March 19, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bracket ABCs: Championship Saturday Edition

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — With one night to go before the teams are decided for the NCAA Tournament, there is a lot of clarity already.

After weeks of wrangling over the Pairwise, playing with all of the permutations and combinations, it comes down to this: 12 teams are certainly in the tournament right now. Teams like Boston University, Dartmouth and Maine are done. Then, there's three others that will be in if Cornell loses tonight — RPI, Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College.

If Cornell wins the ECAC Tournament championship, then it will knock one of those three teams out of the tournament. The thing is, we don't yet know which one.

The 12 teams that are certain are: Yale, North Dakota, Boston College, Miami, Michigan, Merrimack, Denver, Union, Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, Western Michigan and New Hampshire. For Union, it means the first NCAA bid in its 20-year Division I history. For Western Michigan, it's the first bid since 1996. For Merrimack, it's its first bid since 1988, when it was an independent. The other teams have plenty of recent history in the tournament.

The issue with the three bubble teams is that any of them can still finish No. 15 in the Pairwise. It's just a matter of which one. Most likely, that will be RPI. But Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha are not totally out of the woods.

Let's take a quick glance at what's up ...

1. Yale ... Has clinched the No. 1 overall seed. It will be in Bridgeport against the Atlantic Hockey champion, Air Force or RIT. Both of those Atlantic teams have recent NCAA wins against No. 1 seeds.

2-3. North Dakota, Boston College ... Which one is which overall seed, depends on today's results. If they both win their title games or both lose, it will stay like this. If BC wins and North Dakota loses, the Eagles will be No. 2 overall. But really, it doesn't matter. Boston College will be in Manchester, and North Dakota will likely be in Green Bay. It's just a matter of which teams they will play.

UNLESS New Hampshire drops to a No. 4 seed — which will happen if all higher seeds win their games today. This is the scenario that completely mucks up the bracket. If it weren't for that, it would be nice and tidy. See below.

4. Miami ... The RedHawks will be the last No. 1 seed if they win their first CCHA Tournament championship today. Likely in St. Louis. If they lose, they'll likely drop only to No. 5 or No. 6.

5. Michigan ... Michigan can still be a No. 1 seed if it wins the consolation and Miami loses the final.

6-7. Merrimack, Denver ... These teams are not the "favorites" today, and this is where they'll land if they lose. But if they win, either can move up a few slots. Merrimack, for certain, can be a No. 1 seed with a win and Miami loss.

8-9. Union, Minnesota-Duluth ... Neither team is playing today. It looks most likely these two will play each other in Bridgeport. But other things can happen. If Michigan loses, though, Michigan-Notre Dame could be 8-9, and Union-UMD could be 7-10, which would send them in North Dakota or BC's bracket.

10. Notre Dame ... The Irish can move up to No. 8 or so with a win, which would put them in Bridgeport. Losing the consolation game has them in this slot, most likely.

11. Western Michigan ... The Broncos locked in their bid with a tremendous 5-2 last night in the semis. Even a loss to Miami today can't drop the Broncos much. You can expect them to be out West somewhere.

12. New Hampshire ... UNH and the three teams in the next three slots, are not playing tonight. So there will be little movement for the 'Cats. It's possible that different Pairwise gymnastics slips them to No. 13, which would make them a No. 4 seed, which would put them in Manchester, and bump Boston College west. BC doesn't want that.

13-14-15. Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, RPI ... So here's the scoop. None of these teams are playing tonight. RPI is No. 15 right now. If Cornell wins the ECAC Tournament, RPI would be the first out. But different combinations of results can shift the RPI (the "Ratings Percentage Index" one) enough to move these teams around. It's still most likely that RPI (the "Rensselaer" one) will finish No. 15.

Nebraska-Omaha slips to No. 15 if ... Colgate, Notre Dame and WMU win today.

Colorado College slips to No. 15 if ...  Colgate and Michigan wins; or Michigan ties with a Colgate and Miami win.

None of which matters unless Cornell wins the ECAC title, too. Only then, would one of those teams be bumped out of the tournament.

Here's a bracket project only IF all higher seeds win today.

1. Yale vs. 16. RIT
8. Union vs. 9. Minnesota-Duluth

St. Louis
3. Boston College vs. 14. Colorado College
6. Merrimack vs. 11. Notre Dame

4. Miami vs. 13. New Hampshire
5. Michigan vs. 12. Nebraska-Omaha

Green Bay
2. North Dakota vs. 15. Rensselaer
7. Denver vs. 10. Western Michigan

As you can see, having New Hampshire as a No. 4 seed really mucks things up, because Boston College can no longer be in Manchester. This means either North Dakota or Miami would need to be there. I've made it Miami, since this keeps North Dakota closer to "home."

The committee can go a lot of different ways here. What I've done with this bracket is essentially move entire blocks of four. This maintains "bracket integrity," i.e. the strict serpentine 1-16, 2-15, 3-14, etc... pairings — which leads to second-round pairings of 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5.

But the committee could go in different directions. It can move teams within their seeding "band" any which way it wants. It could keep Merrimack back East in Manchester, and split up Miami-Michigan. Or to Green Bay and split up Denver-North Dakota. The committee, however, has, since the 16-team field was introduced in 2003, not cared much about avoiding second-round intra-conference matchups.

Keep posted to CHN's Pairwise Live Blog throughout the day for updates as the games roll in.

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