NCAA Hockey Bracketology: January 13, 2012

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish react to their loss to the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs 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)

The Eagles look to break out of their annual midseason slump with two games against Hockey East opponents UMass (tonight, 7 PM) and Northeastern (tomorrow, 4 PM at Fenway Park). Despite going just 5-6-1 in their last 12 games, Boston College is clinging to the fourth and final 1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Here's the updated PairWise Rankings used to determine the 15 programs headed to the NCAA Tournament (and the AHA champ).

Let's take a look at this week's bracket.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
4. Boston College
5. Boston University
6. Massachusetts-Lowell
7. Northern Michigan
8. Minnesota
9. Merrimack
9. Michigan
9. Colorado College
12. Ferris State
12. Western Michigan
12. Miami
15. Cornell
16. Mercyhurst -- Atlantic Hockey Champion

Bubble teams (in order): Lake Superior, Northeastern, Michigan State, North Dakota, Denver

By conference: CCHA 7, Hockey East 4, WCHA 3, ECAC 1, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Boston College
No. 2 seeds: Boston University, Massachusetts-Lowell, Northern Michigan, Minnesota
No. 3 seeds: Merrimack, Michigan, Colorado College, Ferris State
No. 4 seeds: Western Michigan, Miami, Cornell, Mercyhurst

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

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

Number 3 seeds:

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

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Western Michigan is placed in No. 4 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 14 Miami is placed in No. 3 Notre Dame's Regional, the East.
No. 15 Cornell is placed in No. 2 Ohio State's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 16 Mercyhurst is placed in No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the West.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
1 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 16 Mercyhurst
8 Minnesota vs. 9 Merrimack

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Ohio State vs. 15 Cornell
7 Northern Michigan vs.10 Michigan

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Notre Dame vs. 14 Miami
6 UMass-Lowell vs. 11 Colorado College

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
4 Boston College vs. 13 Western Michigan
5 Boston University vs. 12 Ferris State

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. With so many CCHA programs in the field of 16, this is hard to avoid. This week, we have two such matchups -- No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 14 Miami and No. 7 Northern Michigan vs. No. 10 Michigan.

The NCAA's first priority is probably to avoid a first round matchup between conference opponents for the 1 seeds, so Miami might get shuffled around. The problem is that two of the four 1 seeds -- Ohio State and Notre Dame -- are CCHA clubs, and so are two of the four 4 seeds -- Western Michigan and Miami.

You can't swap Miami with Western Michigan, since the Broncos also hail from the CCHA. So the only spot you could swap out Miami for is the 16 seed Mercyhurst. Not sure if the committee would replace Mercyhurst with a much better CCHA team as a reward to the No. 1 overall seed. The Notre Dame-Miami first round matchup might just be unavoidable as a result.

Removing the Northern Michigan-Michigan conflict is much easier, as there is only 1 CCHA club on the 2-seed and 3-seed lines. You could swap out No. 10 Michigan for either No. 9 Merrimack (vs. No. 8 Minnesota) or No. 11 Colorado College (vs. No. 6 UMass-Lowell). For sake of argument, let's swap out Michigan for Colorado College, sending the Wolverines east and Colorado College to Green Bay.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
1 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 16 Mercyhurst
8 Minnesota vs. 9 Merrimack

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Ohio State vs. 15 Cornell
7 Northern Michigan vs.10 Colorado College

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Notre Dame vs. 14 Miami
6 UMass-Lowell vs. 11 Michigan

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
4 Boston College vs. 13 Western Michigan
5 Boston University vs. 12 Ferris State

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. Though doesn't look like the committee has any work to do.

You've got Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota playing in ... St. Paul.
You've got both Ohio State and Northern Michigan playing in the closest regional to campus in Green Bay.
You've got HEA-in-waiting Notre Dame and UMass-Lowell in the East.
Finally, you've got BC and BU in a possible Northeast Regional final matchup in Worcester.

This bracket is much more palatable for the Eagles than it was a month ago. The Eagles now avoid having to face Notre Dame before the Frozen Four, and would draw Boston U. in another BC-BU rivalry game in the Regional final (should chalk hold).

We are still a good two months away from Selection Sunday, and this bracket will most certainly be turned upside down in that time. But you have to like the fact that BC was sub .500 over the last 12 games and is still holding onto one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

With a much more manageable schedule down the stretch, hopefully the Eagles start rattling off a bunch of wins and further solidify their position at the top of the NCAA Tournament selection order.

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