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NCAA Women's Hockey Bracketology: January 26th, 2017

Our first look at this year’s NCAA tournament picture

Wow, can you believe that three weeks from Sunday is the end of the women’s hockey regular season? February 19th against Providence College is senior day, and the final game before the puck drops on the Women’s Hockey East tournament.

Unlike last season, there are no surprises with regards to changes to the selection criteria this year. Having said that, the selection committee could always throw everyone a curveball like they did on last Selection Sunday.

Anyway, we’re getting close to the end of the season and the Pairwise Rankings are (sort of) starting to take shape. Let’s take a look at how things are shaking out.

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. The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee shall have the authority to modify its working principles related to the championship site assignment on a case-by-case basis.

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, with bracket integrity the secondary consideration.

Here are the current autobids, chosen based on best in-conference winning percentage:

WHEA: Boston College
WCHA: Wisconsin
ECAC: Clarkson
CHA: Robert Morris

Now we'll fill in the rest of the top eight using the Pairwise Rankings, seeding only the top 4 teams:

1) Wisconsin – WCHA Champion
2) St. Lawrence
3) Minnesota-Duluth
4) Boston College – WHEA Champion
Clarkson – ECAC Champion
Minnesota
Cornell
Robert Morris – CHA Champion

Straight bracket integrity gives us the following:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2) St. Lawrence
Minnesota @ (3) Minnesota-Duluth
Clarkson @ (4) Boston College

This gives us a nice, easy bracket. There’s only one flight involved, Robert Morris to Wisconsin, and given that the Colonials are flying no matter who they play of the top 4, that’s unavoidable.

In theory, the committee could decide to flip Cornell and Clarkson, keeping the Big Red on a long bus trip to BC but sending Clarkson on a 10 mile hike down US-11 to St. Lawrence — which is similar to the decision the committee made last year — but that’s unlikely. Given that Clarkson and Cornell are two spots away in the rankings, and that Clarkson right now is projected to be the conference champion, it’s not worth the trouble for the committee to do that.

So that,’s our bracket.

Current Bracket:

Robert Morris @ (1) Wisconsin
Cornell @ (2) St. Lawrence
Minnesota @ (3) Minnesota-Duluth
Clarkson @ (4) Boston College

Three bus trips, one flight, and a partridge in a pear tree.

There are some interesting potential situations with this bracket, though. Teams 3 through 6 are in a virtual tie in the Pairwise — with 2nd place certainly within shouting distance — so there is a ton of potential for movement between now and Selection Sunday on March 5th.