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NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology: February 28th, 2018

Our weekly Bracketology, plus a full breakdown of each team’s possible finishing positions!

I know, Coach, I can’t believe it either!
The selection show is THIS WEEKEND?? I know, Coach, I can’t believe it either!
Rich Gagnon, BC Athletics

Selection Sunday is [checks] [double checks] this Sunday?? How did that even happen?

The conference semifinals and finals are this weekend, and that means the NCAA tournament field will be set on Sunday night after the conference championships. The selection show is Sunday at 9pm EST, and will be streamed online at NCAA.com.

Today in addition to going through our “as it stands” Bracketology, we’ll also look at the most likely scenarios for each team. If you want do dive into how women’s Bracketology works, you can check out last week’s article. This week, we’ll dive right into it.

Here are the current autobids, chosen based on regular season champion for now:

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

Now let’s take our conference autobids and fill in the rest of the top eight using the Pairwise Rankings, seeding only the top 4 teams. While we have no inside information, it is our best guess that D-II Saint Anselm will not be included in the tournament despite sitting 5th in the Pairwise. So we’ll be looking at the bracket without the Hawks.

(1) Wisconsin — WCHA Champion
(2) Boston College WHEA Champion
(3) ClarksonECAC Champion
(4) Colgate
Cornell
Ohio State
Minnesota
Robert Morris CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Minnesota @ (2) Boston College
Ohio State @ (3) Clarkson
Cornell @ (4) Colgate

Like we’re done every week, we will switch Minnesota with Robert Morris since the only bus trip the Gophers can make is to Madison:

Minnesota @ (1) Wisconsin
Robert Morris @ (2) Boston College
Ohio State @ (3) Clarkson
Cornell @ (4) Colgate

Which is our current bracket if the season were to end today. However, it’s interesting to note that it is very unlikely that the bracket ends up like this — the only way Boston College can finish 2nd in the Pairwise is if St. Lawrence or Cornell win the ECAC, and Boston College wins Hockey East. That’s because Colgate and Clarkson are nearly tied with BC, and they have a tougher path to the championship. That would make them leapfrog the Eagles into 2nd, with BC winding up third (assuming they win Hockey East), with the other top 4 ECAC team sliding into 4th.

Let’s break down each team and what their likely scenarios are, with the one caveat to all this being that a couple of surprise autobids could throw much of this for a loop:

#1 Wisconsin Badgers

It’s pretty simple for Wisconsin — win the WCHA, and they will be the #1 overall seed. If they lose, then it’s likely (although not a definite) that an ECAC champion Clarkson or Colgate would leapfrog them into the top spot.

However, it doesn’t matter where the Badgers end up. They will get the same first round opponent whether they are #1 or #2: It’ll be the Gophers (if the Gophers make the tournament), Robert Morris (if the Gophers don’t make the tournament and Robert Morris wins the CHA), or Ohio State (or the WCHA autobid) if the Gophers don’t make it and Robert Morris does not win the CHA. The only other possibility for Wisconsin in the first round is Lindenwood, if Wisconsin holds the top spot and Lindenwood pulls off a miracle to win the CHA.

Technically they could get an eastern autobid if they win the WCHA and Ohio State gets kicked out by multiple autobids... but that’s almost impossibly unlikely.

#2 Boston College Eagles

Interestingly, while the Eagles currently sit at #2, they probably aren’t going to finish there unless they get some help from the ECAC. Clarkson or Colgate would leapfrog BC into 2nd if either one of them win the ECAC, regardless of what BC does. The Eagles would only get 2nd place if St. Lawrence or Cornell win the ECAC.

Other than that, BC is looking at 3rd place if they win Hockey East, and are probably looking at 4th if they do not win Hockey East. Think of it this way — BC will finish ahead of Clarkson/Colgate as long as they advance further than those teams do, but they will finish behind them if they match BC (i.e. if BC loses in the final and Colgate loses in the semifinal, BC would stay ahead of Colgate, but if both teams lose in the final, Colgate will jump ahead).

If they finish 2nd, the Eagles can get Robert Morris, Syracuse, or RIT of the CHA, or whoever winds up 6th if it’s someone else. They would otherwise be looking at facing the 6th place team if they come in 3rd, the 5th place team if they come in 4th, or possibly an ECAC or WHEA autobid team, should one pull off an upset.

There is one outlier scenario that would send Minnesota to the #2 seed, but that would require Lindenwood to win the CHA and Wisconsin to finish #1 overall — according to our math, there’s a roughly 2% chance of that happening.

