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NCAA Hockey Bracketology, February 12, 2015

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Updates on the road to the Garden.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Let's once again take a look at what the tournament would look like if the season ended today.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. Minnesota State – WCHA Champ
2. North Dakota – NCHC Champ
3. Boston University – Hockey East Champ
4. Nebraska-Omaha
5. Minnesota-Duluth
6. Michigan Tech
7. Miami
8. Bowling Green
9. Denver
10. Providence
11. Boston College
12. Michigan – Big Ten Champ
13t. Quinnipiac – ECAC Champ
13t. Minnesota
15. Massachusetts-Lowell
25t. Robert Morris – AHA Champ

Bubble teams (in order): Harvard, St. Lawrence, Yale, Vermont, Penn State

By conference: NCHC 5, Hockey East 4, WCHA 3, Big Ten 2, ECAC 1, Atlantic Hockey 1

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: Minnesota State, North Dakota, Boston University, Nebraska-Omaha
No. 2 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Miami, Bowling Green
No. 3 seeds: Denver, Providence, Boston College, Michigan
No. 4 seeds: Quinnipiac, Minnesota, Massachusetts-Lowell, Robert Morris

Step 3: Place host teams in regionals

This year's four regional hosts are Brown (East in Providence), New Hampshire (Northeast in Manchester), Notre Dame (Midwest in South Bend) and North Dakota (West in Fargo). Only one of those programs, North Dakota, is safely in the tournament field at this point, so North Dakota will be slotted into the West Regional.

Step 4: Place number 1 seeds in Regionals

Number 1 seeds are placed based on proximity to regional site.

No. 1 Minnesota State is placed in the Midwest Regional in South Bend.
No. 2 North Dakota is placed in the West Regional in Fargo.
No. 3 Boston University is placed in the East Regional in Providence.
No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha is placed in the Northeast Regional in Manchester.

Step 5: Place the other 12 teams avoiding intra-conference match ups if possible. Begin by filling each bracket by banding groups. Remember that teams are not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites by ranking order within the banding.

If this is the case, then the committee should seed so that the quarterfinals are seeded such that the four regional championships are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

Number 2 seeds:

No. 8 Bowling Green is placed in No. 1 Minnesota State's Regional, the Midwest. 
No. 7 Miami is placed in No. 2 North Dakota's Regional, the West.
No. 6 Michigan Tech is placed in No. 3 Boston University's Regional, the East.
No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth is placed in No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha's Regional, the Northeast.

Number 3 seeds:

No. 9 Denver is placed in No. 8 Bowling Green's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 10 Providence is placed in No. 7 Miami's Regional, the West.
No. 11 Boston College is placed in No. 6 Michigan Tech's Regional, the East.
No. 12 Michigan is placed in No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth's Regional, the Northeast.

Number 4 seeds:

No. 13 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 14 Minnesota is placed in No. 3 Boston University's Regional, the East.
No. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell is placed in No. 2 North Dakota's Regional, the West.
No. 16 Robert Morris is placed in No. 1 Minnesota State's Regional, the Midwest.

Our bracket as we have it set up:

Midwest Regional (South Bend, Indiana)
1 Minnesota State vs. 16 Robert Morris
8 Bowling Green vs. 9 Denver

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 13 Quinnipiac
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12 Michigan

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
3 Boston University vs. 14 Minnesota
6 Michigan Tech vs. 11 Boston College

West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota)
2 North Dakota vs. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell
7 Miami vs. 10 Providence

After initially populating the bracket, the NCAA then looks to avoid intra-conference matchups. Surprisingly, no such conflicts this time around.

Finally, the NCAA looks at ways of boosting attendance by tweaking the programs within each band. There isn't a whole lot you can do with the 1 line, with three of four teams from the west. Same for the 2 line for that matter, with all four teams from either the NCHC or WCHA.

With the teams on the 3 line, ideally you'd have Denver out West, PC in Providence, BC in Manchester and Michigan in South Bend. Unfortunately, a Miami-Denver intra-conference matchup prevents this. I suppose the committee could stage it anyway with five NCHC teams in, but I'll leave as is for now.

There's definitely some flexibility on the 4 line, where the Gophers would likely move from the East Regional to the West. Cue crazy Golden Gopher conspiracy theories. Protecting the top seed, Minnesota State, by keeping the matchup with the Atlantic Hockey champ, and rearranging the other three fours would send Minnesota to the West, Lowell to the Northeast and Quinnipiac to the East.

One more minor tweak I'd probably make is taking the Bowling Green-Denver matchup in South Bend and swapping it for the Miami-Providence matchup. That would send Denver out west and keep Miami much closer to home.

The resulting bracket:

Midwest Regional (South Bend, Indiana)
1 Minnesota State vs. 16 Robert Morris
7 Miami vs. 10 Providence

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 Nebraska-Omaha vs. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell
5 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12 Michigan

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
3 Boston University vs. 13 Quinnipiac
6 Michigan Tech vs. 11 Boston College

West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota)
2 North Dakota vs. 14 Minnesota
8 Bowling Green vs. 9 Denver

Not as nice and neat on the travel front as I'd like, but again, with half the tournament field from the NCHC and WCHA, it's probably not going to be as tidy as the committee would like.

With this tournament field, who ya got in the Frozen Four? Give me Minnesota State, Michigan, (grumble) Boston University and North Dakota.