Here are the sixteen teams that will be in this year’s tourament, by ranking:
2. Minnesota Duluth (NCHC autobid)
3. Harvard (ECAC autobid)
5. UMass Lowell
6. Western Michigan
7. Boston University
9. Penn State
10. North Dakota
12. Air Force (Atlantic Hockey autobid)
13. Notre Dame
15. Ohio State
16(27th overall). Michigan Tech(WCHA autobid)
The next step in determining the field is to split the 16 teams up into four seed bands. As a reminder, teams can be moved around within their band of seeds, but the tournament committee can’t change a team’s seed.
Here are our seeds:
#1 seeds: Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Harvard, Minnesota
#2 seeds: UMass Lowell, Western Michigan, Boston University, Union
#3 seeds: Penn State, North Dakota, Cornell, Air Force
#4 seeds: Notre Dame, Providence, Ohio State Michigan Tech
Finally, we have to consider home venues. North Dakota are the hosts of the West regional in Fargo, so they have to be placed in that bracket. Providence is not technically the host of the East regional in Providence, but two years ago, the committee made some major sacrifices to bracket integrity in order to put Providence into that regional.
Finally, we’ll try our best to maintain perfect 1 vs. 16, 8 vs. 9, etc. bracket integrity as possible, while avoiding any intra-conference first round match-ups, and trying to minimize travel if possible.
I’ll put this in the preamble: The bracket is not a slam dunk like last year, when just about everybody got it right the night before. It’s pretty clear—and in fact, I was able to create a perfect 1 vs. 16, 8 vs. 9, etc. bracket—but there are a few opportunities for the committee to break from that, which I discuss underneath.
With that said, here is my best guess at what the bracket will look like tomorrow.
West Regional, Fargo, North Dakota
- Minnesota Duluth (2)
4. Ohio State (15)
2. Boston University (7)
3. North Dakota (10)
Midwest Regional, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Denver (1)
4. Michigan Tech (16)
2. Union (8)
3. Penn State (9)
East Regional, Providence, Rhode Island
- Harvard (3)
2. Western Michigan (6)
3. Cornell (11)
Northeast Regional, Manchester, New Hampshire
- Minnesota (4)
4. Notre Dame (13)
2. UMass Lowell (5)
3. Air Force (12)
There were a couple tough decisions to make this year, which could provide opportunities for me to be wrong.
The first is Denver. Traditionally, the top overall seed would be in the closest regional, and for Denver, that would be Fargo. That still could happen, but I moved them to Cincinnati for a couple of reasons. First, Denver will likely fly to either regional regardless. Jim Montgomery said today that he didn’t want his team to go east of Cincinnati, implying he’d be fine with the travel to Cincinnati.
Second, with North Dakota as the 10th seed anchored into Fargo, putting the #2 overall seed there works better for pure bracket integrity, and that is a close trip for Minnesota Duluth by western standards.
Still, the difference to bracket integrity between #1 drawing a regional with 8/9 or 7/10 isn’t a huge deal. And it would maybe make more sense to put the UMD/OSU first round game in Cincinnati, while Denver/Michigan Tech is played in Fargo.
I’d have to think the temptation to put UMD/OSU in Cincinnati to sell a few more tickets would be appealing the committee. All the tickets are already sold in Fargo, so UMD being there doesn’t bring in any more money, and putting Denver, who will bring nobody, doesn’t hurt.
There are reasons for Denver to go to either regional. When the NCAA announces which one seeds will go to which regional tomorrow, that should tell us a lot of information.
After that, things ended up lining up very easily in terms of pure bracket integrity, with no intra-conference match-ups to muck things up.
If the committee was going to make a change for travel purposes, it would be flipping Boston University and Union, since BU presumably draws better in Manchester, while all the seats are already sold in Fargo.