ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs huddle before the start of the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four against of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
College hockey's Selection Sunday came and went without much controversy to speak of. The only real controversy in making the brackets came in that 8th seeded Minnesota was paired with the lowest ranked number 1 seed since the Gophers are hosting the West Regional at the X. Minnesota would have likely drawn the top-seeded Eagles -- opposite no. 9 Boston University -- in the Northeast Regional in a true bracket, but regional hosting rules required the Gophers play in the West.
From there, it simply became a matter of which number one seed got rewarded with a possible Regional Final matchup against a lower seed basically playing on home ice. North Dakota was the lowest ranked no. 1 seed, and the Sioux travel well, so NoDak fell to the West and the rest of the bracket fell into place.
The top seed were paired with the 7-10 winner, second ranked Michigan with the 6-11 winner and Union the 5-12. A chalk bracket would then be:
1 vs. 7, 2 vs. 6, 3 vs. 5, 4 vs. 8
BC has a difficult draw, but not an unmanageable one. Should the Eagles advance to the Regional Final, they'll either face the defending national champs or a Maine team that they dispatched on Saturday night, but one that could include the nation's leading scorer in Spencer Abbott.
While it caused a much smaller headache this year than it did last year -- with a no. 4 seed in New Hampshire hosting a regional and shipping BC to St. Louis -- this bracket tweak could have been avoided if the NCAA made a small modification to the regional hosting rules.
Instead of allowing teams to host Regionals, why not just ask the conferences to host? Why should a New Hampshire, one of the last teams into the Tournament in 2011 or Minnesota, the lowest ranked two seed, get to enjoy near home ice simply for signing up to host a regional?
If the NCAA set it up so that the West was the designated WCHA Regional, the Midwest the CCHA's, the East the ECAC and the Northeast Hockey East's, you could continue to seed the bracket with attendance in mind without giving an unnecessary advantage to the Regional host?
If this revised rule was put in place this year, North Dakota would have been the designated WCHA host in St. Paul, Michigan the CCHA host in Green Bay, Union the ECAC rep in the East and BC the HEA rep in the Northeast. This would have allowed the Committee to reward the top seed (BC) with the weakest two seed (Minnesota), the best three seed (BU) and the last team into the Tournament (Air Force), preserving bracket integrity and allowing BU to stay East.
The rest of the bracket would have looked like this:
Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
1 Boston College (29-10-1) vs. 16 Air Force (21-10-7)
8 Minnesota (26-13-1) vs. 9 Boston University (23-14-1)
Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
2 Michigan (24-12-4) vs. 13 Cornell (18-8-7)
7 Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6) vs. 10 Maine (23-13-3)
East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Union (24-7-7) vs. 15 Michigan State (19-15-4)
6 Ferris State (23-11-5) vs. 11 Denver (25-13-4)
West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
4 North Dakota (25-12-3) vs. 14 Western Michigan (21-13-6)
5 Miami (24-14-2) vs. 12 UMass-Lowell (23-12-1)
Attendance would have been slightly better in the Northeast (with the possibility of a BC-BU Regional Final) and better in the Midwest with Michigan and UMD. It would have also probably been worse in the West without Minnesota, and abysmal in the East with only Union there.
Then again, in the new college hockey world, you have to wonder whether the ECAC would continue to host a Regional, or if the hosting duties would shift to the new NCHC, WCHA, Big Ten Hockey Conference and Hockey East.
With a slightly revised hosting rule, BC also wouldn't have been sent to St. Louis last year to face the Colorado College buzzsaw in front of a handful of fans.