In just a few hours, the NCAA men's hockey selection show gets underway, starting at noon on ESPNU. BC will find out where they're going and who they're playing, as the Eagles look to recover from a stinging loss in the Hockey East semifinals and make a run at the Frozen Four.
Here's our best guess as to how the bracket will shake out, along with a primer on how the process works if you're new to it and following along. After I post my projected bracket, I'll also link to CHN's and USCHO's. We'll see if we all end up with the same result.
Setting the field
Unlike basketball, there's no drama over who's in and who's out. We know exactly who's in. The six conference champions, plus the next ten highest ranked teams in the Pairwise Rankings. Two teams qualified via autobids despite not being in the top 16 in PWR - WCHA champ Ferris State, and AHC champ RIT.
The teams are given seeds 1, 2, 3 or 4 - teams ranked #1 to #4 are 1 seeds, #5 to #8 are 2 seeds, etc. etc.
These 16 teams will make up the field:
1. Quinnipiac (ECAC Champion)
2. St. Cloud State (NCHC Champion)
3. North Dakota
4. Providence College
5. Boston College
7. Michigan (Big Ten champion)
8. UMass Lowell
9. Boston University
12. Notre Dame
13. Northeastern (Hockey East champion)
14. Minnesota Duluth
15. Ferris State (WCHA Champion)
16. RIT (Atlantic Hockey Champion)
The first step in setting the field is placing the four #1 seeds in to regions based on geography, with the #1 seed going closest to home. That gives us:
#1 Quinnipiac assigned to the Worcester regional
#2 St. Cloud State assigned to the St. Paul regional
#3 North Dakota assigned to the Cincinnati regional
#4 Providence assigned to the Albany regional
Then we set the sixteen team bracket based on straight bracket integrity (1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15 etc) to use as a starting point before we begin making adjustments. Here's what a that bracket would look like:
2 UMass Lowell
3 Notre Dame
1 St. Cloud State
4 Ferris State
1 North Dakota
4 Minnesota Duluth
There are a few things the committee has to do from here. First, they need to break up in conference matchups in the first round if at all possible. Then, they are empowered to tweak the bracket in order to improve attendance at regionals and reduce teams' travel by swapping teams within seeding bands (i.e., you can swap the 8th ranked team and the 7th ranked team because they are both two seeds. You can't swap the #13 team and the #12 team, because one is a 4 seed and one is a 3 seed.)
The massive number of HEA teams gives us a lot of knots to untangle.
Unless it's not possible, the highest two seeds should be protected by getting to face the two low autobids, so the only option for swapping Northeastern out of PC's bracket is to send them to Cincinnati and bring Minnesota Duluth east.
UML/BU and BC/NDame are the other two in conference matchups that need to be fixed. Because there are two Hockey East teams as 3 seeds, the only teams UML and BC can play are either Harvard or Yale. As the higher ranked team, BC will probably get lower-ranked Harvard. So Harvard goes in to BC's regional, Yale goes to Lowell's, while BU and Notre Dame go out west.
That leaves us with:
1 Quinnipiac / 4 RIT
2 Lowell / 3 Yale
1 Providence / 4 Minnesota Duluth
2 BC / 3 Harvard
1 St. Cloud State / 4 Ferris State
2 Michigan / 3 BU
1 North Dakota / 4 Northeastern
2 Denver / 3 Notre Dame
There are no in conference matchups here, so we could call it a day. But, the committee is empowered to make attendance-based tweaks.
I think the committee will swap Michigan and Denver - who actually ended up tied in the PWR anyway, with Michigan holding a tiebreaker - to set up a Michigan vs. Notre Dame game in Cincinnati, which should be a good draw, along with the presence of NoDak.
St. Paul attendance is pretty much unfixable unless the committee screws over SCSU by moving Minnesota Duluth in to their regional to make an in state matchup, but as the #2 seed they should be entitled to get a crack at autobid Ferris State. So they'll be relying on SCSU only to draw there.
And then we get to Providence and Worcester. On paper, these are both strong attendance regionals and they both have teams that will draw well. The question is, will the committee go against the guidebook and have Quinnipiac's group play in Albany instead of Worcester, to take advantage of having BC, PC and Harvard all in Worcester?
They might just. The travel difference between Albany and Worcester from Quinnipiac is a mere 40 miles, and their fans are likely to turn up in similar numbers to either location. On the other hand, the difference for BC, PC and Harvard is pretty stark. They'd fill Worcester, but Albany would be more questionable.
Another factor is that RIT, an upstate NY team with a huge fan base, will be facing QU. Rochester is about a 3 hour drive from Albany, so you know they'd send a good contingent.
Thus, I think the committee pulls the trigger and puts PC (and thus, the Eagles as well) in the Worcester regional. That leaves us with these final brackets:
1 Quinnipiac vs. 4 RIT
2. UMass Lowell vs. 3 Yale
1. Providence vs. 4 Minnesota Duluth
2. BC vs. 3 Harvard
1. St. Cloud State vs. 4 Ferris State
2. Denver vs. 3. BU
1. North Dakota vs. 4. Northeastern
2. Michigan vs. 3. Notre Dame
I am pretty confident these projections will turn out to be correct, aside from not being 100% sure they will flip the Worcester and Albany regionals.
Checking my work against other sites that are making projections, I see that USCHO's Jayson Moy , who has a pretty high success rate in picking the field, predicts the same bracket. CHN agrees as well.
So to wrap things up, from a BC perspective:
1. The only two teams BC can play are either Harvard or Yale.
2. Barring something truly bizarre, the #1 seed in BC's bracket will be Providence.
3. BC will probably be playing Harvard, the only question is whether it will be in Albany or Worcester.
We'll see you at noon when the bracket comes out to discuss.