NCAA Hockey Bracketology: February 8, 2012

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)

Fresh off a 7-1 stomping of Northeastern in the opening round of the Beanpot, the Eagles are back up to 6th in this week's PairWise Rankings. Let's take a look at this week's bracket.

Previous brackets ... January 13 ... December 12.

Onward.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. That lesser program down the Green line
2. Massachusetts-Lowell
3. Michigan
3. Ferris State
5. Minnesota-Duluth
6. Boston College
7. Minnesota
7. Merrimack
9. Maine
10. Notre Dame
10. Union
12. Ohio State
13. Michigan State
13. Northern Michigan
15. North Dakota
16. Air Force -- Atlantic Hockey Champion

Bubble teams (in order): Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Western Michigan, Lake Superior

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

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Boston University, UMass-Lowell, Michigan, Ferris State
No. 2 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Boston College, Minnesota, Merrimack
No. 3 seeds: Maine, Notre Dame, Union, Ohio State
No. 4 seeds: Michigan State, Northern Michigan, North Dakota, 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 University is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 2 UMass-Lowell is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 3 Michigan is placed in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay.
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 Minnesota staying in the West):

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

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Maine is placed in No. 8 Merrimack's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 10 Notre Dame is placed in No. 7 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 11 Union is placed in No. 6 Boston College's Regional, the East.
No. 12 Ohio State is placed in No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the Midwest.

Number 4 seeds:

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

Our bracket as we have it set up:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston University vs. 16 Air Force
8 Merrimack vs. 9 Maine

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
2 UMass-Lowell vs. 15 North Dakota
6 Boston College vs. 11 Union

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
3 Michigan vs. 14 Northern Michigan
5 Minnesota Duluth vs. 12 Ohio State

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 Ferris State vs. 13 Michigan State
7 Minnesota vs. 10 Notre Dame

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. There are three such matchups in the first round -- Ferris State-Michigan State (CCHA), Merrimack-Maine (Hockey East) and Michigan-Northern Michigan (CCHA). You can't move around the 4 line without having at least one CCHA vs. CCHA matchup, as I don't think the committee would replace top-seeded BU's opponent -- AHA champ Air Force -- with a team like North Dakota or Michigan State. So we'll swap out Northern Michigan and North Dakota, giving No. 3 Michigan a first round game against No. 15 North Dakota and No. 2 UMass-Lowell a first round game against No. 14 Northern Michigan.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston University vs. 16 Air Force
8 Merrimack vs. 10 Notre Dame

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
2 UMass-Lowell vs. 14 Northern Michigan
6 Boston College vs. 11 Union

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
3 Michigan vs. 15 North Dakota
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12 Ohio State

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

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. There doesn't appear to be any slam dunk moves here. The Northeast has BU, Merrimack, Notre Dame and Air Force, who's always back east playing in AHA. The East is anchored by BC, Lowell and Union. The Midwest gets Michigan, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth and the West gets Ferris State, Michigan State and host Minnesota.

By my count, BC has the easiest path to the Frozen Four of the four regionals, drawing the ECAC's lone rep Union and the winner of Lowell / Northern Michigan. BU? Not so much, as the Terriers would have to go through Notre Dame and Merrimack.

Trophy season is upon us. Only eight more regular season games to go for BC to make their move back up to the top line of the NCAA Tournament.

Go Eagles!

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