2013 Frozen Four: NCAA Hockey Bracketology: February 19, 2013

Justin K. Aller

To the bracket!

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Quinnipiac -- ECAC champ
2. Minnesota -- WCHA champ
3. Miami -- CCHA champ
4t. New Hampshire -- Hockey East champ*
4t. Boston College
6. North Dakota
7t. Minnesota State
7t. Western Michigan
9. St. Cloud State
10. Niagara -- AHA champ
11. Denver
12t. Yale
12t. Boston University
14t. UMass-Lowell
14t. Notre Dame
14t. Union

Bubble teams (in order): Rensselaer, Merrimack, Dartmouth, Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska

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

NOTE: Hockey East leader Merrimack is not in the PairWise Top 16. For purposes of constructing this bracket, I've never factored in conference standings, therefore it is assumed that the highest HEA team in the PairWise (New Hampshire) earns the conference's auto-bid; not Merrimack.

Step 2: Assign the seeds

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

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 UNH is in this week, so the no. 1 seeded Wildcats 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 Quinnipiac is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 2 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Grand Rapids.
No. 3 Miami is placed in the Midwest Regional in Toledo.
No. 4 New Hampshire hosts the Northeast Regional in Manchester.

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 Western Michigan is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac's Regional, the East.
No. 7 Minnesota State is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 6 North Dakota is placed in No. 3 Miami's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 5 Boston College is placed in No. 4 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 8 Western Michigan's Regional, the East.
No. 10 Niagara is placed in No. 7 Minnesota State's Regional, the West.
No. 11 Denver is placed in No. 6 North Dakota's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 12 Yale is placed in No. 5 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Boston University is placed in No. 4 New Hampshire's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 14 UMass-Lowell is placed in No. 3 Miami's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Notre Dame is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 16 Union is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac's Regional, the East.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Quinnipiac vs. 16 Union
8 Western Michigan vs. 9 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 New Hampshire vs. 13 Boston University
5 Boston College vs. 12 Yale

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
2 Minnesota vs. 15 Notre Dame
7 Minnesota State vs. 10 Niagara

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Miami vs. 14 UMass-Lowell
6 North Dakota vs. 11 Denver

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. Need to shift around 1 vs. 16, 4 vs. 13 and 6 vs. 11. In order to fix this, we need to shake up the entire 4 line as we have two HEA clubs -- BU and Lowell -- as the four seeds and we're looking to avoid the Wildcats having a first round matchup against a Hockey East club.

If the committee sends Union to Toledo, UMass-Lowell to Providence, Notre Dame to Manchester and BU to Grand Rapids, we've now fixed the four line. To avoid the 6 vs. 11 intra-conference matchup, swap Denver with Yale.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Quinnipiac vs. 14 UMass-Lowell
8 Western Michigan vs. 9 St. Cloud State

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 New Hampshire vs. 15 Notre Dame
5 Boston College vs. 11 Denver

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
2 Minnesota vs. 13 Boston University
7 Minnesota State vs. 10 Niagara

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Miami vs. 16 Union
6 North Dakota vs. 12 Yale

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. The East features Quinnipiac and Lowell. The Northeast is set with UNH and BC. The West features Minnesota and Minnesota State, while the Midwest has Miami and a North Dakota team that travels well. All set.

Some thoughts on this bracket.

-- Denver has had a really up-and-down year and I think BC could handle the Pioneers in Manchester. If chalk holds (it rarely does), it sets up an all-Hockey East regional final between the Eagles and Wildcats. When both teams are playing their best hockey, I think Boston College is the more talented team. Should have won last weekend and basically played UNH even in their only game in Manchester. The only thing that gives me pause about advancing BC out of this bracket is the fact that it's in Manchester.

-- Niagara continues to muck things up in a "how is the AHA champ not the 16 seed?" kinda way. That will prove problematic with the National Tournament's top seed, Quinnipiac, who trades a date with the AHA champ for a dangerous Hockey East program in Lowell. Unless, of course, someone other than Niagara wins the AHA Tournament title (Robert Morris?) in which case QU would draw the AHA champ. Programs on the bubble will be pulling hard for Niagara to win the league title as the Purple Eagles inch closer and closer to Tournament lock with or without the AHA's auto-bid.

-- Four from Hockey East. With the possibility of five if Merrimack plays its way into the field without receiving the conference's auto-bid. Stacked conference this year. I don't think HEA will get five and either Merrimack or Boston University -- which has been imploding of late in spectacular fashion -- will miss the cut.

-- Projected Frozen Four this week: Western Michigan, Boston College, Minnesota, Miami (yes, I still believe BC can get through to the fours).

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