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NCAA Men's Hockey Bracketology: February 24, 2016

A look at where things stand as of today.

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We're in to the final week of the Hockey East regular season. For some leagues, postseason play begins next week. Others have a few weeks to go. Either way, we're in to the final stretch of play and we're starting to get a pretty good idea of who's going to be in the NCAA tournament.

Here's a look at how the tournament might look if the season ended today.

As a reminder, the 16 teams that qualify for the tournament are the 6 conference champions, followed by the 10 next highest ranked teams in the Pairwise rankings.

There's really no way of handicapping some of these conference tournaments, so odds are there are going to be some crazy upsets that throw a wrench in to this field. But for purposes of this exercise, we'll predict that each conference's highest-ranked team will win the conference tournament.

Your six conference leaders:

ECAC #1: Quinnipiac
NCHC #2: St. Cloud State
HEA #3: Boston College
B1G #6: Michigan
WCHA #18: Michigan Tech
AHC #23: Robert Morris

The next ten, along with their probability of making the tournament according to

#4 North Dakota (NCHC) - 99%
#5 Providence (HEA) - 99%
#7 Yale (ECAC) - 99%
#8 Denver (NCHC) - 99%
#9 Notre Dame (HEA) - 99%
#10 BU (HEA) - 96%
#11 Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC) - 81%
#12 Harvard (ECAC) - 95%
#13 UMass-Lowell (HEA) - 78%
#14 Cornell (ECAC) - 25%

Here are your first teams OUT along with their tournament probabilities:
Penn State 17%
Minnesota 30%
Miami 20%
RPI 9%
St. Lawrence 11%
Dartmouth 12%

As you can see, it's shaping up into, for the most part, a 6 or 7 horse race for one last at-large spot, assuming there end up being two auto-bids who make it in solely due to winning the conference tournament. This is also assuming  he somewhat less-locked-in teams, Lowell and Omaha, don't majorly slip up in the final weeks.

Now that we've set the field, we begin placing teams in to the four regions: Worcester, Albany, St. Paul, and Cincinnati. There are no host teams in the field this week (Holy Cross, Union/RPI, Minnesota and Miami). If any hosts make it, they're automatically slotted in to the region they're hosting. Without having to do that we have more freedom to place teams.

The #1 seeds get assigned based on geography:

#1 Quinnipiac goes to Worcester
#2 St. Cloud State goes to St. Paul
#3 Boston College goes to Albany
#4 North Dakota goes to Cincinnati

Based on bracket integrity alone (1 v 16, 2 v 15, etc.) the bracket would then look as follows:

1 Quinnipiac vs. 16 Robert Morris
8 Denver vs. 9 Notre Dame

4 North Dakota vs 13 UMass-Lowell
5 Providence vs. 12 Harvard

2 St. Cloud State vs. 15 Michigan Tech
7 Yale vs. 10 Boston University

3 Boston College vs. 14 Cornell
6 Michigan vs. 11 Nebraska-Omaha

The first thing we look to correct is in-conference matchups. Surprisingly we get no in-conference matchups in this bracket. So, good to go, right?

Not so much. The committee will move teams within seeding bands (swapping a 2 seed for a 2 seed, a 3 seed for a 3 seed etc) to promote attendance in each regional, with an attempt to balance attendance concerns and bracket integrity. Let's go through each region and see what tweaks would be made for attendance.

If you're hoping for BC to be in Worcester it's starting to look like you'd better hope the Eagles pass Quinnipiac in the Pairwise (certainly not out of the realm of possibiltiy). As long as QU is in a spot where they'd play an autobid, it would require a big fudging of bracket integrity to move them out of their slot. That's the case here. The additional problem is that Cornell is a) an ECAC team, so they can't play the Q and B) an upstate NY team who they'd love to keep in Albany. So they won't flip the Worcester and Albany brackets.

That said, they'd need to do something for Worcester attendance under this scenario. My guess is they'd take the BU/Yale matchup and swap it for the Denver/Notre Dame matchup, bringing BU and Yale east, and also setting up a possible QU/Yale rivalry regional final in Worcester. That would draw pretty well.

Ideally, you'd like to see Michigan in Cincinnati, and there's an easy way to do that: swap the Michigan/Omaha game with Providence/Harvard, which would set up a really nice attendance scenario in Albany too.

St. Paul getting SCSU is a best-case scenario if Minnesota doesn't make the field. They'd also like NoDak but NoDak is a #1 seed so that can't happen.

Here's what I think the bracket would look like today:

1 Quinnipiac vs. 16 Robert Morris
7 Yale vs. 10 Boston University

4 North Dakota vs 13 UMass-Lowell
6 Michigan vs. 11 Nebraska-Omaha

2 St. Cloud State vs. 15 Michigan Tech
8 Denver vs. 9 Notre Dame

3 Boston College vs. 14 Cornell
5 Providence vs. 12 Harvard

That's a pretty goddamn brutal bracket for BC. But I'm starting to feel like a BC/Providence regional clash might be inevitable, unless the Eagles surge up to #1 or #2 in the PWR and shelter themselves from that possibility.

Of course the team that really gets kinda boned here is Providence, that's a brutal draw for them too. The matchups are tough for Cornell but they're fortunate to be the "home team" here.

My Frozen Four prediction based on these brackets:
North Dakota

That would be a hell of a Frozen Four.