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NCAA Hockey Bracketology, February 2: BC’s situation improves

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Boston College moves up to #10 this week; would that keep them East?

Kathryn Riley, BC Interruption

What up party people!

Boston College’s win on Saturday over Notre Dame was their biggest of the season - not just because it roused the crowd at Conte Forum and made the building shake like it hadn’t in years, but because it lifted BC off the cut line for the first time since their 0-for-2 trip to Pennsylvania.

BC is up to #10 in the Pairwise rankings, meaning if the season ended today, they’d be in the NCAA tournament no matter what happens in conference tournaments. PlayoffStatus has their odds of making the tournament as up to 79%.

With 8 games left in the regular season, a 4-4 record should be enough to keep BC on the right side of things heading in to conference tournaments.

If the season ended today, what might the NCAA bracket look like?

Let’s take a look.

The field of 16

Six conference champs, plus the top 10 at-large teams; let’s assume the highest ranked team in each conference as the champion for purposes of this exercise.

  1. Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC #1)
    2. Denver (NCHC #2)
    3. Boston University (Hockey East #1)
    4. Western Michigan (NCHC #3)
    5. Penn State (Big Ten #1)
    6. Union (ECAC #1)
    7. Minnesota (Big Ten #2)
    8. Harvard (ECAC #2)
    9. North Dakota (NCHC #4)
    10. Boston College (Hockey East #2)
    11. Providence (Hockey East #3)
    12. Vermont (Hockey East #4)
    13. UMass-Lowell (Hockey East #5)
    14. St. Lawrence (ECAC #3)
    20. Air Force (AHC #1)
    27. Michigan Tech (WCHA #1)

Here are your first teams out if the season ended today: Ohio STate, St. Cloud State, Cornell, and a resurgent Wisconsin. Omaha and Notre Dame are hanging around also.

Placing hosts and #1 seeds

The #1 seeds get assigned to regionals geographically.

#1 Minnesota-Duluth goes to Fargo.
#2 Denver theoretically goes to Cincinnati, but hold that thought for a second.
#3 BU goes to Manchester or Providence; let’s say Providence for now, which is technically a smidge closer.
#4 Western Michigan, we’re going to put in Cincinnati, since it’s within close range (by western standards; about 300 miles); Denver would have to fly regardless of where they go, so let’s put them in Manchester.

#9 North Dakota goes to Fargo no matter what as the host of that regional.

#11 Providence is not technically the host in Providence, but let’s be real: they’re going to Providence if they make the tournament and we’re going to basically treat them as mandated hosts.

Filling the bracket

We’ll have to untangle in-conference matchups and maximize attendance later, but first let’s fill it with straight bracket integrity, keeping in mind host requirements.

FARGO

  1. Minnesota Duluth vs. 16. Michigan Tech
    8. Harvard vs. 9. North Dakota

CINCINNATI

4. Western Michigan vs. 13. UMass-Lowell
5. Penn State vs. 12. Vermont

MANCHESTER

2. Denver vs. 15. Air Force
7. Minnesota vs. 10. Boston College

PROVIDENCE

3. Boston University vs. 14. St. Lawrence
6. Union vs. 11. Providence

Fixing in conference matchups

This bracket, remarkably, has no in-conference matchups and works with straight bracket integrity, even while making sure NoDak is in Fargo and PC is in Providence.

Our work here is done?

Maximizing attendance

The committee is empowered to move teams within seeding bands to maximize attendance at regionals. Where might we need some help?

Fargo is fine with North Dakota there.

Cincinnati’s best case scenario with this bracket is to have Western Michigan and Penn State present. Having Michigan Tech would help, but that would really mess with bracket integrity so we won’t try. With Ohio State, Notre Dame and Miami all on the wrong side of the line, Cincy’s going to be the toughest to fill no matter what you do.

Manch-Vegas has BC, so that’s good, but can we do better? Let’s swap Harvard east to Manchester and send Minnesota to Fargo to play North Dakota; now you’ve got Denver/Air Force and BC/Harvard, meaning at least one Boston team will be playing in the regional final.

As the #2 overall seed, Denver is pretty well entitled to that matchup against autobid Air Force, so we won’t blow up bracket integrity to shift Lowell east.

Providence is fine with BU and Providence there, plus two local ECAC teams.

Here’s your bracket:

FARGO

  1. Minnesota Duluth vs. 16. Michigan Tech
    7. Minnesota vs. 9. North Dakota

CINCINNATI

4. Western Michigan vs. 13. UMass-Lowell
5. Penn State vs. 12. Vermont

MANCHESTER

2. Denver vs. 15. Air Force
8. Harvard vs. 10. Boston College

PROVIDENCE

3. Boston University vs. 14. St. Lawrence
6. Union vs. 11. Providence

This came out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

When next we do this activity, the first round of the Beanpot will be in the rear view mirror - with major implications for BC, BU, and Harvard. We’ll see you then.

**heads back to my retirement home**