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NCAA Women's Hockey Bracketology: February 22nd, 2017

More shuffling as we head into the postseason

It wasn’t a good Pairwise weekend for Boston College this week. The split against Providence College took the Eagles’ chances at hosting an NCAA quarterfinal from “pretty good” to “doubtful.”

It’s not an unreasonable thing to hope for (yet), but BC is going to need some help in the form of early conference tournament exists from both St. Lawrence and Minnesota. If the Saints and Gophers both fail to advance to their respective conference championship games, the Eagles can clinch a home ice spot by sweeping through the Hockey East tournament.

You can play with some scenarios yourself using our world-renowned*, patent-pending** Pairwise Predictor — the only one in existence***!

*Fact check: Possible
**Fact check: False
***Fact check: True!

But, for now, the Eagles are hitting the road. Let’s see where things stand heading into the conference tournaments.

Here is the selection criteria as set forth in the women's hockey handbook:

The Women’s Ice Hockey Committee will seed the selected participants as follows:

1. The top four teams according to the selection criteria will be seeded 1-4 at the time of the selection call. The remaining four teams will be placed in the bracket based on relative strength as long as these pairings do not result in additional flights. These teams will not be reseeded and the committee will not change the bracket once the tournament has begun.

2. Assuming it meets the committee’s hosting criteria, the highest seeded team will be given the opportunity to host the quarterfinal game.

Pairings in the quarterfinal round shall be based primarily on the teams’ geographical proximity to one another, regardless of their region, in order to avoid air travel in quarterfinal-round games whenever possible. Teams’ relative strength, according to the committee’s selection criteria, shall be considered when establishing pairings if such pairings do not result in air travel that otherwise could be avoided. The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee shall have the authority to modify its working principles related to the championship site assignment on a case-by-case basis.

There are a few key differences between the men's hockey criteria and the women's hockey criteria. In the men's tournament, the selection committee primarily avoids intraconference first round matchups and tries to improve attendance, and the 16 teams are seeded 1-16.

Women's hockey only seeds the top 4 of 8 teams, and the primary consideration is minimizing the number of flights, with bracket integrity the secondary consideration.

Here are the current autobids, which we will assign (for now) to the regular season champion from each conference:

WHEA: Boston College
WCHA: Wisconsin
ECAC: Clarkson
CHA: Robert Morris

Now we'll fill in the rest of the top eight using the Pairwise Rankings, seeding only the top 4 teams:

1) Wisconsin — WCHA Champion
2) Clarkson — ECAC Champion
3) Minnesota-Duluth
4) St. Lawrence
Boston College — WHEA Champion
Robert Morris — CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2) Clarkson
Boston College @ (3) Minnesota-Duluth
Minnesota @ (4) St. Lawrence

This won’t do, because there are two flights that could otherwise be avoided. We can get rid of two of them by swapping Boston College and Minnesota.

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2) Clarkson
Minnesota @ (3) Minnesota-Duluth
Boston College @ (4) St. Lawrence

That’s as good as we can get with minimizing flights — Robert Morris is flying no matter where it goes, and someone has to fly to Wisconsin — so this is our bracket.

In addition, there’s no monkeying that the committee would be able to do to minimize bus travel distance to save costs (which isn’t one of their directives, but something they did last year anyway) because St. Lawrence and Clarkson, 11 miles apart, are both hosting. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on if one of them falls and is forced to travel.

This isn’t a terrible bracket for BC. Aside from climbing into a spot where they can host a game at Conte Forum, BC really just wants to stay east. And of the four teams that they could possibly play (Duluth, St. Lawrence, Minnesota, and Clarkson), St. Lawrence is the lowest in KRACH.

Ideally, if they’re not hosting, the Eagles should probably be aiming to play St. Lawrence, but hope the Saint climb into the #3 spot. That would allow the Eagles to avoid Wisconsin in the NCAA semifinals, should they get that far, and indeed would probably allow them to face an eastern team.

There are just two weeks left until Selection Sunday, but there is still a lot of movement possible, especially among teams ranked 2 through 5. The puck drops on Thursday at 2pm, with the Eagles kicking off their postseason with the Hockey East quarterfinals against Merrimack.