NCAA Hockey Bracketology: January 15, 2014

Jim McIsaac

Updates on the road to South Broad Street.

Hard to believe but Boston College is already halfway through the regular season Hockey East schedule. Such is life with a 20-game conference schedule. The Eagles are sitting pretty at 8-1-1 in conference play, four points clear of Northeastern (!) and Providence with a game in hand.

Let's take a look at where BC would end up in the National Tournament if the season ended today.

First, the ground rules.

Sixteen teams make the tournament. Each conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid. Interestingly, there's one more of those this year with the creation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and resulting CCHA/WCHA reshuffle. The remaining 10 programs receive at-large berths. Those 10 bids go to the top 10 teams in the PWR.

There are other modifications to this year's PairWise ranking system that don't necessarily need to be noted here. If you want to read up on the PWR changes for this season, USCHO breaks it down here.

For the purposes of this bracket, we'll assume the team with the top PWR rating earns the conference's auto-bid.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Minnesota - Big Ten champ
2. Boston College - Hockey East champ
3. Ferris State - WCHA champ
4. Quinnipiac - ECAC champ
5. St. Cloud State - NCHC champ
6. Union
7. Northeastern
8. Providence
9. UMass-Lowell
10. Wisconsin
11. Cornell
12. Yale
13. New Hampshire
14. Clarkson
15. Michigan
16. Air Force - AHA champ
----------
45. Boston University

Bubble teams (in order): Notre Dame, Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Colgate

By conference: Hockey East 5, ECAC 5, Big Ten 3, WCHA 1, NCHC 1, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota, Boston College, Ferris State, Quinnipiac
No. 2 seeds: St. Cloud State, Union, Northeastern, Providence
No. 3 seeds: UMass-Lowell, Wisconsin, Cornell, Yale
No. 4 seeds: New Hampshire, Clarkson, Michigan, Air Force

Step 3: Place host teams in regionals

This year's four regional hosts are Yale / Fairfield (East in Bridgeport), Holy Cross (Northeast in Worcester), Miami (Ohio) (Midwest in Cincinnati) and Minnesota (West in Saint Paul). Minnesota and Yale are safely in the tournament field at this point. Miami and Holy Cross are not (thanks, Crusaders!). Minnesota is slotted into the West Regional and Yale the East.

Step 4: Place number 1 seeds in Regionals

Number 1 seeds are placed based on proximity to regional site.

No. 1 Minnesota is placed in the West Regional in Minneapolis.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 3 Ferris State is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.
No. 4 Quinnipiac is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.

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 Providence is placed in No. 1 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 7 Northeastern is placed in No. 2 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 6 Union is placed in No. 3 Ferris State's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 5 St. Cloud State is placed in No. 4 Quinnipiac's Regional, the East.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 UMass-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Providence's Regional, the West.
No. 10 Wisconsin is placed in No. 7 Northeastern's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Cornell is placed in No. 6 Union's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 12 Yale is placed in No. 5 St. Cloud State's Regional, the East.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 New Hampshire is placed in No. 4 Quinnipiac's Regional, the East.
No. 14 Clarkson is placed in No. 3 Ferris State's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 15 Michigan is placed in No. 2 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 16 Air Force is placed in No. 1 Minnesota's Regional, the West.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

West Regional (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
1 Minnesota vs. 16 Air Force
8 Providence vs. 9 UMass-Lowell

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
4 Quinnipiac vs. 13 New Hampshire
5 St. Cloud State vs. 12 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)
3 Ferris State vs. 14 Clarkson
6 Union vs. 11 Cornell

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 15 Michigan
7 Northeastern vs. 10 Wisconsin

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. The above bracket has two such intra-conference conflicts -- 8 Providence vs. 9 UMass-Lowell out West and 6 Union vs. 11 Cornell in the Midwest. Lowell can't be swapped out for the 10 seed as this would create another first round, intra-conference matchup with Northeastern. #HockeyEastProbs But the River Hawks could be swapped out for 11-seeded Cornell. UMass-Lowell heads to the Midwest to take on Union, while Cornell is shipped out west to face Providence.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

West Regional (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
1 Minnesota vs. 16 Air Force
8 Providence vs. 11 Cornell

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
4 Quinnipiac vs. 13 New Hampshire
5 St. Cloud State vs. 12 Yale

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)
3 Ferris State vs. 14 Clarkson
6 Union vs. 9 UMass-Lowell

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 15 Michigan
7 Northeastern vs. 10 Wisconsin

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking programs within each band. Not sure you can do a whole lot more with this bracket. With Minnesota and Air Force out west, Quinnipiac, UNH and Yale east, Ferris State and ... just Ferris State in the Midwest and BC and Northeastern in the Northeast, this bracket shapes up pretty well. The committee might toy with the idea of swapping 10 Wisconsin with 11 Cornell, sending the Badgers out west and bringing Cornell back to the Northeast. But let's hold off on that for now.

For BC, a less-than-favorable draw with two of the three Big Ten clubs with a pulse -- including a team that earned a 3-1 victory over the Eagles in the season opener -- and a surging Northeastern squad that has won three straight Hockey East contests to draw even with Providence in second place. Still, it's Worcester; a venue that has been very kind to the Eagles' NCAA Tournament runs over the past decade.

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