What a difference a month makes. Before the puck had dropped for BC's first game of January against Providence College, the Eagles were flirting with the NCAA bubble and had zero wins over teams that would have made the NCAA Tournament. Skip ahead a month, and BC is now on the verge of a #1 seed, with wins over Providence, BU, Notre Dame and Harvard under their belt—plus an additional top 12 win now that Denver has moved up in the rankings.
If the season ended today, the Eagles would be #5 overall in the tournament field, and the top #2 seed. With many Eastern teams seeming poised to make the tournament, positioning will be crucial in staying East for the NCAA regionals. If the season ended today, where would BC be?
Let's take a walk through Bracketology as of today.
STEP ONE - Select the sixteen teams in the tournament field
We start with the six conference champions. Given the uneven schedules I do this by picking the team that's ranked highest in the Pairwise in each conference. Obviously the conference tournaments usually throw up their share of wacky results.
ECAC #1 - Quinnipiac
NCHC #2 - St. Cloud State
B1G #4 - Michigan
HEA #5 - Boston College
WCHA #18 - Minnesota State
AHC #22 - Robert Morris
A couple notable changes with the conference leaders: Michigan has moved up steadily in the past few weeks, feasting in crappy B1G competition and soaring to a #1 seed. BC has powered past Providence as the top-ranked Hockey East team. Minnesota State moves back past Bowling Green for the top WCHA spot; they and Bobby Mo will both be relying on winning the conference title to get in still.
Ten at large teams
#3 North Dakota (NCHC)
#6 Providence (HEA)
#7 Harvard (ECAC)
#8 BU (HEA)
#9 Omaha (NCHC)
#10 Notre Dame (HEA)
#11 Lowell (HEA)
#12 DU (NCHC)
#13 Yale (ECAC)
#14 RPI (ECAC)
There are currently 5 Hockey East teams in the top 11. As long as HEA's top 5 keep feasting on the bottom 7, they'll have a good chance of all making it in. The NCHC and ECAC will probably each have at least 3 teams, maybe 4. Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn State and Minnesota State are the first four teams out based on the PWR. Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota are still hangingaround with a chance to get on the rightside of the bubble.
STEP TWO: Put host institutions in their respective regionals
The four hosts of the regionals are Miami, Holy Cross, Minnesota, and the ECAC, with Union and RPI (in that order) being treated as "hosts" for locatoin purposes. For the first time since we started doing bracketology, this comes in to play—RPI is now on the right side of the bubble and as such by rule would be the #4 seed in Albany if the season ended today. Holy Cross is hanging around the AHC race and has a decent chance of being the #4 in Worcester.
STEP THREE: Assign the #1 seeds to regions based on geography
The #1 overall seed, Quinnipiac, gets whichever regional is closest to it geographically. That would be the Worcester regional.
#2 St. Cloud State goes to St. Paul, Minnesota.
#3 North Dakota would be assigned to Cincinnati theoretically (but hold up).
#4 Michigan would be left with Albany...but...
North Dakota would have to fly to either Cincy or Albany so it hardly makes a difference. On the other hand, Michigan could bus to Cincinnati and also bring a decent amount of fans. As an added bonus, RPI at #14 matches up, bracket-integrity wise, with NoDak at #3.
So we'll assign North Dakota to Albany and Michigan to Cincinnati.
STEP FOUR: Assign the remaining 12 teams to regions based on their seeding bands
The #1 Seeds are 1 Quinnipiac, 2 St Cloud State, 3 North Dakota and 4 Michigan
The #2 Seeds are 5 BC, 6 PC, 7 Harvard and 8 BU
The #3 Seeds are 9 Omaha, 10 Notre Dame, 11 Lowell and 12 Denver
The #4 Seeds are 13 Yale, 14 RPI, 15 Minnesota State and 16 Robert Morris
Straight bracket integrity, combined with our assigned #1 seeds and locking RPI in to Albany, would give us
1 Quinnipiac ECAC / 16 Robert Morris AHC
8 BU HEA / 9 Omaha NCHC
4 Michigan B1G / 13 Yale ECAC
5 BC HEA / 12 Denver NCHC
2 St Cloud NCHC / 15 Minnesota State WCHA
7 Harvard ECAC / 10 Notre Dame HEA
3 North Dakota NCHC / 14 RPI ECAC
6 Providence HEA / 11 Lowell HEA
Four eastern teams (three HEA teams!) as the four #2 seeds. Wow.
This bracket somehow only spits out one in-conference matchup, 6 PC vs 11 Lowell. We need to move teams within seeding bands to fix this problem. But wait! With three Hockey East teams as #2 seeds and two Hockey East teams as #3 seeds, it's impossible, mathematically, to avoid having at least one in-conference matchup. We'll keep that one as it is for now.
The other thing we have to consider is attendance. Based on these brackets, the Worcester regional would do pretty well with Quinnipiac and BU there. Cincinnati would be in about as good a position as it could be in with Michigan there (attendance will suck there no matter what, though). St. Paul is perfect with the two Minnesota teams. Albany has RPI plus at least one HEA team in driving distance.
My guess here is that BC would end up getting stuck in Cincinnati based on this week's bracket. Realistically, BC would drive some attendance in Albany but it wouldn't be huge. BC's impact in Worcester would be huge, but in order to make BC to Worcester happen, you really need to fudge with bracket integrity. You could move Quinnipiac out to Albany to create a more palatable series of moves to slide BC in to Worcester but then you have the problem of RPI being the #4 seed there and an in-conference matchup.
My guess is that the committee would view having to face in-conference Lowell and be matched up with #3 North Dakota as being a bigger punishment to BC than having to get on a plane and fly to Cincinnati and face what looks like, on paper, to be a pretty damn manageable bracket. As the highest-ranked #2 seed, I think the committee would look to put them in the more preferable situation.
With the logjam of Eastern teams in the middle portion of the tournament field, BC might have extra urgency in their push for a 1-seed, as it might be the best way to make sure they can stay East.
My Frozen Four prediction based on this bracket:
Quinnipiac, Boston College, St Cloud State, Providence