2013 Frozen Four: NCAA College Hockey Bracketology: March 5, 2013

Justin K. Aller

To the bracket!

Less than three weeks until Selection Sunday.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Quinnipiac -- ECAC champ
2. Minnesota -- WCHA champ
3. Miami -- CCHA champ
4t. UMass-Lowell -- Hockey East champ
4t. New Hampshire
4t. Boston College
7. North Dakota
8t. Minnesota State
8t. Denver
10t. St. Cloud State
10t. Western Michigan
12. Yale
13. Niagara -- AHA champ
14t. Notre Dame
14t. Rensselaer
16. Alaska

Bubble teams (in order): Union, Boston University, Dartmouth, Wisconsin, Robert Morris

By conference: WCHA 5, CCHA 4, Hockey East 3, ECAC 2, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

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

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

Number 3 seeds:

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

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Niagara is placed in No. 4 UMass-Lowell's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 14 Notre Dame is placed in No. 3 Miami's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Rensselaer is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 16 Alaska 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 Alaska
8 Denver vs. 9 Minnesota State

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 UMass-Lowell vs. 13 Niagara
5 New Hampshire vs. 12 Yale

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
2 Minnesota vs. 15 Rensselaer
7 North Dakota vs. 10 St. Cloud State

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Miami vs. 14 Notre Dame
6 Boston College vs. 11 Western Michigan

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. Here we need to shift around the 3-14, 7-10 and 8-9 matchups. If you swap 13 Niagara with 14 Notre Dame, you avoid the all-CCHA matchup out in Toledo. For the 7-10 and 8-9 conflicts, you need to move around all the teams on the 3 line to avoid an all-WCHA first round matchup. Send St. Cloud State to Ohio against BC, Minnesota State to the Northeast Regional vs. UNH, Yale to the East and Western to the West.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Quinnipiac vs. 16 Alaska
8 Denver vs. 12 Yale

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 UMass-Lowell vs. 14 Notre Dame
5 New Hampshire vs. 9 Minnesota State

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
2 Minnesota vs. 15 Rensselaer
7 North Dakota vs. 11 Western Michigan

Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Miami vs. 13 Niagara
6 Boston College vs. 10 St. Cloud State

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. This is where it gets interesting. The committee hasn't protected 2 seeds in recent years but the regional that stands out that could use a boost to attendance is the East Regional in Providence. Two ECAC clubs Quinnipiac and Yale are in, but so is Denver and Alaska-Fairbanks. The committee could decide to move the Denver-Yale matchup to Toledo and put BC-St. Cloud State in Providence. That would seem to boost the attendance in Providence while not sending Denver clear across the country to play their regional. I'll leave this bracket as-is but I can see the committee tweaking this to boost the East Regional attendance.

The other regionals look OK. The Northeast is set with Lowell and host New Hampshire. So is the West (Minnesota, North Dakota and Western Michigan) and the Midwest (Miami and Denver).

Some thoughts on this bracket.

-- It's crazy how the race for the Hockey East regular season title has mirrored the chaos in the PairWise that is Lowell, New Hampshire and Boston College in a three-way tie for fourth. Since RPI is the tiebreaker, Lowell would earn the final 1 seed and get sent to Manchester. UNH would be there too as the Northeast's 2 seed, locking BC out of playing in Manchester. Should the Eagles manage to hold onto a 2 seed for the National Tournament, they'll either be forced out west or squeak into the East Regional as the last 2.

-- Niagara has dropped a few spots in the most recent PairWise but is still on the right side of the tournament bubble at this point. All eyes will be on the Atlantic Hockey tournament. The teams on the bubble will get a bit of heartburn if someone other than the Purple Eagles ends up winning the AHA tournament and receiving the conference's auto-bid to the National Tournament.

-- Just three in from Hockey East with the Terriers on the wrong side of the bubble. Plus Notre Dame. Hate to see two current and one soon-to-be Hockey East programs in the same Regional, but that's the way the current tournament shapes up (and the regional hosting rules don't help).

-- Projected Frozen Four this week: Denver, UMass-Lowell, Minnesota, Miami (replace the RedHawks with a healthy, close to full strength BC team if you'd like)

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