NCAA Hockey Bracketology: December 12, 2011

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: : Kenny Reiter #35 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs stops a shot by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With the Eagles hockey team off until the Great Lakes Invitational played over the holiday break, I thought I'd take a stab at projecting the NCAA Tournament field. If the season ended today, BC would likely earn a #1 seed and host either the Northeast Regional in Worcester or the East Regional in Bridgeport.

For those of you that don't know, if the NCAA had to buy a cappuccino maker, they'd surely buy a Neopolitano Ramona. That's because the NCAA is a rankings slave when it comes to selecting the tournament field, using its PairWise Rankings to determine the 15 programs headed to the NCAA tournament (and the Atlantic Hockey champ).

NOTE: The below follows USCHO's methodology for seeding the tournament, which very closely follows the NCAA's selection procedure.

Let's get to it.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Ohio State
2. Minnesota-Duluth
3. Boston College
4. Merrimack
5. Boston University
6. Notre Dame
7. Minnesota
8. Western Michigan
9. Michigan State
10. Massachusetts-Lowell
11. Northern Michigan
12t. Ferris State
12t. Colgate
12t. Lake Superior State
15. Cornell
31. Air Force -- Atlantic Hockey Champion

Bubble teams (in order): Colorado College, Michigan, Northeastern, Miami, Providence, Union

By conference: CCHA 7, Hockey East 4, WCHA 2, ECAC 2, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Ohio State, Minnesota-Duluth, Boston College, Merrimack
No. 2 seeds: Boston University, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Western Michigan
No. 3 seeds: Michigan State, Massachusetts-Lowell, Northern Michigan, Ferris State
No. 4 seeds: Colgate, Lake Superior State, Cornell, Air Force

Step 3: Place host teams in regionals

This year's four regional hosts are Yale and Fairfield (East in Bridgeport), Holy Cross (Northeast in Worcester), Michigan Tech (Midwest in Green Bay) and Minnesota (West in St. Paul). Only one of those programs -- Minnesota -- is safely in the tournament field at this point, so Minnesota will be slotted into the West Regional.

Step 4: Place number 1 seeds in Regionals

Number 1 seeds are placed based on proximity to regional site.

No. 1 Ohio State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in the West Regional in St. Paul.
No. 3 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 4 Merrimack is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.

Step 5: Place the other 12 teams avoiding intra-conference match ups if possible. Begin by filling each bracket by banding groups. Remember that teams are not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites by ranking order within the banding.

If this is the case, then the committee should seed so that the quarterfinals are seeded such that the four regional championships are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

Number 2 seeds:

No. 8 Western Michigan is placed in No. 1 Ohio State's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 7 Minnesota is placed in No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the West.
No. 6 Notre Dame is placed in No. 3 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 5 Boston University is placed in No. 4 Merrimack's Regional, the East.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Michigan State is placed in No. 8 Western Michigan's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 10 UMass-Lowell is placed in No. 7 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 11 Northern Michigan is placed in No. 6 Notre Dame's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 12 Ferris State is placed in No. 5 Boston University's Regional, the East.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Colgate is placed in No. 4 Merrimack's Regional, the East.
No. 14 Lake Superior State is placed in No. 3 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 15 Cornell is placed in No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the West.
No. 16 Air Force is placed in No. 1 Ohio State's Regional, the Midwest.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
1 Ohio State vs. 16 Air Force
8 Western Michigan vs. 9 Michigan State

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 15 Cornell
7 Minnesota vs.10 UMass-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
3 Boston College vs. 14 Lake Superior State
6 Notre Dame vs. 11 Northern Michigan

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
4 Merrimack vs. 13 Colgate
5 Boston University vs. 12 Ferris State

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. Right now there are two such matchups -- Western Michigan vs. Michigan State in the Midwest Regional and Notre Dame vs. Northern Michigan in the Northeast Regional, both CCHA vs. CCHA matchups.

Moving around these CCHA teams is tricky with so many teams in the tournament field (currently an insane seven programs in the sixteen team field). Note that teams can't be seeded across bands, which makes moving the teams even more difficult. And with three of the four programs on the 3 seed line all coming from the CCHA, you can only realistically move one of the CCHA programs to the West Regional, where they would face the No. 2 seed Minnesota from the WCHA.

The easiest move right now would be to swap UMass-Lowell and Northern Michigan, sending Lowell to the Northeast and Northern Michigan to the West. Both moves ease travel constraints for the two programs.

There is a provision that will allow for intra-conference first round matchups if there are more than five teams from one conference in the tournament. With seven in from the CCHA, that would allow us to keep the Michigan State-Western Michigan 2 vs. 3 matchup in the Midwest alone.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
1 Ohio State vs. 16 Air Force
8 Western Michigan vs. 9 Michigan State

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 15 Cornell
7 Minnesota vs.10 Northern Michigan

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
3 Boston College vs. 14 Lake Superior State
6 Notre Dame vs. 11 UMass-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
4 Merrimack vs. 13 Colgate
5 Boston University vs. 12 Ferris State

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. Though I'm not sure the selection committee would have to do anything at this point as most of these regionals look solid.

Ohio State, Michigan State and Western Michigan are holding down the Midwest Regional. Three Minnesota programs in the West, including the defending National Champions and the Gophers, should make the West Regional a hot ticket. Worcester gets BC, once again, as well as nearby Lowell and HEA-in-waiting Notre Dame, while the East Regional gets Merrimack, Colgate and Boston University.

I'd like the Eagles chances at advancing out of the Northeast with a regional that includes Notre Dame, Lake State and UMass-Lowell. BC has dominated in NCAA Tournament play playing in Worcester, and I'd like BC's chances in a rematch against Notre Dame on this side of the country.

The other thing that immediately jumps out at me about this bracket is the huge turnover at the top when you compare this year's first USCHO poll against the current PairWise Rankings. If the season ended today, a total of nine programs that were ranked in the USCHO top 15 would fail to make this year's NCAA Tournament, including preseason No. 2 Miami, No. 3 North Dakota, No. 4 Denver, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Colorado College, No. 9 Yale, No. 11 Union, No. 12 New Hampshire and No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha.

A lot will change between now and Selection Sunday, but the Eagles head into the winter break in a very good position to grab one of this year's top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

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