With the NCAA men's ice hockey tournament selection less than seven weeks away (March 20), it's time to take a stab at projecting where Boston College could land in the tournament field. On Thursday, USCHO writer Jayson Moy took a first look at how the tournament field might break down in his college hockey-style bracketology.
Moy has the Eagles as the #2 seed in the East Regional, facing a #3 seeded Notre Dame team. Holy War on ice? Yes and please. On the other side of the Regional bracket, #1 Yale would face #4 Nebraska-Omaha.
So how, exactly, could this week's presumed number one ranked team in the country end up as a #2 seed behind Yale?
Behold the beauty of the PairWise Rankings (PWR), which, as we know, the NCAA selection committee adheres to pretty closely in the selection process.
Despite the fact that Yale lost both of its games over the weekend to Union and RPI, the Bulldogs still own the top spot in this week's PWR Rankings. If the season ended today, Yale would all but be guaranteed the top seed in the tournament.
To compound the issue, the NCAA selection committee has a rule that stipulates that any host teams invited to the tournament must play in that regional. This is the NCAA's feeble attempt to solve its regional attendance issues (tip: just move the regionals back to the 1-seeds home ice). This year, Yale is the East Regional host, New Hampshire is the Northeast Regional host and Michigan Tech is the host of the Midwest Regional (which is in Green Bay, huh? You crazy kids from the UP, you!). The CCHA is hosting this year's West Regional in Saint Louis, but no one team is guaranteed a slot there.
After Yale (PWR 32) comes a trio of WCHA teams in the PWR rankings -- Denver (30), North Dakota (30) and Minnesota-Duluth (29). BC follows closely behind at 28.
What is slightly irritating about the PWR is that head-to-head results are just one of the four components that make up the PWR team comparisons. So despite sweeping an early season weekend series against the Pioneers ... on the road, the Eagles currently lose the PWR comparison to Denver. Wait. Huh?
So if the season ended today, Yale, Denver, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth would be your #1 seeds. Yale has to play in the East Regional, which would likely send Denver to Manchester, North Dakota to Saint Louis and Minnesota-Duluth to Green Bay.
The Eagles would be the highest 2 seed in the tournament, and would first be slotted to face the last #1 -- as of today, that would be Minnesota-Duluth, likely in Green Bay. But if the committee needs to avoid any first round intra-conference matchups, BC could be moved to another Regional -- quite possibly, the East regional -- to face the top seed in the tournament.
The other seeding complication to keep an eye on involves UNH, who must play in the Northeast Regional. The Wildcats, currently the last 2 seed according to the PWR, would be seeded in the Northeast, which would do one of two things:
1) Shut BC out of the Northeast if they wound up with the same tournament seed as UNH or
2) Shut BC out of the Northeast if they wound up facing UNH in the first round in a #1 vs. #4 (unlikely) or #2 vs. #3 (more likely) matchup.
If BC lands doesn't land in either the East (Bridgeport) or the Northeast (Manchester) Regional, it would be the first time since the 2000 NCAA Tournament sent the Eagles to Minneapolis that BC wouldn't play the first and second rounds of the tournament in New England.
Lucky for BC, there is still seven weeks of hockey to be played. Plenty of time to jump Yale, Denver, North Dakota or Minnesota-Duluth and move into one of the four slots in this year's NCAA Tournament.