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NCAA Hockey Bracket: Which Regional Is The Toughest?

The annual question, answered in two ways

Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Tough afternoon today for BC women's hockey. The great thing about sports, though, is that they pretty much just keep on moving along no matter what happens. So we immediately have something else to talk about: next weekend's NCAA men's regionals.

Annually, the debate rages over which regional is the "group of death," as opposed to who got a cupcake draw. Frankly, the committee did a pretty good job this year making sure the brackets were pretty solid and inarguable; the only real controversy is whether it was fair or not to make Quinnipiac play in Albany instead of Worcester. Beyond that, it's hard to say anyone got "screwed" (though I'm sure someone will try, and Tears of Unfathomable Sadness will be there document it).

That said, some regionals do shake out to be a little tougher.

First, let's rank the four regionals based on combined KRACH rankings of the four teams.

Quinnipiac 668.6
Lowell 291.8
Yale 270.2
RIT 60.47
TOTAL >>> 1291.07

Providence 470.4
BC 398.7
Harvard 275.4
Duluth 239.2
TOTAL >> 1383.70

St. Cloud St. 572.9
Denver 389.3
BU 259.3
Ferris St. 108.8
TOTAL >> 1330.3

North Dakota 537.9
Michigan 296.2
Notre Dame 255.6
Northeastern 222.1
TOTAL >> 1311.8

So, according to KRACH, the most difficult regional is BC's Northeast regional. This makes sense, since BC and Providence have both solidly been in the top 5 pretty much all year long, and Duluth is the strongest of all the 4 seeds by a decent margin (again, in KRACH terms only).

As is appropriate, the two most lopsided regionals are the two featuring the #1 and #2 seed - both QU's regional and SCSU's regional feature huge drop offs from the #1 team, particularly due to Ferris State and RIT, the two autobids.

The regional that most people - myself included - see as subjectively the most difficult is the Midwest regional, as Northeastern is certainly a much tougher out at this point than KRACH would suggest. What's noteworthy is that according to KRACH, this in the most evenly matched regional beyond the big gap from #1 to #2. #s 2, 3 and 4 are all pretty closely bunched up, which adds to the perception that this is a really tough bracket to call.

If we all pretty much agree that North Dakota has the toughest test of any #1 seed, the harder part is saying which top seeded team got the most favorable draw. My inclination is to say Quinnipiac. Lowell and Yale are both very good teams, but neither necessarily brings the star-studded fear factor that Michigan, Denver and BC bring to the table.

The most difficult game to forecast, according to KRACH, is that Lowell/Yale game; there's just about a 20 point KRACH spread between the two.

Of course, as we know, every game is hard to forecast in this tournament. Should be a good one.