NCAA Hockey Bracketology: December 18, 2012

Justin K. Aller

It's never too early to start scenario planning the title defense.

College hockey bracketology in December? Sure, why not.

Here are the ground rules.

Sixteen teams make the tournament. Each conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid. The remaining 11 programs receive at-large berths. Those 11 bids go to the top 11 teams in the PWR. For the purposes of this bracket, we'll assume the team with the top PWR rating earns the conference's auto-bid.

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

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Boston College -- Hockey East champ
2. New Hampshire
3. Dartmouth -- ECAC champ
4. Notre Dame -- CCHA champ
5. Boston University
6. Quinnipiac
7. Yale
8. North Dakota -- WCHA champ
9. Miami
10. Western Michigan
11. Cornell
12. Minnesota
13. Union
14. St. Cloud State
15. Niagara -- AHA champ
16. Denver

Bubble teams (in order): Colgate, Nebraska-Omaha, Robert Morris, Ohio State, Minnesota State

By conference: ECAC 5, WCHA 4, CCHA 3, Hockey East 3, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Boston College, New Hampshire, Dartmouth, Notre Dame
No. 2 seeds: Boston University, Quinnipiac, Yale, North Dakota
No. 3 seeds: Miami, Western Michigan, Cornell, Minnesota
No. 4 seeds: Union, St. Cloud State, Niagara, Denver

Step 3: Place host teams in regionals

This year's four regional hosts are New Hampshire (Northeast in Manchester), Brown (East in Providence), Bowling Green (Midwest in Toledo) and Michigan (West in Grand Rapids).

Only one of those programs -- New Hampshire -- is safely in the tournament field at this point, so New Hampshire will be slotted into the Northeast 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 East Regional in Providence.
No. 2 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
No. 3 Dartmouth is placed in the Midwest Regional in Toledo.
No. 4 Notre Dame is placed in the West Regional in Grand Rapids.

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 North Dakota is placed in No. 1 Boston College's Regional, the East.
No. 7 Yale is placed in No. 2 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 6 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 3 Dartmouth's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 5 Boston University is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame's Regional, the West.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Miami is placed in No. 8 North Dakota's Regional, the East.
No. 10 Western Michigan is placed in No. 7 Yale's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Cornell is placed in No. 6 Quinnipiac's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 12 Minnesota is placed in No. 5 Boston University's Regional, the West.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Union is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame's Regional, the West.
No. 14 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 3 Dartmouth's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Niagara is placed in No. 2 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 16 Denver is placed in No. 1 Boston College's Regional, the East.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Denver
8 North Dakota vs. 9 Miami

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
4 Notre Dame vs. 13 Union
5 Boston University vs. 12 Minnesota

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
2 New Hampshire vs. 15 Niagara
7 Yale vs. 10 Western Michigan

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Dartmouth vs. 14 St. Cloud State
6 Quinnipiac vs. 11 Cornell

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. There's only one such matchup -- the 6 vs. 11 out in Grand Rapids between Quinnipiac and Cornell. Cornell can't be swapped with Western Michigan as that would also result in an All-ECAC first round matchup, but the Big Red can be swapped with the #11 Miami RedHawks. Sending Cornell to the East and Miami to the Midwest also helps improve travel for both programs.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Denver
8 North Dakota vs. 11 Cornell

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
4 Notre Dame vs. 13 Union
5 Boston University vs. 12 Minnesota

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
2 New Hampshire vs. 15 Niagara
7 Yale vs. 10 Western Michigan

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Dartmouth vs. 14 St. Cloud State
6 Quinnipiac vs. 9 Miami

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. It's far too early in the season to do any tinkering here.

And ... this is why a college hockey bracket in December makes little sense. Five ECAC clubs are in, the Atlantic Hockey champ isn't even the #16 and the deck is fairly stacked against BC in the East Regional with two strong WCHA programs. Though if BU once again gets shipped out west to face Minnesota, I'll be content.

Projected Frozen Four this week: Boston College, Notre Dame, New Hampshire, Miami.

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