NCAA Tournament Field Mostly Set; Looking at Possible Brackets

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The CCHA Final on Sunday will determine the final spot

We started the weekend with just over 393,000 possible scenarios, and now we are down to just two, with only the CCHA championship yet to played. This was one of the craziest conference tournament weekends that I can remember, with so many teams outside of the at-large bubble having an opportunity to steal NCAA bids. Three conference finals--Colorado College vs. Wisconsin in the WCHA, Union vs. Brown in the ECAC, and Canisius vs. Mercyhurst in Atlantic Hockey--were true NCAA tournament play-in games, where the winner secured a bid to the tournament, while the other had their season ended. Meanwhile, the other two conferences--Hockey East and the CCHA--have/had one team playing in their title game and needing a win to clinch an NCAA tournament berth.

15 teams have secured their bid to their tournament. Quinnipiac, Minnesota, UMass-Lowell, Notre Dame, Miami, Boston College, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Denver, Niagara, Minnesota State, Union, St. Cloud, Wisconsin, and Canisius will all be playing next weekend. If favorite Notre Dame wins tomorrow's CCHA title game, Yale will claim the last at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. If red hot Michigan wins the CCHA title tomorrow, the Wolverines will receive the final bid to the tournament, and Yale will be left at home.

It's possible to take a pretty credible stab at what the actual tournament field will look like as well. The WCHA got six teams into the tournament, so technically the NCAA would be allowed to have a first round intraconference match-up between those two teams, but it seems easy enough to move things around, and one would think they would avoid it if at all possible.

Here is my best on the potential tournament field:

If Notre Dame wins:

East Regional: #1 Quinnipiac vs. #16 Canisius, #6 Boston College vs. #11 Minnesota State

Northeast Regional:#3 UMass-Lowell vs. #14 Wisconsin, #7 New Hampshire vs. #9 Denver

Midwest Regional:#4 Notre Dame vs. #13 St. Cloud, #5 Miami vs. #12 Union

West Regional: #2 Minnesota vs. #15 Yale, #8 North Dakota vs. #10 Niagara

This is pretty clean, other than the fact that Boston College would normally be in the Northeast regional, but gets switched with UNH because UNH is the host. Denver and Niagara get flipped to avoid Denver and North Dakota meeting in the first round. There's also the possibility of moving Boston College/Minnesota State out west and North Dakota/Niagara to the east. They way I have it is technically less beneficial to the top overall seed in Quinnipiac, but I think the possibility of keeping BC close to home in Providence and Minnesota and North Dakota in the same bracket is appealing to the NCAA.

If Michigan wins:

East Regional: #1 Quinnipiac vs. #16 Canisius, #8 Notre Dame vs. #9 Denver

Northeast Regional:#3 UMass-Lowell vs. #14 Wisconsin, #7 New Hampshire vs. #11 Minnesota State

Midwest Regional: #4 Miami vs. #13 St. Cloud, #5 Boston College vs. #12 Union

West Regional: #2 Minnesota vs. #15 Michigan, #6 North Dakota vs. #10 Niagara

Again, New Hampshire basically moves up a spot in the rankings just by virtue of being host of their regional. As far as first round match-ups go, North Dakota/Minnesota State is a first round conference match-up that had to be broken up. Minnesota gets shafted here a bit, having to play host Michigan in their home state.

The CCHA championship game takes place at 2:05 EST tomorrow afternoon. Once that game ends, we'll know who the 16 teams in the tournament field are. The NCAA Selection Show that officially announces the brackets will take place at 9:00pm EST, and we should have complete brackets up as soon as they are announced.

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