NCAA Hockey Bracketology: February 22, 2012

Photo credit: Graham Beck, Assistant Photo Editor - Heights Sports

Every Wednesday between now and Selection Sunday, we'll update the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey Tournament bracketology. Hat tip to Eagle09 who did most of this week's legwork.

Previous brackets ... January 13 ... December 12 ... February 8 ... February 15.

Onward.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Boston College
2t. Michigan
2t. Massachusetts-Lowell
4. Ferris State
5. Minnesota-Duluth
6. Boston University
7. Union
8t. Minnesota
8t. Maine
10. Michigan State
11t. Miami
11t. Denver
13. Ohio State
14. North Dakota
15. Cornell
16. Air Force -- AHA Champ

Bubble teams (in order): Merrimack, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior, Colorado College, Western Michigan

By conference: 5 CCHA, 4 Hockey East, 4 WCHA, 2 ECAC, 1 Atlantic Hockey

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Boston College, Michigan, Massachusetts-Lowell, Ferris State
No. 2 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Boston University, Union, Minnesota
No. 3 seeds: Maine, Michigan State, Miami, Denver
No. 4 seeds: Ohio State, North Dakota, 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). The Gophers are the only hosts safely in the field of 16, 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 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 2 Michigan is placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
No. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 4 Ferris State 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 (moved around to accommodate regional host Minnesota):

No. 8 Minnesota is placed in No. 4 Ferris State's Regional, the West.
No. 7 Union is placed in No. 1 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 6 Boston University is placed in No. 2 Michigan's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in No. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell's Regional, the East.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Maine is placed in No. 8 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 10 Michigan State is placed in No. 7 Union's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Miami is placed in No. 6 Boston University's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 12 Denver is placed in No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the East.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Ohio State is placed in No. 4 Ferris State's Regional, the West.
No. 14 North Dakota is placed in No. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell's Regional, the East.
No. 15 Cornell is placed in No. 2 Michigan's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 16 Air Force is placed in No. 1 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Air Force
7 Union vs. 10 Michigan State

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Michigan vs. 15 Cornell
6 Boston University vs. 11 Miami

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 14 North Dakota
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12 Denver

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 Ferris State vs. 13 Ohio State
8 Minnesota vs. 9 Maine

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. You've got two intra-conference matchups in the first round -- No. 4 Ferris State vs. No. 13 Ohio State in the West Regional, and No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12 Denver in the East Regional.

Swapping Miami and Denver at 11-12 and North Dakota and Ohio State at 13-14 solves both these conflicts.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Air Force
7 Union vs. 10 Michigan State

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Michigan vs. 15 Cornell
6 Boston University vs. 12 Denver

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 13 Ohio State
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 11 Miami

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 Ferris State vs. 14 North Dakota
8 Minnesota vs. 9 Maine

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. Swapping out the 5-11 matchup between Minnesota-Duluth and Miami with the 6-12 matchup in BU and Denver seems to help both the Midwest and East Regional attendance.

The bracket then looks like this:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Air Force
7 Union vs. 10 Michigan State

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Michigan vs. 15 Cornell
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 11 Miami

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 13 Ohio State
6 Boston University vs. 12 Denver

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 Ferris State vs. 14 North Dakota
8 Minnesota vs. 9 Maine

Each regional looks pretty good when it comes to attendance. The Northeast has BC, Union and Air Force, who plays back east nearly every weekend anyway in Atlantic Hockey. The Midwest is strengthened by Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth, the East by UMass-Lowell and BU and the West by North Dakota and host Minnesota.

If this bracket holds, the Northeast Regional would look very similar to BC's season opening slate of games in the Ice Breaker as both Air Force and Michigan State participated in the season-opening tournament (along with North Dakota). By virtue of having the number 1 overall seed, the Northeast is also the easiest road to the Frozen Four.

Go Eagles!

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