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NCAA hockey bracketology: Wildcats slated for Bridgeport as No. 6 overall seed

January 11, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor (mwellens@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

With seven weeks remaining in college hockey's regular season, Northern Michigan University fans better get used to something called the PairWise rankings.

It will get mentioned a lot - in this newspaper, online, on the air and in your local watering hole - as the Wildcats attempt to secure their second NCAA tournament bid in three seasons.

For those unfamiliar with the PairWise rankings, consider it similar to college football's BCS rankings with no human element involved, however. It's all that crazy math stuff.

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MATT WELLENS

College hockey has a lot of human polls, most notable the weekly USCHO.com top 20, the USA Today/USAHockey top 15 and InsideCollegeHockey.com's top 20 power rankings.

None of those polls mean squat when it comes to selecting the 16 teams for the NCAA tournament.

Each team's PairWise ranking is calculated by comparing records against common opponents, record in head-to-head competition, record against teams under consideration (TUC) and a team's ratings percentage index (RPI).

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A team's RPI is calculated based on a team's winning percentage, the average winning percentage of opponents and the average winning percentage of the opponents' opponents.

To be a TUC, teams must have an RPI of .5000 or more.

Three college hockey websites - siouxsports.com, USCHO.com and collegehockeynews.com - do a nice job when it comes to compiling the PairWise rankings. But for the purpose of this weekly experiment, I will be using the USCHO.com PairWise rankings as of noon on Tuesdays. The automatic qualifiers will be the five teams leading their league.

Currently, Atlantic Hockey is the lone league without a team in the PairWise. Mercyhurst currently sits in first and will be this week's No. 16 seed. Other conference leaders include Ohio State (CCHA), Boston College (Hockey East), Minnesota (WCHA) and Cornell (ECAC).

Here are the top 16 in the PairWise as of Jan. 10, with two-way ties being broken via a head-to-head PairWise comparison and three-way ties via the RPI:

1. Minnesota-Duluth

2. Ohio State

3. Notre Dame

4. Boston College

5. Boston University

6. Northern Michigan

7. UMass-Lowell

8. Minnesota

9. Merrimack

10. Michigan

11. Colorado College

12. Ferris State

13. Western Michigan

14. Miami

15. Cornell

16. Mercyhurst

To determine the final bracket, I'll begin by placing the top seeds closest to home, so Minnesota-Duluth goes to the West Regional in St. Paul; Ohio State to the Midwest Regional in Green Bay; Notre Dame to the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.; and Boston College to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.

From here, the other 12 teams are placed based on bracket integrity, not proximity, so No. 1 vs. No. 16, No. 8 vs. 9, etc.

Based on that criteria, here's how the bracket shakes out, with Minnesota guaranteed to play in the Midwest Regional in St. Paul because the Gophers are the host. Thankfully, they naturally fall there.

Midwest Regional (St. Paul):

1. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 16. Mercyhurst

8. Minnesota vs. 9. Merrimack

Northeast Regional (Worcester):

4. Boston College vs. 13. Western Michigan

5. Boston University vs. 12. Ferris State

Midwest regional (Green Bay):

2. Ohio State vs. 15. Cornell

7. UMass-Lowell vs. 10. Michigan

East Regional (Bridgeport):

3. Notre Dame vs. 14. Miami

6. NMU vs. 11. Colorado College

There's one flaw with this bracket and that is the intra-conference matchup in the East between Notre Dame and Miami. Because there are seven CCHA teams, the NCAA could leave the matchup, but there's an easy swap of Mercyhurst and Miami, so I'll make that change, giving us a final bracket.

Midwest Regional (St. Paul):

1. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 14. Miami

8. Minnesota vs. 9. Merrimack

Northeast Regional (Worcester):

4. Boston College vs. 13. Western Michigan

5. Boston University vs. 12. Ferris State

Midwest regional (Green Bay):

2. Ohio State vs. 15. Cornell

7. UMass-Lowell vs. 10. Michigan.

East Regional (Bridgeport):

3. Notre Dame vs. 16. Mercyhurst

6. NMU vs. 11. Colorado College

The NCAA can also make tweaks to help attendance, but I see none being made with two Minnesota schools in St. Paul, two Boston schools in Worcester and a pair of Big Ten schools in Green Bay.

The only site that's a concern is Bridgeport, with an Atlantic Hockey school and three Western schools.

For NMU fans, Bridgeport is by no means ideal and may be a worse-case travel scenario leaving many at home watching the competition on TV.

From a competitive standpoint, though, the Wildcats match up well against all three regional foes and no one has home-ice advantage.

The thing to remember is the PairWise is constantly moving and NMU will be in a constant state of flux depending not only on its results, but on the results of others.

Prior to Christmas, the 'Cats were a No. 8 seed heading to Green Bay with Michigan Tech as a TUC. Now, the Huskies are below .5000 in the RPI, while St. Cloud State and Wisconsin have climbed above .5000 and reached TUC status.

What I'm saying is, hold off on any hotel or plane reservations for the time being.

Mining Journal Sports Editor Matt Wellens will have another bracketology analysis on Wednesday of next week and keep it up right until the field is announced on Sunday, March 18. Matt can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.

 
 

 

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