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NCAA Men’s Hockey Bracketology: Still In, But Only Just

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Eagles clinging to final at-large spot

2015 Beanpot Tournament - Consolation Game Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

A lot can change in a week. A week ago, Boston College’s winning streak had just been snapped by BU - a cold dose of reality that this year’s Terriers seem to just have BC’s number. But, no big deal - BC was sitting top 10 in the Pairwise, with games against Merrimack and Northeastern on deck.

About that...

The Eagles’ pair of losses - arguably their two worst of the entire season - has them swimming in rocky waters entering the final two weeks of the regular season.

BC is clinging to the final at-large spot in the NCAA tournament, and would be out if anyone pulled an upset in their conference tournament. They head in to two of their toughest series of the year - Vermont and UMass-Lowell - on a slump.

The good news is that these upcoming games present a real opportunity for the Eagles, if they can find their form and take 3 of 4 (or even go 2-1-1). But they don’t have the kind of wiggle room they had a week ago, when it looked like two splits might be good enough.

Here’s how the field would look if the season ended today:

Team PWCs RPI

1. Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC #1) 59 .6079

2. Denver 58 .5996

3. Harvard (ECAC #1) 57 .5818

4. Minnesota (B1G #1) 56 .5692

5. Boston University (HEA #1) 55 .5673

6. Penn State 54 .5655

7. Western Michigan 53 .5653

8. Providence 51 .5581

9. Mass.-Lowell 51 .5574

10. North Dakota 50 .5550

11. Union 49 .5533

12. St. Cloud State 48 .5507

13. Cornell 47 .5495

14. Boston College 47 .5422

15. Ohio State 45 .5422

16. Vermont 44 .5408

17. Nebraska-Omaha 43 .5401

18. Notre Dame 42 .5395

19. St. Lawrence 41 .5382

20. Air Force (AHC #1) 40 .5375

21. Wisconsin 39 .5334

22. Quinnipiac 38 .5208

23. Northeastern 37 .5236

24. Bemidji State (WCHA #1) 36 .5189

BC’s margin for error is nonexistent right now. Two wins this weekend (in a vacuum) push their RPI up to .5483. Two losses would drop BC’s RPI to .5329.

Let’s walk through the process of how the bracket would look if the season ended today:

Assigning the one seeds geographically gives you:

  1. Minnesota Duluth -> Fargo regional
  2. Denver -> Cincinnati regional
  3. Harvard -> Manchester regional
  4. Minnesota -> Providence regional

Straight bracket integrity from there - with the exception of shoehorning North Dakota - gives us:

FARGO

1 - Minnesota-Duluth
16 - Bemidji State

8 - Providence
10 - North Dakota

PROVIDENCE

4 - Minnesota
13 - Cornell

5 - BU
12 - St. Cloud State

MANCHESTER

3 - Harvard
14 - Boston College

6 - Penn State
11 - Union

CINCINNATI

2 - Denver
15 - Air Force

7 - Western Michigan
9 - Lowell

No problematic in-conference matchups here, but we’re going to want to change things around to maximize attendance, which the committee can do by swapping teams within seeding bands (a 2 for a 2 or a 3 for a 3, for instance - so #4 cannot swap with #5, but #5 could swap with #8).

Let’s go through the brackets:

Fargo’s attendance will be fine with host North Dakota there.

It’s hard to imagine Providence College NOT going to the Providence regional but this is going to require a big shakeup to make it happen. Let’s pump the brakes and get back to this. For now, knowing BU and Cornell would be there would put it in decent shape.

Manchester would be in good shape with BC and Harvard, plus Union and Penn State.

Cincinnati is going to be tough no matter what with this set of teams. You can only get one of semi-local Western Michigan or Penn State; in this bracket they get Western Michigan.

At this point the committee would have two options. Leave this bracket as it is, which would give you excellent attendance in Fargo, fine attendance in Manch/Prov, and an unavoidable empty house in Cincy - or nuke bracket integrity to try to wedge the Friars in to the Dunkin Donuts Center and try to bang out two of these regional sites.

Recent history suggests to me that they’ll do what they can to get the Friars to Providence.

In my estimation, the best way for them to do this would be a full switcheroo of two seeds. BU goes to Manchester; Providence College goes to Providence. Ship Western Michigan off to Fargo which creates a natural 7 vs. 10 matchup with North Dakota; send Penn State to Cincinnati, where they’ll likely draw a decent traveling support.

FARGO

1 - Minnesota-Duluth
16 - Bemidji State

7 - Western Michigan
10 - North Dakota

PROVIDENCE

4 - Minnesota
13 - Cornell

8 - Providence College
12 - St. Cloud State

MANCHESTER

3 - Harvard
14 - Boston College

5 - Boston University
11 - Union

CINCINNATI

2 - Denver
15 - Air Force

6 - Penn State
9 - Lowell

One more swap gives you a little more bracket integrity: have St. Cloud State face BU in Manchester, while sending Union to Providence. You can’t wedge Lowell in to the East because of the two HEA teams as 2 seeds.

FARGO

1 - Minnesota-Duluth
16 - Bemidji State

7 - Western Michigan
10 - North Dakota

PROVIDENCE

4 - Minnesota
13 - Cornell

8 - Providence College
11 - Union

MANCHESTER

3 - Harvard
14 - Boston College

5 - Boston University
12 - St. Cloud State

CINCINNATI

2 - Denver
15 - Air Force

6 - Penn State
9 - Lowell

That’s what I think we’d see this week. I’m not trying to troll here by creating a Beanpot replica in Manchester (complete with replacement Huskies!) - this is honestly the way I think it would shake out.

We’ll check in again next week.