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NCAA Hockey Bracketology: January 25, 2017

BC’s back above the cut line as we examine the state of play

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Quinnipiac vs North Dakota Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Chaos reigns.

Remember when Providence looked dead in the water? They're up to 15th in the Pairwise and are within striking distance of moving in to an at-large position.

Remember when Harvard was a 1-seed? They've plummeted to 13th. UMass-Lowell has also taken a swoon down to 10th.

Minnesota-Duluth, Denver, BU and Penn State have pretty well separated themselves from the pack, but it's just wild below them.

There are probably 6 teams below the cut line with a realistic chance of jumping above it (Omaha, St. Lawrence, PC, Notre Dame, SCSU, Quinnipiac) and a few others with a less realistic but not nonexistent chance (Miami, Wisconsin maybe?) - plus a whole bunch of WCHA/Atlantic Hockey teams in play for the autobid.

BC is in 14th, which means if the season ended today, they’d likely be in, barring an upset in one of the major conference tournaments. With 9 games left in the regular season, BC is in a position where if they go 6-3, maths suggest that they will either stay in that 14th spot or maybe slide up by a spot or two. With 5 wins, they’ll be in a precarious spot; with 7, they’d be in pretty good shape.

Let’s take a look at what the field would look like if the season ended today and where BC would likely be going.

STEP ONE: Setting the 16-team field

Six conference champions qualify directly in to the NCAA tournament, then 10 at-large teams are added via the PairWise rankings. For the sake of this conversation let’s assume the highest-ranked team right now in each conference wins their league; here’s who would make up the field.

1] Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC #1)
2] Denver (NCHC #2)
3] Penn State (B1G #1)
4] BU (Hockey East #1)

5] Western Michigan [NCHC #3]
6] Union [ECAC #1]
7] Minnesota [B1G #2]
8] Ohio State [B1G #3]

9] Vermont (Hockey East #2)
10] Lowell (Hockey East #3)
11] Cornell (ECAC #2)
12] North Dakota (NCHC #4)

13] Harvard (ECAC #3)
14] Boston College (Hockey East #4)
20] Air Force (Atlantic Hockey #1)
24] Bemidji State (WCHA #1)

STEP TWO: Assigning hosts

Any team hosting a regional automatically gets to play in it and everyone else is placed around them. In this case, North Dakota is hosting in Fargo, so they’d slot in as Fargo’s 3 seed. Though neither would be in the field right now, Miami (the host of Cincy’s regional) and Providence (not technically the host in Providence, but they’d probably be functionally treated as such) are lurking and have a chance to qualify.

STEP THREE: Assigning one seeds to regionals

The #1 seed gets its closest regional. In this case, that means Duluth goes to Fargo.

#2 Denver goes to Cincinnati, #3 Penn State goes to Providence, and #4 BU goes to Manchester.

STEP FOUR: Filling the field

We take a crack at filling the field based on these hosts and pure bracket integrity. We’ll have to go back later and untangle any in-conference matchups, which are not permitted unless they are unavoidable.

FARGO
1] Duluth
16] Bemidji State

8] Ohio St
12] North Dakota

MANCHESTER
4] BU
13] Harvard

5] Western Michigan
11] Cornell

CINCINNATI
2] Denver
15] Air Force

7] Minnesota
9] Vermont

PROVIDENCE
3] Penn State
14] Boston College

6] Union
10] UMass-Lowell

STEP FIVE: Fixing any in-conference matchups

Magically, there are NO in-conference matchups in this bracket so this could roll out as-is. Is that what we’ll do?

STEP SIX: Maximizing attendance

The committee’s main task, aside from reading off a spreadsheet, is moving teams within seeding bands to maximize attendance at regionals. This means team #6 can swap with team #8, because they’re both 2-seeds - but #8 (2 seed) can’t swap with team #9 (3 seed).

Let’s look at each regional’s attendance situation.

Fargo will be a sellout with NoDak present. No worries there.

Manchester would have BU and Harvard in this scenario, that’s pretty solid.

Cincy would be in rough shape under this scenario. Nobody remotely local. How can we fix it? We can swap Ohio State and Minnesota, moving tOSU to Ohio and Minny to Fargo for a delicious matchup against North Dakota. In theory you could also try to wedge Penn State in to Cincy but that would require moving a lot of matchups around, so I think they’d keep it as is.

Providence would be in fine shape with traveling Penn State fans, BC fans making the short trip, and UMass-Lowell and Union fans not far either.

So here’s your bracket if the season ended today:

FARGO
1] Duluth
16] Bemidji State

7] Minnesota
12] North Dakota

MANCHESTER
4] BU
13] Harvard

5] Western Michigan
11] Cornell

CINCINNATI
2] Denver
15] Air Force

8] Ohio St.
9] Vermont

PROVIDENCE
3] Penn State
14] Boston College

6] Union
10] UMass-Lowell