#3 Clarkson Golden Knights
#4 Colgate Raiders

Clarkson and Colgate are in the exact same boat: Win the ECAC and they will come in 2nd (or possibly first, if Wisconsin loses the WCHA), or come in 4th if you don’t with a chance of getting 3rd if BC doesn’t win Hockey East.

Their options for tournament opponents are very similar to Boston College’s. The only difference is that whoever finishes highest among these two could get Mercyhurst, should the Lakers win the CHA — Mercyhurst is a bus to Clarkson and Colgate, but is not to Boston College. The rest of BC’s likliest options (playing the #6 seed if they end up 3rd, or the #5 seed if they end up 4th) apply to Clarkson and Colgate as well.

#5 Ohio State Buckeyes
#6 Cornell Big Red

Like BC and the ECAC teams, Ohio State and Cornell are neck and neck for the 5th seed. Ohio State has the “tiebreaker” of sorts — they will get the spot unless Cornell advances farther than they do — i.e., a Cornell team that loses in the finals would jump to 5th over a Ohio State team that loses in the semifinals.

There isn’t too much to play for to get that 5th slot. Ohio State could possibly wind up getting Wisconsin no matter where they finish, if the Gophers get knocked out of the tournament and someone other than Robert Morris wins the CHA, but it’s most likely that whoever finishes 5th will play whoever finishes 4th. That’s not nothing, since whoever comes in 4th will be guaranteed to have not won their conference, but there isn’t all that much difference between playing BC, Clarkson, and Colgate, unless you feel like they match up better against one of those teams.

Other than that, the #6 seed has to worry just a little bit more about getting bumped from the tournament entirely. It’s not likely, but two autobids from the WCHA, ECAC, or WHEA would send the #6 seed home for the year. The #5 seed would make it unless all three had an upset — an almost impossible proposition.

#7 Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Gophers sit in 7th in the Pairwise, and are unique in that they are the only tournament team who can’t go up or go down in the rankings unless they win their conference tournament. Should the Gophers not win the WCHA, they will finish 7th and will be crossing their fingers that no one below them in the ECAC, WCHA, or WHEA wins their conference tournament and kicks them out. There’s a 38.32% chance of that happening — plenty high enough for the Gophers to be nervous.

If the Gophers do make the tournament, they will be going to Wisconsin almost no matter what — even if they end up 5th, which is possible if they win the WCHA and some results fall their way. The only exception to that is if Lindenwood wins the CHA, in which case Lindenwood would go to Madison and Minnesota would go to whoever is opposite them while keeping bracket integrity (i.e., a 7th seed Minnesota would go to the 2 seed, 6th would go to 3, or 5th would go to 4).

#8 St. Lawrence Saints
#9 Robert Morris Colonials
#11 Northeastern Huskies
#12 Maine Black Bears
#15 Connecticut Huskies
#16 Bemidji State Beavers
#18 Mercyhurst Lakers
#25 Syracuse Orange
#26 Penn State Nittany Lions
#29 Lindenwood Lions
#34 RIT Tigers

The rest of the teams still alive are all on the outside looking in, and must win their conference tournament to make the NCAA field. Depending how many make the tournament and who is ranked where, it is almost impossible for any of these teams, with the exception of Robert Morris and Lindenwood, to be sent out to Wisconsin, since everyone else is a bus trip to an eastern team. The only exception to this would be if Ohio State fell to 6th, Wisconsin won the WCHA, and Hockey East & the ECAC both had an autobid come from outside the top 4. That would make Wisconsin the only team from the west in the tournament, and full bracket integrity would almost certainly be maintained.

Other than that one exceedingly unlikely scenario, any of these teams other than Robert Morris and Lindenwood would face the eastern team within bus distance that maintains bracket integrity the best.

“#5” Saint Anselm Hawks

There is one outlier team we haven’t mentioned yet who currently sits in an At-Large position in the NCAA tournament field. D-II Saint Anselm technically met all of the requirements to be selected to the NCAA tournament, and got themselves ranked high enough based on the criteria set by the committee to be selected as an at-large. You can read up on the Saint Anselm story here, here, and here, but if you’re not interested in the nitty-gritty, just know that while we have no inside information, it is our best guess that Saint Anselm will not be included in the tournament despite sitting in an at-large position.

It would be helpful for the committee to actually set some hard and fast guidelines for next year, but given that we knew this was going to happen over a year ago and nothing meaningful was changed, that’s probably a bit too much to ask for.