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NCAA Women's Hockey Bracketology: February 25th, 2015

BC's tie to BU complicates things for the Eagles. We take an in depth look at the numbers.

BC Athletics

BC's hopes for a perfect trip through the Hockey East regular season ended in disappointment on Saturday with a frustrating (if thrilling) tie to the Terriers down at Walter Brown Arena. It didn't affect BC's Hockey East seeding—the Eagles had locked up the regular season championship with four games to spare—but it does throw a wrench into BC's hopes for the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles are still #1 in the Pairwise, and with some breathing room in the RPI component over Minnesota, but the problem is in the other two components of the Pairwise rankings.

The problem lies in BC's record against common opponents ("COp") and teams under consideration ("TUC"). BC can't flip the COp component, because there are no more out of conference games to be had and Minnesota went a perfect 5-0 in games against teams BC has played.

That leaves TUC as the issue. BC is hanging on by a thread over Minnesota, but that will change by the end of the conference tournaments.

There are two factors at play here: Whether BC plays BU in the Hockey East finals, and whether Dartmouth can beat Clarkson in 1 out of 3 games in the ECAC quarterfinals.

Silly? Let me explain.

BC vs. BU in the WHEA Finals: It is here, at long last, that Hockey East's extremely weak schedule is going to hurt the Eagles. Minnesota, should they win the WCHA championship, would in all likelihood add two TUC wins to their resume (semifinals and finals). The only TUC BC might play is Boston University.

The resulting TUC records would put BC at 11-1-2 and Minnesota at 21-2-4, giving BC the edge. But there's another factor.

Dartmouth vs. Clarkson in the ECAC quarterfinals: According to our handy dandy Pairwise Predictor, Dartmouth would drop out of TUC status if they are swept by Clarkson in the ECAC quarterfinals. Unfortunately, BC played Dartmouth this season, and if they fall off the TUC cliff, BC would lose that TUC win.

The resulting TUC records would put BC at 10-1-2 and Minnesota at 21-2-4, now giving the Gophers the edge and putting Minnesota at #1 overall.

This changes, of course, if either Minnesota or BC doesn't win their conference and the other does—but the obvious result is that the one that wins their championship would claim #1 heading into the NCAA tournament.

Fortunately, #1 vs. #2 doesn't totally hurt the Eagles unless either Syracuse or RIT wins the CHA championship (Syracuse being the more likely of the two). But we'll look at the most likely scenario in either case.

Here is the selection criteria as set forth in the women's hockey handbook:

The Women’s Ice Hockey Committee will seed the selected participants as follows:

1. The top four teams according to the selection criteria will be seeded 1-4 at the time of the selection call. The remaining four teams will be placed in the bracket based on relative strength as long as these pairings do not result in additional flights. These teams will not be reseeded and the committee will not change the bracket once the tournament has begun.

2. Assuming it meets the committee’s hosting criteria, the highest seeded team will be given the opportunity to host the quarterfinal game.

Pairings in the quarterfinal round shall be based primarily on the teams’ geographical proximity to one another, regardless of their region, in order to avoid air travel in quarterfinal-round games whenever possible. Teams’ relative strength, according to the committee’s selection criteria, shall be considered when establishing pairings if such pairings do not result in air travel that otherwise could be avoided.

There are a few key differences between the men's hockey criteria and the women's hockey criteria. In the men's tournament, the selection committee primarily avoids intraconference first round matchups and tries to improve attendance, and the 16 teams are seeded 1-16.

Women's hockey only seeds the top 4 of 8 teams, and the primary consideration is minimizing the number of flights. This will be key to determining BC's first round matchup.

Current autobids (based on conference tournament seeding):

Hockey East: Boston College
WCHA: Minnesota
ECAC: Clarkson
CHA*: Mercyhurst

*This is the first season that the CHA has an autobid.

Scenario #1a: BC wins Hockey East and holds on to #1 in the Pairwise, Mercyhurst wins the CHA

We'll fill in the top 8, seeding only the top 4:

1) Boston College – HEA Champion
2) Minnesota – WCHA Champion
3) Wisconsin (PWR 3rd)
4) Harvard (PWR 4th)
Quinnipiac (PWR 5th)
Boston University (PWR 6th)
Clarkson – ECAC Champion
Mercyhurst – CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Mercyhurst @ (1) Boston College
Clarkson @ (2) Minnesota
Boston University @ (3) Wisconsin
Quinnipiac @ (4) Harvard

We have some problems: Mercyhurst to Boston College is a flight (cutoff for flight vs. bus trip is 400 miles), as well as Clarkson to Minnesota and Boston University to Wisconsin. Quinnipiac to Harvard is a bus trip.

We are obligated to minimize flights as much as is possible without adjusting the top 4 seeds. The fewest number of flights possible is 2, and the easiest way to do that without hurting bracket integrity too much is to swap Mercyhurst and Clarkson.

Current Bracket:

Clarkson @ (1) Boston College
Mercyhurst @ (2) Minnesota
Boston University @ (3) Wisconsin
Quinnipiac @ (4) Harvard

This would be the bracket if the season ended today.

Scenario #1b: BC wins Hockey East and holds on to #1 in the Pairwise, Syracuse or RIT wins the CHA

1) Boston College – HEA Champion
2) Minnesota – WCHA Champion
3) Wisconsin (PWR 3rd)
4) Harvard (PWR 4th)
Quinnipiac (PWR 5th)
Boston University (PWR 6th)
Clarkson – ECAC Champion
Syracuse/RIT – CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Syracuse/RIT @ (1) Boston College
Clarkson @ (2) Minnesota
Boston University @ (3) Wisconsin
Quinnipiac @ (4) Harvard

No adjustments are needed, as we've already minimized flights.

Syracuse and RIT are both substantially weaker than the rest of the tournament field, so if they win the CHA, it would be very important for BC to be #1 overall. Let's see why.

Scenario #2: BC wins Hockey East but falls to #2 in the Pairwise

1) Minnesota – WCHA Champion
2) Boston College – HEA Champion
3) Wisconsin (PWR 3rd)
4) Harvard (PWR 4th)
Quinnipiac (PWR 5th)
Boston University (PWR 6th)
Clarkson – ECAC Champion
Syracuse/RIT – CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Syracuse/RIT @ (1) Minnesota
Clarkson @ (2) Boston College
Boston University @ (3) Wisconsin
Quinnipiac @ (4) Harvard

Unfortunately, here lies the problem -- no matter who wins the CHA, Clarkson to BC is a bus trip, so the committee would not need to swap the CHA champion and send them to Chestnut Hill.

So, who wants a TL;DR version?

1) The Eagles need Dartmouth to take a game from Clarkson to have a realistic shot at #1 overall and any hope of facing the CHA champion,

2) The Eagles also will probably need their Hockey East championship game opponent to be BU, for the same reason,

3) Otherwise, BC will likely play the team ranked 7th as long as that team is in the east.

Lots to digest. Who doesn't love the Pairwise??