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NCAA Hockey Bracketology: March 16

Part I of two takes on bracketology this week

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

On Sunday, the NCAA tournament field will be set when the selection show airs at noon. With just one weekend of games left, we know a lot about who's going to make it and approximately where they will finish, but a lot can still change.

We're going to have two bracketology posts this week - this one, which projects the bracket if the season ended today, as we've been doing all year; then another one, where we take our best guess as to who is going to win this weekend's conference tournament games, then project out a bracket based on what we think might happen.

First, let's look at who would be in the field if the season ended today...we assume the highest ranked remaining team in each conference will win the conference title.

1 North Dakota, NCHC Champ
2 Quinnipiac, ECAC Champ
3 St. Cloud State
4 Providence, HEA Champ

5 Boston College
6 Denver
7 Michigan, B1G Champ
8 UMass Lowell

9 BU
10 Yale
11 Harvard
12 Notre Dame

13 Minnesota Duluth - 50% probability of making the tournament per CHN
14 Northeastern - 54% 
15 Michigan Tech, WCHA Champ - 54%
16 Robert Morris, AHC Champ - 45%

First teams out, and their chances of making it...

Cornell 12%
Minnesota 30%
Nebraska Omaha 0%
St. Lawrence 11%
Dartmouth 7%
Penn State  12%

Other teams who ain't dead yet thanks to the conference tournaments, but must win their conference title

Minnesota State
Bowling Green
Air Force
Ohio State
Ferris State
RIT 
Wisconsin
Army
Michigan State

Now that we have our 16, we start to place teams in to regionals.

No host teams are going to make the tournament unless Minnesota wins the Big Ten title, so odds are we won't have to worry about the rule where teams that host regionals are required to be slotted in to that regional.

Assigning 1 seeds based on geography...L

#1 North Dakota goes to St. Paul
#2 Quinnipiac goes to Worcester
#3 St. Cloud State goes to Cincinnati
#4 Providence goes to Albany

Setting the bracket based on raw bracket integrity alone without regard to attendance or in conference matchups...

ST PAUL
#1 North Dakota / #16 Robert Morris
#8 Lowell / #9 BU

ALBANY
#4 Providence / #13 Duluth
#5 BC / #12 Notre Dame

WORCESTER
#2 Quinnipiac / #15 Michigan Tech
#7 Michigan / #10 Yale

CINCINNATI
#3 St. Cloud State / #14 Northeastern
#6 Denver / #11 Harvard

If possible, we want to avoid in conference matchups. This bracket gives us two in Lowell vs. BU and BC vs. Notre Dame.

As a reminder, the committee is empowered to move teams within seeding bands (swapping #12 for #11, because they are both 3 seeds, for instance) but can not swap teams in to different bands (i.e., moving #9 to #8, as that's going from a 3 to a 2). Let's make some changes.

I actually think the committee makes a few simple moves this week.

Swap BC to Worcester, where they've been a guaranteed draw for over a decade now, moving Michigan temporarily to Albany. Take the entire Michigan/Notre Dame matchup and swap  it out to Cincinnati, where those two teams would be the ideal for attendance. That brings DU/Harvard back to Albany.

Swap BU and Harvard to bring BU east; they're higher ranked than Harvard for now, and are a better draw. This also breaks up the Lowell/BU in conference game.

One last attendance based change... because Michigan Tech is #15 in the PWR and not just in as a conference champ in this scenario, the committee would be more likely to consider separating them from the #2 seed. So I make one more swap, sending Northeastern to Worcester and Michigan Tech to Cincinnati, a better spot for their fans.

ST PAUL

#1 North Dakota / #16 Robert Morris
#8 Lowell / #11 Harvard

ALBANY
#4 Providence / #13 Duluth
#6 Denver / #9 BU

WORCESTER
#2 Quinnipiac / #14 Northeastern
#5 BC / #10 Yale

CINCINNATI
#3 St. Cloud State / #15 Michigan Tech
#7 Michigan / #12 Notre Dame

That's about as good a bracket as you're going to get for attendance purposes although there's a bit more fudging with bracket integrity than I'm usually comfortable with. The big red flag here is that there's an East vs. East matchup out west in Lowell vs. Harvard, but that's close to unavoidable with how many Eastern teams are in the field.

For purposes of bracket integrity, I could see the committee putting BC vs. Yale in Albany and Denver vs. BU in Worcester, but I ultimately think they would make this swap.

Of course, the picture will change a lot this weekend, though the likelihood is there that PC and BC are going to be #4 or #5 in some order.

My projected Frozen Four based on these brackets... Lowell, Denver, BC, Michigan.