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March 23, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bracket ABCs: Final Projection

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Sunday's CCHA championship game win by Notre Dame over Michigan brought everything into focus. It means Michigan's run of 22 straight years in the NCAAs is over, and Yale sneaks in as the final at-large team.

That allows us to make a final bracket projection.

Remember, the committee — at least based on its practice over the last 10 years — tries to lay out the bracket following a strict serpentine order of the Pairwise. That means 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14 and so on, all the way down the line. It also likes to pair the 1 and 2 seeds of a region accordingly, i.e. 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5.

They like to call this "bracket integrity." There is no mandate to do this, but the committee likes to try. Certain things are mandated however. That includes:

* placing host teams in their host region
* placing the No. 1 seeds "closest to home"
* avoiding first-round games against teams from the same conference
* grouping teams in "bands" of four

There are other unwritten rules the committee tries to adhere to, such as "protecting" the top seeds, if possible, by ensuring they play the lowest seeds possible; and in some cases, the committee will try to help the attendance of a regional.

The final Pairwise

1 Quinnipiac
2 Minnesota
3 Mass.-Lowell
4 Notre Dame
5 Miami
6 Boston College
7 New Hampshire
8 North Dakota
9 Denver
10 Niagara
11 Minnesota State
12 Union
13 St. Cloud State
14 Wisconsin
15 Yale
16 Canisius

Which produces, according to my projection:

Providence: 1. Quinnipiac vs. 16. Canisius / 8. North Dakota vs. 10. Niagara
Grand Rapids: 2. Minnesota vs. 15. Yale / 6. Boston College vs. 11. Minnesota State
Manchester: 3. Mass.-Lowell vs. 14. Wisconsin / 7. New Hampshire vs. 9. Denver
Toledo: 4. Notre Dame vs. 13. St. Cloud State / 5. Miami vs. 12. Union

The first main issue is that Minnesota (2) would not be matched up with New Hampshire (7), because New Hampshire must stay in Manchester. Minnesota would not be placed in Manchester because, as the 2nd overall seed, it gets second pick of being closest to home, and that would be Grand Rapids. It's theoretically possible Minnesota could get sent to Manchester, because it's a flight for the Gophers either way. But the committee typically doesn't do that, and Grand Rapids is an 8-hour drive from Minneapolis, certainly drive-able for fans in Minnesota. So there is incentive to keep Minnesota there.

A couple of extra flips are required, though, because the natural 8-9 pairing — North Dakota and Denver — won't happen, because those teams are from the same conference. North Dakota can't play Minnesota State either, and the committee will probably keep 5-12 (Miami-Union) together. So that leaves only Niagara as a possible opponent for North Dakota.

As for New Hampshire, it leaves its possible opponents as Denver (9) and Minnesota State (11). It could go either way, but since Boston College is 6, then it makes sense to keep it with Minnesota State (11). That would leave New Hampshire to face Denver.

The only other caveat here is whether the committee will want to place Boston College in Providence, for attendance reasons. We're projecting not, based on the fact that the committee has, more often than not, emphasized "bracket integrity" over attendance concerns. But the makeup of the committee changes a little each year, and if this year's group believes the Providence regional needs a boost, then you could see Boston College there.

It should be noted that the 2010 committee did completely switch around all 3 seeds for attendance reasons. I am a fan of switching things around in ways that make sense, but not a fan of doing it with 3 seeds. The higher seeds should get the benefit of those kinds of switches.

The "natural" matchup, however, is 1-8, which would mean pairing Quinnipiac and North Dakota. And you could argue that it would be unfair for Quinnipiac to have to face Boston College (6), potentially, over the lower North Dakota (8).

But, on yet another hand, I've argued many times in the past that the difference between 8 and 6 is practically irrelevant, and shouldn't be fretted over. But the committee, if nothing else, has taken the order as gospel over the last decade or so.

Check out our Pairwise Live Blog for independent thoughts of Scott McLaughlin.

The committee announces its official bracket at 9 p.m. (ET) on ESPN-U.

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