NCAA Hockey Bracketology

Last year the NCAA held their Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. Who will make the run to Pittsburgh this season? - J. Meric

We break down what the tournament could look like come March when the fun really kicks up a notch.

It's been a crazy season so far. UMass has finally held on to upset Boston College, BGSU looked like they hit their stride (they have since lost 3 straight), Miami looks like a top 5 team, and WMU is leading the CCHA. Crazy. But how many of our MAC teams are expected to make the NCAA tournament? Where will they go? Can you visit them? The answers can be found in our Bracketology.

Unlike the basketball tournament, the hockey tournament is really easy to predict. The NCAA uses the Pairwise system to rank teams and then seed them. Here are some basic rules for you:

  • 16 teams make the NCAA tournament (5 conference winners, 11 at-large)
  • Regional hosts are automatically placed in their region
  • Single-elimination format, with regional champions heading to the Frozen Four (this year in Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Teams are placed in "bands" by seeds (1-seeds, 2-seeds, etc). Teams CANNOT move between bands, but within them (i.e. a 7th overall seed [2-seed band] can move to the 8th or 5th seed's spot if needed/wanted
  • No intra-conference match-ups in the 1st round
Any other questions should be answered, but lets get to it.

Step 1: Getting the Field:

First up, we need our 5 conference champions. We'll use the conference leaders for good measure.

Atlantic Hockey: Niagara
CCHA: Western Michigan
ECAC: Quinnipiac
Hockey East: Boston College
WCHA: St. Cloud State

Now for our at-large teams. We'll use the Pairwise to get them, but also for seeding. So here are the top 16 teams in the Pairwise:

1. Quinnipiac
2. Minnesota
t-3. New Hampshire
t-3. Miami
t-5. Yale
t-5. Boston College
7. Western Michigan
8. UMass-Lowell
9. St. Cloud State
10. North Dakota
t-11. Boston U
t-11. Alaska
13. Denver
t-14. Notre Dame
t-14. Dartmouth
16. Minnesota State

Let's break ties by using the RPI (already sorta done for us). Then we have to make sure all of our conference leaders make it in, so sorry Minnesota State. Our field is:

1. Quinnipiac
2. Minnesota
3. UNH
4. Miami
5. Yale
6. Boston College
7. WMU
8. UML
9. St. Cloud
10. NoDak
11. Boston U
12. Alaska
13. Denver
14. ND
15. Dartmouth
16. Niagara

Step 2: Rock the Bands

Easy step........

1-seeds: Quinnipiac, Minnesota, UNH, Miami
2-seeds: Yale, BC, WMU, Mass-Lowell
3-seeds: St. Cloud, NoDak, Boston U, Alaska
4-seeds: Denver, ND, Dartmouth, Niagara

Step 3: Place 1-seeds and Hosts

Our regional locations, with hosts, are:

East Regional: Providence, RI (Brown University)
Northeast Regional: Manchester, NH (UNH)
Midwest Regional: Toledo, OH (BGSU)
West Regional: Grand Rapids, MI (Michigan)

As you see, only 1 of those 4 teams are currently even sniffing the tournament, and they are a 1-seed. So they go first, after that, we try for geographic locality..........

No. 3 New Hampshire goes to the Northeast Regional
No. 1 Quinnipiac goes to the East Regional
No. 2 Minnesota goes to the West Regional
No. 4 Miami goes to the Midwest Regional

NOTE: Miami has had a HORRIBLE string of placements the past few years. If they hit the jackpot and go to the Midwest Regional, I expect RedHawk fans to own Toledo.

Step 4: Everyone Else

Now we place everyone else, first we start off just by going with the usual 1 vs 16, 8 vs 9, etc. pairings........

2 seeds

No. 5 Yale is placed in No. 4 Miami's regional, the Midwest
No. 6 Boston College is placed in No. 3 New Hampshire's regional, the Northeast
No. 7 Western Michigan is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's regional, the West
No. 8 Mass-Lowell is placed in No. 1 Quinnipiac's regional, the East

3-seeds

No. 9 St. Cloud State is placed with No. 8 Mass-Lowell in the East
No. 10 North Dakota is placed with No. 7 WMU in the West
No. 11 Boston U is placed with No. 6 Boston College in the Northeast
No. 12 Alaska is placed with No. 5 Yale in the Midwest

4-seeds

No. 13 Denver is placed with No. 4 Miami in the Midwest
No. 14 Notre Dame is placed with No. 3 New Hampshire in the Northeast
No. 15 Dartmouth is placed with No. 2 Minnesota in the West
No. 16 Niagara is placed with No. 1 Quinnipiac in the East

Therefore we have regionals that look like this.......

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NW)
No. 3 New Hampshire vs No. 14 Notre Dame
No. 6 Boston College vs No. 11 Boston U

East Regional (Providence, RI)
No. 1 Quinnipiac vs No. 16 Niagara
No. 8 UMass-Lowell vs No. 9 St. Cloud State

West Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
No. 2 Minnesota vs No 15 Dartmouth
No. 7 Western Michigan vs No. 10 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo, OH)
No. 4 Miami vs No. 13 Denver
No. 5 Yale vs No. 12 Alaska

Now we check for intra-conference match-ups. We have 1, and it's a big one: Boston College vs Boston U. Oh man, if we could keep it, but we can't. We move Alaska and Boston U around to get:

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NW)
No. 3 New Hampshire vs No. 14 Notre Dame
No. 6 Boston College vs No. 12 Alaska

East Regional (Providence, RI)
No. 1 Quinnipiac vs No. 16 Niagara
No. 8 UMass-Lowell vs No. 9 St. Cloud State

West Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
No. 2 Minnesota vs No 15 Dartmouth
No. 7 Western Michigan vs No. 10 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo, OH)
No. 4 Miami vs No. 13 Denver
No. 5 Yale vs No. 11 Boston U

Now for attendance woes, let's go by seeds. I love our 1 seeds, they won't move at all. Our 2 seeds really suck though having 3 eastern teams with 2 eastern regionals. 2 of those eastern teams are Hockey East schools, and that prevents Boston U from playing close to home. Alaska is a wild-card since they aren't in the continental United States and their travel is killer regardless, but we can't really move them anywhere. Switching them with St. Cloud does nothing but ruin bracket integrity.

There is one chance in the 4-seeds we can make though. If we move Dartmouth closer to home and bring Notre Dame out West, we get a some good brackets...........

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NW)
No. 3 New Hampshire vs No. 15 Dartmouth
No. 6 Boston College vs No. 12 Alaska

East Regional (Providence, RI)
No. 1 Quinnipiac vs No. 16 Niagara
No. 8 UMass-Lowell vs No. 9 St. Cloud State

West Regional (Grand Rapids, MI)
No. 2 Minnesota vs No 14 Notre Dame
No. 7 Western Michigan vs No. 10 North Dakota

Midwest Regional (Toledo, OH)
No. 4 Miami vs No. 13 Denver
No. 5 Yale vs No. 11 Boston U

We can't switch Denver and Notre Dame because their respective match-ups would be intra-conference match-ups.

So let's look at our regionals. In Manchester, we have 3 East schools and Alaska, in Providence we have 3 East schools and St. Cloud, in the West we have WCHA vs CCHA in both games, and in the Midwest, we have mayhem, but Miami is finally close to home. I can live with all that.

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