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NCAA Women's Hockey Bracketology: Best Case/Worst Case For BC

The Pairwise is unchanged from last week, so what should the Eagles be hoping for?

John Quackenbos, BC Athletics

The quarterfinals of the conference tournaments are over, and the Pairwise is... unchanged.

Well, that’s no fun.

So rather than just rehash last week’s bracketology, let’s take a deep dive into how things may shake out for Boston College. Selection Sunday is just 5 days away, so let’s take a look at the Best Case, Worst Case, and Most Likely Pairwise scenarios for the Eagles.

What you’d call the “best case scenario” depends on what you’re looking for in a bracket. Are you looking for the easiest path to the Frozen Four, or are you looking for the easiest path to the championship? Which of those you value will determine who you’re rooting for in the conference tournaments.

Best Case Scenario

It’s possible for the Eagles to get home ice and avoid the Badgers in the semifinals, but it’s not possible to get home ice and avoid all three western teams in the semifinals. Still, while the prospect of playing the winner of a Gopher/Bulldog quarterfinal isn’t ideal, it’s a winnable game.

(1) BC wins Hockey East
(2) Duluth wins the WCHA
(3) The ECAC final is Cornell vs. Princeton

This would give you:

(1) Wisconsin
(2) Minnesota-Duluth
(3) Boston College
(4) Clarkson/St. Lawrence
(5) St. Lawrence/Clarkson
(6) Minnesota
(7) Cornell/Princeton
(8) CHA Champion

And a bracket of:

CHA Champion @ (1) Wisconsin
Minnesota @ (2) Minnesota-Duluth
Cornell/Princeton @ (3) Boston College
St. Lawrence/Clarkson @ (4) Clarkson/St. Lawrence

This bracket is a solid B+ for the Eagles. Cornell/Princeton are certainly a tier below SLU/Clarkson, so this would give BC its easiest possible quarterfinal. And, UM/UMD is a tier below Wisconsin, so that’s an okay semifinal.

You’d love to face that Clarkson/SLU winner in the semis, but there’s no scenario that would see BC get home ice and be placed opposite that matchup.

Still Good Scenario #1: Home Ice

Getting up to #3 in the Pairwise would be brilliant for BC, but it’s not particularly likely. Cornell or Princeton winning their semifinal wouldn’t be that difficult, but it would raise an eyebrow if they both managed to win. Fortunately, just climing into 4th and getting a home ice quarterfinal isn’t as hard.

(1) BC wins Hockey East
(2) Cornell defeats St. Lawrence in the ECAC quarterfinal
(3) Minnesota does not win the WCHA
(4) One of several combinations of results involving BU, UMD, and Syracuse.

This would give you a field of:

(1) Wisconsin
(2) Clarkson/Duluth
(3) Duluth/Clarkson
(4) Boston College
(5) St. Lawrence
(6) Minnesota
(7) Cornell
(8) CHA Champion

And a bracket of:

CHA Champion @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2/3) Clarkson
Minnesota @ (3/2) Minnesota
St. Lawrence @ (4) Boston College

Again, not bad for BC. You get home ice in the quarterfinals, but you do match up with the Badgers in the semifinals. You’d like to have other teams get the opportunity to knock them off for you, but you have to get to the Frozen Four first before you can win it.

Still Good Scenario #2: Road Trip

If BC doesn’t end up staying home, there’s still a silver lining — there’s a good chance that BC would avoid any western team until the NCAA championship game.

(1) Either:
(a) UW beats UM in the WCHA, SLU wins its semifinal, & BC wins WHEA, or
(b) UW beats UMD in the WCHA & SLU beats Clarkson in the ECAC

There’s a pretty good chance this happens. That would give you:

(1) Wisconsin
(2) Clarkson/St. Lawrence
(3) St. Lawrence/Clarkson
(4) Minnesota-Duluth
(5) Boston College/Minnesota
(6) Minnesota/Boston College
(7) Cornell/Northeastern/BU
(8) CHA Champion

And a bracket of:

CHA Champion @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell/NU/BU @ (2) Clarkson/SLU
Boston College @ (3) SLU/Clarkson
Minnesota @ (4) Minnesota-Duluth

All things considered, there are worse brackets for the Eagles. You’d like your chances against the loser of the ECAC (especially against St. Lawrence, who has seemed to punch above their weight this season), and your semifinal would be against, at worst, a similar opponent.

That’s a long road trip, but it’s a bracket that would probably give the Eagles its easiest path to a championship, particularly if either the Gophers or Bulldogs can beat Wisconsin on their way to the finals.

Worst Case Scenario: Eagles at home

Believe it or not, the Eagles haven’t sewn up a spot in the NCAA tournament yet — and it’s not even that difficult for them to miss out.

(1) BC does not win Hockey East
(2) Either:
(a) Cornell/Princeton win the ECAC, or
(b) North Dakota wins the WCHA

That’s a pretty dangerous situation for the Eagles. Some of the things they need to hope for to get a home game for the quarterfinals could backfire spectacularly and send them home without a game for the quarterfinals.

The logic behind it all is that if BC does not win Hockey East, they’re locked into 6th in the Pairwise. With the CHA champion taking the #8 spot, and the not-BC Hockey East champion taking the 7th spot, an upset in the ECAC or WCHA would add a third autobid, taking the 6th spot and kicking the Eagles out.

...Let’s just win Hockey East so we don’t have to worry about it.

Most Likely Scenario: Top Seeds Win

It’s likely that the Eagles are going to hit the road for the quarterfinals, but the good news is that they’re almost certainly staying east. As long as Minnesota doesn’t win the WCHA (and they’d have to go through the top 2 teams in the polls to do it), it’s impossible for the Eagles to head west.

If all of the higher seeds win their games, BC has itself a pretty darn good bracket:

(1) Wisconsin
(2) Clarkson
(3) St. Lawrence
(4) Minnesota-Duluth
(5) Boston College
(6) Minnesota
(7) Cornell
(8) Robert Morris

Which results in:

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

That matches Still Good Scenario #2 from above, and I don’t think the Eagles would complain about this bracket.

Still lots of hockey to be played, and the fog will clear quite a bit after the conference semifinals on Saturday. We’ll take another look before the finals at where the Eagles are likely to be headed.