NCAA Hockey Bracketology: March 11, 2014

Al Bello

Updates on the road to South Broad Street.

Less than two weeks left before Selection Sunday like, whoa. Let's take a look at where Boston College 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.

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. Union - ECAC champ
4. Wisconsin
5. St. Cloud State - NCHC champ
6. Ferris State - WCHA champ
7. Quinnipiac
8. Massachusetts-Lowell
9. Notre Dame
10. North Dakota
11. Providence
12. Vermont
13. Cornell
14. Michigan
15. Northeastern
16. Mercyhurst - AHA champ

Bubble teams (in order): Colgate, Minnesota State, Yale, Minnesota-Duluth, New Hampshire

By conference: Hockey East 6, ECAC 3, Big Ten 3, NCHC 2, Atlantic Hockey 1, WCHA 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, Wisconsin
No. 2 seeds: St. Cloud State, Ferris State, Quinnipiac, Massachusetts-Lowell
No. 3 seeds: Notre Dame, North Dakota, Providence, Vermont
No. 4 seeds: Cornell, Michigan, Northeastern, Mercyhurst

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). Only Minnesota is currently in the tournament field at this point. Minnesota is slotted into the West Regional.

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 Saint Paul.
No. 2 Boston College is placed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester.
No. 3 Union is placed in the East Regional in Bridgeport.
No. 4 Wisconsin is placed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

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

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Notre Dame is placed in No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell's Regional, the West.
No. 10 North Dakota is placed in No. 7 Quinnipiac's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 11 Providence is placed in No. 6 Ferris State's Regional, the East.
No. 12 Vermont is placed in No. 5 St. Cloud State's Regional, the Midwest.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Cornell is placed in No. 4 Wisconsin's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 14 Michigan is placed in No. 3 Union's Regional, the East.
No. 15 Northeastern is placed in No. 2 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 16 Mercyhurst 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 Mercyhurst
8 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 9 Notre Dame

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)
4 Wisconsin vs. 13 Cornell
5 St. Cloud State vs. 12 Vermont

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Union vs. 14 Michigan
6 Ferris State vs. 11 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 15 Northeastern
7 Quinnipiac vs. 10 North Dakota

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. The above bracket has two of those; both in Hockey East -- BC-Northeastern and Lowell-Notre Dame. Let's take the conflict on the 4 line first.

The committee will protect the 1 vs. 16 matchup, so we can't move Mercyhurst out of the West Regional. Also can't move Michigan from the East to the Midwest as this creates an all-Big Ten first round matchup between 4 Wisconsin and 14 Michigan. The only move we can make is to swap Northeastern with Cornell, sending the Huskies to the Midwest Regional and bringing Cornell back east to Worcester.

For the 3 line conflict, the Irish can't be swapped out for either Vermont or Providence as it creates another all-Hockey East matchup, but can be swapped out with North Dakota. This sends the Sioux out west and Notre Dame to the Northeast Regional. Minnesota conspiracy theories will abound.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

West Regional (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
1 Minnesota vs. 16 Mercyhurst
8 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. 10 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)
4 Wisconsin vs. 15 Northeastern
5 St. Cloud State vs. 12 Vermont

East Regional (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
3 Union vs. 14 Michigan
6 Ferris State vs. 11 Providence

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Massachusetts)
2 Boston College vs. 13 Cornell
7 Quinnipiac vs. 9 Notre Dame

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking programs within each band. Here, the West gets Minnesota and North Dakota. The Midwest Wisconsin and St. Cloud State. The East gets Union and PC while the Northeast gets two Hockey East and two ECAC clubs. Pretty solid.

For the Eagles, a manageable first round matchup with Cornell, though the prospects of facing Notre Dame for a fifth or sixth time is worrisome. Quinnipiac is no slouch either despite graduating like 56 players from last year's title game team.

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