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NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament Update: Only Six Possible Brackets Remain

At long last, some clarity

BC Athletics

There are just three total games remaining until the NCAA Women’s Hockey selection show: The Hockey East championship, the WCHA championship, and the ECAC championship. That’s it! With just three games and two possibilities per game, that means there are 2^3 = 8 possible Sunday outcomes. Much nicer than the 8^3 = 512 we went into Saturday with.

Thanks to the handy dandy Tournament Predictor we’ve got here at BC Interruption, we can tell you exactly what possibilities there are for brackets — and, using KRACH, the odds of getting each of those brackets.

First, let’s break down what we know:

  • Minnesota and Wisconsin, #1 and #2 in the Pairwise respectively, will hold the top two seeds, with the order simple being determined by whoever wins the WCHA championship — winner gets the #1 overall seed, loser is #2.
  • Northeastern has been pretty solidly hanging out in the #3 position for a few weeks now, and they’re now locked into that spot with no way to move up or down regardless of what happens on Sunday.
  • Princeton, who fell to Cornell in 2OT in their semifinal on Saturday, will back into the tournament as the #7 seed regardless of Sunday’s results.
  • Syracuse, the CHA champion, is locked into the #8 seed.

That leaves us with the 4, 5, and 6 seeds, which were a total mess coming into Saturday, but now have a lot more clarity.

Clarkson, Boston College, and Cornell are duking it out for positioning in those three spots, with #4 overall getting a home game in the quarterfinal. There are only a few ways this can shake out, and it all depends on the ECAC and Hockey East results:

  • If Clarkson wins the ECAC tournament, the three seeds are easy — Clarkson gets 4th, Boston College gets 5th, and Cornell gets 6th. What BC does against Northeastern won’t matter.
  • If Cornell wins the ECAC tournament, things get a little more shaken up. Cornell winning the ECAC paired with BC winning Hockey East would put BC in 4th, Cornell in 5th, and Clarkson in 6th.
  • If Cornell wins the ECAC tournament but the Eagles lose to Northeastern, then we would have Cornell home at #4, Clarkson #5, and Boston College #6.

Let’s run the numbers using KRACH to see what the odds of each final bracket would be:

Minnesota, Cornell, and Northeastern win:
52.33% x 48.21% x 62.43% = 15.75%
1 Minnesota
2 Wisconsin
3 Northeastern
4 Cornell
5 Clarkson
6 Boston College
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

Minnesota, Cornell, and Boston College win:
52.33% x 48.21% x 37.57% = 9.48%
1 Minnesota
2 Wisconsin
3 Northeastern
4 Boston College
5 Cornell
6 Clarkson
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

Wisconsin, Cornell, and Northeastern win:
47.67% x 48.21% x 62.43% = 14.35%
1 Wisconsin
2 Minnesota
3 Northeastern
4 Cornell
5 Clarkson
6 Boston College
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

Wisconsin, Cornell, and Boston College win:
47.67% x 48.21% x 37.57% = 8.63%
1 Wisconsin
2 Minnesota
3 Northeastern
4 Boston College
5 Cornell
6 Clarkson
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

Wisconsin and Clarkson win*:
47.67% x 51.79% = 24.69%
1 Wisconsin
2 Minnesota
3 Northeastern
4 Clarkson
5 Boston College
6 Cornell
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

Minnesota and Clarkson win*:
52.33% x 51.79% = 27.10%
1 Wisconsin
2 Minnesota
3 Northeastern
4 Clarkson
5 Boston College
6 Cornell
7 Princeton
8 Syracuse

*A Clarkson win means the NU/BC game will not affect the bracket

The interesting battles are, of course, over who gets that last home ice position. Clarkson controls their own destiny for the spot (51.79% odds of home ice), but Cornell (30.10%) and BC (18.11%) have very realistic paths if the Golden Knights can’t get the win.

As for the quarterfinal matchups, it’s harder to say. We know that Syracuse will be traveling to the WCHA champion and that Princeton will be traveling to the WCHA runner-up, but there are some questions regarding how the committee might deal with a bracket that has Clarkson paired with Boston College and Cornell paired with Northeastern. Might the committee try and save some money by keeping BC with Northeastern and giving the Cornell/Clarkson matchup a shorter bus ride as well? That’s what happened in 2016, and it was pretty controversial. This year, such a move would have an additional downside of giving two conference championship rematches in the quarterfinals — something nobody wants.

Or, would they stick to the letter and spirit of their directives and keep bracket integrity while minimizing flights? If Boston College ends up 4th, there won’t be a difficult decision to be made, but should BC wind up 5th, it’s going to be an interesting evening Sunday night.

We’ll be back here with a final Bracketology once all the games go final on Sunday afternoon. The NCAA tournament selection show will be streamed live at 9pm EDT on NCAA.com later that evening.