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NCAA Men’s Hockey Bracketology: Win and They’re In... Then What?

John Quackenbos, BC Athletics

Shockingly, after an 11-win regular season, Boston College men’s hockey could potentially be one win away from advancing to the NCAA tournament. The Eagles take on Northeastern tonight in the Hockey East championship game, and just like in their previous three games, if they win, they survive; if they lose, they’re done.

As most of our readers are aware, there is no subjectivity in the process of selecting the NCAA tournament field. Autobids advance via the conference tournament, and the rest of the field is selected via the Pairwise Rankings.

While the BC team is surely focused solely on tonight’s game, BC’s position gives us the ability to speculate what would happen in NCAA selection tomorrow if the Eagles do win. The committee has leeway to slot teams into the four regionals; what’s the state of play for BC?

First let’s take a look at who’s definitely in and who’s on the bubble.

Tonight’s matchups:

Atlantic Hockey final
AIC vs. Niagara. The winner moves on, the loser is done.

Big Ten final
Notre Dame vs. Penn State. The winner moves on, the loser is done.

ECAC final
Clarkson vs. Cornell. Both teams are in the tournament regardless of result.

Hockey East final
Northeastern vs. BC. Northeastern is in no matter what. BC needs to win.

NCHC third place game
Remarkably, this is still a thing that exists. Colorado College vs. Denver. No matter what happens, Denver is in and Colorado College is out. Denver hopes to bump up their seeding with a victory.

NCHC final
St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota Duluth. Not only are both teams in, both teams are locks for a #1 seed.

WCHA final
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota State. Minnesota State is in and has clinched a 1-seed. Bowling Green is on the bubble. They could still get in as an at-large.

The literal one team sitting on the bubble with no control over what happens
Providence College. The Friars sit idle tonight and have a good chance of advancing. If BC and Bowling Green both win their conference tournaments, then the Friars are out. If only one of those teams win, PC could get in depending on how things shake out. If BC and Bowling Green both lose, Providence is in for sure.

The teams that are in no matter what and their current rankings
1 St Cloud State
2 Minnesota State
3 UMass
4 Duluth
5 Quinnipiac
6 Northeastern
7 Clarkson
8 Ohio St
9 Denver
10 Cornell
11 Arizona State
12 Harvard

There are obviously still an insanely large number of ways today could play out but we want to take a look at some of the possible scenarios if BC wins. Where would the Eagles end up?

No matter what, BC would be a 4 seed — either #15 overall or #16 overall depending on if they pass AIC in the Pairwise tonight. (AIC is currently 32 and BC 33).

Running a scenario where chalk holds and all the higher seeds win except for BC (including AIC),BC leapfrogs AIC into the 15 slot. In fact, pretty much every scenario we plug in to College Hockey News’ matrix leads to BC jumping AIC and becoming #15 overall.

Why is this important? The #16 overall seed — likely the Atlantic Hockey winner — will face #1 overall St Cloud State in the first round, in Fargo, North Dakota.

Here’s how the field would look if chalk holds except for a BC win:
1 seeds: St Cloud, Minnesota State, UMass, Duluth
2 seeds: Quinnipiac, Denver, Ohio St, Cornell
3 seeds: Clarkson, Northeastern, Arizona State, Notre Dame
4 seeds: Harvard, Providence, BC, AIC

The four regionals are in Fargo, Allentown PA, Manchester NH, and Providence.

First you assign the 1 seeds geographically: SCSU to Fargo; Minnesota State to... it kind of doesn’t matter, but I guess Allentown? UMass to Manchester. Duluth to Providence.

Filling out the bracket by straight integrity gives you

FARGO
1) St Cloud vs 16) AIC
8) Cornell vs 9) Clarkson

ALLENTOWN
2) Minnesota State vs 15) BC
7) Ohio St vs 10) Northeastern

MANCHESTER
3) UMass vs 14) Providence
6) Denver vs 11) Arizona St

PROVIDENCE
4) Duluth vs 13) Harvard
5) Quinnipiac vs 12) Notre Dame

However, you’d have to make at least two changes here to avoid in-conference matchups (Cornell-Clarkson and UMass-PC).

The committee has options, but the the easiest one would be bringing Cornell east to Allentown, sending Ohio State out to Fargo to play Clarkson.

Then you simply send Providence to Providence (which they’re probably gonna do no matter what if possible, for attendance purposes) and send Harvard to Manchester.

That gives you:

FARGO: SCSU/AIC, Ohio State/Clarkson
ALLENTOWN: Minn St/BC, Cornell/NU
MANCHESTER: UMass/Harvard, Denver/ASU
PROVIDENCE: Duluth/Prov, QU/ND

In theory they could make a few more tweaks for attendance, maybe trying to shoehorn Northeastern in to the Providence or Manchester regional, but the benefits would probably be marginal. So this is likely your bracket with a BC win and a Notre Dame win — the Eagles going to Allentown to face Minnesota State.

Things get much more interesting, however, if Penn State wins! Penn State is the host of the Allentown regional and as such would be locked in to it.

Odds are, Penn State victory vaults them to #12 overall, meaning they’d be a 3 seed, so it wouldn’t create too much chaos — Penn State would slot in as Allentown #3 and Northeastern would probably end up in Providence instead of Notre Dame. BC’s fate would be unchanged.

However, there is a chance (we haven’t found the scenario yet, but the math says it exists) whereby Penn State ends up being a 4 seed. If that happens everything becomes chaos - if Penn State is locked in as a 4 seed in Allentown, and BC and Providence are both 4 seeds, and AIC/Niagara are paired with St Cloud in Fargo, the committee would likely have no choice but to ship UMass to Allentown to play Penn State. That would open up the possibility for BC playing in Manchester or Providence against Minnesota-Duluth.

Of course, it’s all a moot point without a victory tonight over Northeastern.

Stay tuned.