matter. In other words, for Denver, it doesn't matter whether it is in St. Paul or Albany.
So then the issue becomes — does it matter to the other teams in the bracket?
The committee's procedure is to take the seedings (shown above), order them 1-16, then bracket them in serpentine order. In other words, 1-16-8-9 in one bracket ... 2-15-7-10 in another ... 3-14-6-11 ... and 4-13-5-12. That gives us the groups you see above.
Consequently, Wisconsin — just by the way the numbers shake out — is matched with 6. St. Cloud, 11. New Hampshire and 14. Vermont. And Denver is with 7. Cornell, 10. Northern Michigan and 15. RIT.
In trying to decide between the two, the committee could just choose to go by its guidelines and keep Denver in St. Paul. Wisconsin gets next dibs and would go to Albany.
But — although the committee has shown less and less tendency to worry about maximizing attendance over the years — the attendance issue is still something that's looked at. And here the committee has the opportunity to help two sites.
In the West, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State would play close to their fans. And in the East, Cornell and RIT would play within their home state.
The caveat is this ... New Hampshire and Vermont would both also draw very well to Albany, so the committee could just as easily do that. But then you are sticking St. Paul with a bracket of Denver, Northern Michigan and two Eastern teams.
Doing it "our way," the committee helps attendance in two regions without really breaking their guidelines, and without tinkering with that "serpentine" order at all, a.k.a. "bracket integrity."
So that's what it will be, says we. Find out on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Mike Machnik contributed his assistance to this analysis.