NCAA Hockey Bracketology: January 7, 2013

Justin K. Aller

Updates on the road to Pittsburgh.

Johnny Hockey is back, and not a moment too soon.

The good news? Despite going 1-1-2 in their last four games, Boston College still sits atop the PWR rankings. It's been a really, really, really strange year in college hockey.

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

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

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

Bubble teams (in order): Robert Morris, Colgate, St. Cloud State, Lake Superior, Cornell

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

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Boston College, Quinnipiac, New Hampshire, Notre Dame
No. 2 seeds: Boston University, Minnesota, Miami, North Dakota
No. 3 seeds: Denver, Western Michigan, Dartmouth, Minnesota State
No. 4 seeds: Yale, Lowell, Nebraska-Omaha, Niagara

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 Quinnipiac is placed in the Midwest Regional in Toledo.
No. 3 New Hampshire is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.
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 Miami is placed in No. 2 Quinnipiac's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 6 Minnesota is placed in No. 3 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 5 Boston University is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame's Regional, the West.

Number 3 seeds:

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

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Yale is placed in No. 4 Notre Dame's Regional, the West.
No. 14 Lowell is placed in No. 3 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 15 Nebraska-Omaha is placed in No. 2 Quinnipiac's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 16 Niagara 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 Niagara
8 North Dakota vs. 9 Denver

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

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
2 Quinnipiac vs. 15 Nebraska-Omaha
7 Miami vs. 10 Western Michigan

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
3 New Hampshire vs. 14 Lowell
6 Minnesota vs. 11 Dartmouth

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. There are three intra-conference matchups -- the 3 vs. 14 in Manchester between New Hampshire and Lowell, and the 7 vs. 10 in Toledo between Miami and Western Michigan and the 8 vs. 9 in the East between North Dakota and Denver. Swapping Western for Denver solves the latter two. For the first, if you swap Northeast team for Northeast -- #14 Lowell for #13 Yale -- that solves the other conflict.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Boston College vs. 16 Niagara
8 North Dakota vs. 10 Western Michigan

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
4 Notre Dame vs. 14 Lowell
5 Boston University vs. 12 Minnesota State

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
2 Quinnipiac vs. 15 Nebraska-Omaha
7 Miami vs. 9 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
3 New Hampshire vs. 13 Yale
6 Minnesota vs. 11 Dartmouth

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. Not a lot you can do with four "Eastern" teams as the top 4 (really top 5) seeds. Quinnipiac gets screwed by having to go West, but there's not a whole lot you can do with all of the Eastern teams atop the PairWise. While these things are fluid, this is still something to keep an eye on for Eagles fans. With UNH locked into the Northeast, if BC falls behind Quinnipiac, they could end up getting shipped West a la 2011. And unlike past years, which at least had at least one appealing destination out West, the other two regionals are Toledo and Grand Rapids. Yikes.

For BC, a much more manageable regional draw than when we last visited this. The top seed now gets the AHA champ and all is right with the world. There seems to be much more balance with this bracket with two heavyweights in each -- Boston College / North Dakota, Notre Dame / Boston University, Quinnipiac / Miami and UNH / Minnesota. The Midwest draw seems to be the weakest of the bunch, but QU seems legit this season as far as ECAC clubs go.

Projected Frozen Four this week: Boston College, Boston University, Denver, Minnesota

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