clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Final NCAA Hockey Bracketology: Boston College finishes as the first team out

New, 7 comments

A near-miss for the Eagles. What does the field look like?

2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships - Semifinals Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Despite an inspired comeback and a strong effort against UMass-Lowell, Boston College’s 4-3 loss to the River Hawks in the Hockey East final ended the Eagles’ season. The only question as the other games ended was just how narrow the miss would be.

The answer: very narrow.

With Wisconsin falling to Penn State in the Big Ten final, the Eagles officially finish as the first team out - #16 in the final Pairwise, but out due to the WCHA champion, Michigan Tech, receiving an autobid.

BC’s RPI ended at .5395, compared to Ohio State’s .5430, which broke the tie between the two teams in the Pairwise rankings (explainer here).

How close was it? There are a few instances throughout the schedule where one result would have put BC in.

If the Eagles had won the Beanpot consolation game against Northeastern, they would have finished 14th. If BC had beaten Merrimack at home in February, they would have finished 14th. If one more of BC’s 50+ shots on goal against Ferris State had gone in to break the 1-1 tie, they would have gotten in at #15. And if they’d turned their early 2-0 lead at Notre Dame in December in to at least a tie, they would have ended up #14.

But, it is what it is. The point of that isn’t to complain or to gnash teeth, but rather to point out how narrow the margins are. This is how the bubble area pretty much is every year in this era of college hockey parity. BC had a few narrow wins that barely got them in in 2015.

This is the madness and the beauty of college hockey’s math-based, objective system for choosing the tournament field. EVERY game matters. There’s no recency bias or bias toward certain programs based on the opinions of people on a selection committee. Every game throughout the season matters, and if you didn’t get in, yu can say with certainty that “X” more wins would have been good enough.

Of course, you can quibble with any ranking system, and there’s no way of knowing for sure if, say, Ohio State is a better team than BC. But the rules are the same for everyone.

BC’s season is over, but the intrigue is just beginning if you’re a college hockey fan. The 16-team field is set and now we will find out Sunday at noon where each team will play.

While math selects the teams in the field, the Selection Committee determines which of the four regionals the teams go to. Let’s walk through the process and predict what the bracket might look like when it’s revealed Sunday.

Team - PWR Comparison Wins - RPI
One Seeds
1 - Denver (NCHC) - 59 - .6041
2 - Minn.-Duluth (NCHC Champion) - 58 - .6033
3 - Harvard (ECAC Champion) - 57 - .5968
4 - Minnesota (B1G) - 56 - .5637
Two Seeds
5 - UMass-Lowell (HEA Champion) - 55 - .5636
6 - Western Michigan (NCHC) - 54 - .5629
7 - Boston University (HEA) - 53 - .5614
8 - Union (ECAC) - 52 - .5570
Three Seeds
9 - Penn State (B1G Champion) - 51 - .5556
10 - North Dakota (NCHC) - 50 - .5510
11 - Cornell (ECAC) - 49 - .5504
12 - Air Force (AHC Champion) - 48 - .5476
Four Seeds
13 - Notre Dame (HEA) - 47 - .5464
14 - Providence (HEA) - 45 - .5472
15 - Ohio State (B1G) - 45 - .5430
AQ 16 - Michigan Tech (WCHA) - 33 - .5131

First Teams Out
16 - Boston College (HEA) - 45 - .5395
17 - Vermont (HEA) - 43 - .5341
18 - Wisconsin (B1G) - 42 - .5337
19 - Nebraska Omaha (NCHC) - 41 - .5308

Now we go through the steps the committee goes through to set the field.

First, we assign the 1 seeds geographically, starting with #1 overall.

#1 Denver -> Fargo regional
#2 Minn. Duluth -> Cincinnati regional
#3 Harvard -> Providence regional
#4 Minnesota -> Manchester NH regional

All host institutions who qualified automatically go in to their regional. North Dakota is the host for Fargo, so they automatically go in to that regional.

Next we set the field based strictly on bracket integrity, other than being mindful of hosts. Given the

FARGO
1] Denver vs. 16] Michigan Tech
8] Union vs. 10] North Dakota

MANCHESTER
4] Minnesota vs. 13] Notre Dame
5] UMass Lowell vs. 12] Air Force

CINCINNATI
2] Minn. Duluth vs. 15] Ohio State
7] BU vs. 9] Penn State

PROVIDENCE
3] Harvard vs. 14] Providence
6] Western Michigan vs. 11] Cornell

Next, we have to eliminate any in-conference matchups in the first round. This bracket doesn’t have any, so it could theoretically stand up as is. But we may make some tweaks. The Committee is empowered to switch teams within seeding bands (a 1 seed for a fellow 1 seed, a 2 for a 2, etc) in order to bolster attendance at regionals.

Our Fargo regional will be sold out with NoDak there.

Manchester has Lowell, which has a strong fanbase. That should be enough to make attendance there decent, though they might look to add another Eastern team.

Cincinnati under this scenario has both Ohio State and Penn State. That’s pretty solid.

Lastly, Providence has both Harvard and.... Providence College. Should be good.

Honestly, this bracket could probably stand up as is. But my guess is BU would be moved to Providence here and Western Michigan sent to Ohio, closer to home:

FARGO
1] Denver vs. 16] Michigan Tech
8] Union vs. 10] North Dakota

MANCHESTER
4] Minnesota vs. 13] Notre Dame
5] UMass Lowell vs. 12] Air Force

CINCINNATI
2] Minn. Duluth vs. 15] Ohio State
6] Western Michigan vs. 9] Penn State

PROVIDENCE
3] Harvard vs. 14] Providence
7] BU vs. 11] Cornell

I’d still prefer to do something to beef up Manchester’s attendance here — maybe you could move Cornell to Manchester and have BU play Air Force, but that seems quite unfair to Lowell (no disrespect intended to Air Force, who’s having a heck of a year).

The other thing that kind of sucks about this bracket is that Harvard, one of the clear top 3 teams, has to play PC in their backyard. But as we saw two years ago, the committee has no qualms about doing this, sending the NCHC’s Miami and Denver to succumb via drowning in Federal Hill pizza oil two years ago against a Providence team that similarly stumbled in to the NCAAs. We all remember what happened after that.

Plus, Minnesota-Duluth has to play Ohio State in Ohio. Again, kinda lame for them.

There is a radical reinvention of the bracket that could fix that problem but I sort of feel like the committee wouldn’t consider it. It would involve blowing up the locations of the 1 seeds given that Denver has to fly to any of the 4 so it doesn’t really matter where they go, whereas Minn.-Duluth or Minnesota could bus to Fargo. But I can’t see that happening - the commitee will want to have Ohio State in Ohio, and you need to respect the 1 seed by having Denver face Michigan Tech.

So I think they stay with:

FARGO
1] Denver vs. 16] Michigan Tech
8] Union vs. 10] North Dakota

MANCHESTER
4] Minnesota vs. 13] Notre Dame
5] UMass Lowell vs. 12] Air Force

CINCINNATI
2] Minn. Duluth vs. 15] Ohio State
6] Western Michigan vs. 9] Penn State

PROVIDENCE
3] Harvard vs. 14] Providence
7] BU vs. 11] Cornell

—setting up some potentially epic grudge matches [Denver-NoDak, BU-Harvard?] on the road to Chicago.

We’ll find out officially at noon on Sunday.