NCAA Hockey Bracketology: February 15, 2012

The defending National Champion Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are holding onto the 2012 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament's fourth No. 1 seed, but placing them in a regional is proving difficult. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BC is back on the top line of the latest NCAA Tournament projections / PairWise rankings. All is right with the world.

Previous brackets ... January 13 ... December 12 ... February 8.

Onward.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Ferris State
2. Boston College
3t. Boston University
3t. Minnesota-Duluth
5t. Michigan
5t. Massachusetts-Lowell
7. Denver
8. Maine
9t. Northern Michigan
9t. Union
11. Merrimack
12. Michigan State
13. Miami
14. Minnesota
15t. Ohio State* -- currently in a three-way tie for 15th with North Dakota and Cornell
16. Air Force -- AHA Champ

Bubble teams (in order): North Dakota, Cornell, Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Lake Superior

By conference: 6 CCHA, 5 Hockey East, 3 WCHA, 1 ECAC, 1 Atlantic Hockey

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Ferris State, Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth
No. 2 seeds: Michigan, Massachusetts-Lowell, Denver, Maine
No. 3 seeds: Northern Michigan, Union, Merrimack, Michigan State
No. 4 seeds: Miami, Minnesota, Ohio State, 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). The Gophers are the only hosts safely in the field of 16, so Minnesota will be slotted into the West Regional. Only thing is ... Minnesota has plummeted from the No. 2 line to the No. 4 line. Awarding a no. 4 seed with "home ice?" Grumbles stupid NCAA regional hosting rules grumbles.

Step 4: Place number 1 seeds in Regionals

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

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

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 Maine is placed in No. 1 Ferris State's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 7 Denver is placed in No. 2 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 3 Boston University's Regional, the East.
No. 5 Michigan is placed in No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the West.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Northern Michigan is placed in No. 8 Maine's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 10 Union is placed in No. 7 Denver's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Merrimack is placed in No. 6 Massachusetts-Lowell's Regional, the East.
No. 12 Michigan State is placed in No. 5 Michigan's Regional, the West.

Number 4 seeds (moved around to accommodate regional host Minnesota):

No. 14 Minnesota is placed in No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the West.
No. 13 Miami is placed in No. 3 Boston University's Regional, the East.
No. 15 Ohio State is placed in No. 2 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 16 Air Force is placed in No. 1 Ferris State's Regional, the Midwest.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
1 Ferris State vs. 16 Air Force
8 Maine vs. 9 Northern Michigan

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 15 Ohio State
7 Denver vs. 10 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Boston University vs. 13 Miami
6 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 11 Merrimack

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 14 Minnesota
5 Michigan vs. 12 Michigan State

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. Plenty wrong with this bracket, including three intra-conference matchups in no. 6 UMass-Lowell vs. no. 11 Merrimack in the East, no. 4 Minnesota-Duluth vs. no. 14 Michigan and no. 5 vs. no. 12 Michigan State, both in the West.

However, if the Committee goes ahead and swaps #11 Merrimack and #12 Michigan State, that would avoid two intra-conference matchups. Easy enough.

Next, you have to get Minnesota-Duluth out of the West Regional, since they are up against fellow WCHA members the Golden Gophers in the first round. This will prove complicated, as you still want to reward the tournament's top seed (Ferris State) with the lowest ranked tournament team (Air Force), and Minnesota is currently stuck in the West on the number 4 line.

The simplest move is to make the current Midwest Regional the East Regional, the East Regional the Midwest Regional, and swap regional 1 seeds BU and Minnesota-Duluth.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
1 Ferris State vs. 16 Air Force
8 Maine vs. 9 Northern Michigan

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 15 Ohio State
7 Denver vs. 10 Union

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
3 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 13 Miami
6 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 11 Michigan State

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
3 Boston University vs. 14 Minnesota
5 Michigan vs. 12 Merrimack

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. But honestly, it took us this long to get here I'm not sure they'd make any more moves. The Northeast is OK, anchored by BC and Union. The West is decent between host Minnesota and Michigan and the Midwest looks good with Minnesota-Duluth, Miami and Michigan State. The East is a little weak, but Black Bears fans should show up enough not to make that regional a total attendance disaster.

BU really gets screwed with the above bracket, playing in easily the toughest bracket with Minnesota and Michigan. And what's not to love about that?

Boston College doesn't have a cake draw, but it's manageable and the Eagles would have to go through the Pioneers, a team that knocked them off earlier in the year. The tournament's top seed gets -- by far -- the easiest regional draw, which is why every game from here on out will be very important for the Eagles. Should BC be able to wrangle the top spot away from Ferris State down the stretch, the Eagles will likely be awarded with "home ice" in Worcester and the AHA champ in the first round.

Also, what I like about this bracket is it opens up the possibility of an All-Hockey East Frozen Four, with only BU and MC doubling down out West.

One trophy down, three to go.

Go Eagles!

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