NCAA Tournament Bracket ABCs: Final Projection
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
All of the games are done, and it's time for a final projection of this year's bracket.
The official announcement will come at Noon (ET) on ESPN-U on Sunday.
Our Live Pairwise Blog has an independent projection, but I have not looked at the bracket there before doing this.
We have been bracket projections for many years, and CHN's staff has the most, and the most original, team of experts on the Pairwise of anyone. And, because of our years of experience in knowledge of the inner workings, we've had the most accurate projections. A lot of people know how to do this now, because the guidelines are out there, including ours. But there are always some subjective things to throw in there from year to year, and knowing how the committee thinks goes a long way. But, the committee changes every year, and you never know what the thinking is. So we may not be perfect all the time — but hopefully, we can point out where the differences might be.
With that said, here's the actual final 1-16:
1. Boston College
4. North Dakota
6. Ferris State
9. Boston University
14. Western Michigan
15. Michigan State
16. Air Force
Michigan State can thank Air Force for getting in the tournament. Had RIT defeated Air Force, it would've flipped the comparison with Michigan State, knocking the Spartans out, and putting Northern Michigan in. Crazy. Common sense would tell you that Michigan State being is the more palatable for the masses, given that NMU was knocked out of the playoffs by Bowling Green in the first round.
Otherwise, things fall into line.
The committee first places No. 1 seeds in the regions closest to home, where possible. In this case, it's pretty simple: Boston College in Worcester, Michigan in Green Bay, Union in Bridgeport, and North Dakota in St. Paul — which sets up a potential rematch with Minnesota.
The committee will then try to match up 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, etc... And with 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 matched up in potential second rounds. However, the committee will have to juggle things to avoid first-round matchups between teams from the same conference. And this is where some subjectivity starts to come in.
Right away it's an issue, because 1-8 can't match up, because Minnesota has to be in St. Paul as the host school. Therefore, the question is, does the committee keep 8-9 together in St. Paul, or does the committee keep 9 (BU) in Worcester and just flip 7 (Minnesota-Duluth)?
The committee has incentive to keep Boston University in Worcester for attendance reasons. So that's why we'll place 7-9, UMD vs. BU in Worcester, while Maine goes out to play Minnesota.
But having to keep Minnesota in St. Paul has a trickle down effect. Unable to keep 1-8 together, we have 1-7 together. That means 2-7 can't be together, so 2 (Michigan) gets either 6 or 5. If you match Michigan with 6 (Ferris State), then it trickles down to Union, which would pair with 5 (Miami). OR, the committee could keep 3-14, 6-11 together as the only pure bracket that doesn't get messed up, and instead send 5-12 to the West.
Meanwhile, Michigan cannot play WMU or Michigan State in the first round, because of the intra-conference opponent issue. So Cornell as the remaining No. 4 seed must go to Green Bay to play Michigan, leaving North Dakota to face Michigan State.
As a result, we have this:
1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force
7. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 9. Boston University
2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell
6. Ferris State vs. 11. Denver
3. Union vs. 14. Western Michigan
5. Miami vs. 12. Lowell
4. North Dakota vs. 15. Michigan State
8. Minnesota vs. 10. Maine
There are many caveats, some of which we already touched on. The committee could keep 8-9 together, and 7-10 together, leaving Maine to stay with its "natural" 7-10 matchup in the Northeast with UMD.
I also have the sneaking suspicion the committee could keep 3-14, 6-11 together, and send the Miami-Lowell pair to Green Bay. But I wish the committee would try to avoid second-round intra-conference matchups too, if possible.
Or what if BU goes to Bridgeport for attendance reasons, and gets paired with Ferris State?
The committee has numerous options to play with, and reading their mind this year is tricky.
But let's leave it at that.