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College hockey's national tournament taking shape

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Another week, and we have another look at a potential tournament field for March’s NCAA Tournament. It’s an exercise which uses your head as well as a ranking system, and we call it Bracketology. Bracketology: The prognostication behind how the NCAA sets up its annual Division I hockey tournament.

There are four host sites this year as always (sixteen teams) and four institutions that must be placed close to home if they qualify. The West Regional will be played in St. Paul, MN (Minnesota is the host). The East Regional will be played in Bridgeport, CT (Yale). The Midwest Regional will be played in Cincinnati, OH (Miami-Ohio). The Northeast Regional will be in Worcester, MA (Holy Cross).

The objective is to avoid intra-conference games with the way the tournament is seeded, and there are ten at-large teams along with the six conference champions who will take part in the tournament. Let’s give you the top sixteen in the latest Pairwise rankings, in sequential order: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, Ferris State, Quinnipiac, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, Notre Dame, Providence, Michigan, Cornell, Vermont, Northeastern, and Colgate.

Because Mercyhurst leads Atlantic Hockey, they are our assumed league champion, and get an automatic bid along with the other five conference champions. That means there are ten at large bids too. With that change reflected, here are your eligible tournament teams: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, Ferris State, Quinnipiac, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, Notre Dame, Providence, Michigan, Cornell, Vermont, Northeastern, and Mercyhurst.

Let’s assign the seeds in groups:
1 Seeds: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, St. Cloud State
2 Seeds: Wisconsin, Ferris State, Quinnipiac, UMass-Lowell
3 Seeds: North Dakota, Notre Dame, Providence, Michigan
4 Seeds: Cornell, Vermont, Northeastern, Mercyhurst

We start placing teams with the #1 seeds. #1 Minnesota, as a tournament host, goes to its own regional, the West Regional, in St. Paul. #2 Boston College goes to the Northeast Regional in Worcester. #3 Union heads to the East Regional in Bridgeport while #4 St. Cloud State headlines the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

Now, we go moving onto the #2 seeds. #5 Wisconsin heads to the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati. #6 Ferris State heads to the East Regional in Bridgeport. #7 Quinnipiac heads to the Northeast Regional in Worcester while #8 UMass-Lowell heads to the West Regional in St. Paul.

We now head to the #3 seeds. #9 North Dakota heads to the West Regional in St. Paul. #10 Notre Dame heads to the Northeast Regional in Worcester. #11 Providence goes to the East Regional in Bridgeport while #12 Michigan goes to the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

Finally, we go to the #4 seeds. #16 Mercyhurst heads to the West Regional in St. Paul. #15 Northeastern goes to the Northeast Regional in Worcester. #14 Vermont heads to the East Regional in Bridgeport while #13 Cornell goes to the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

Our bracket sets up like this:

West Regional
#1 Minnesota vs. #16 Mercyhurst
#8 UMass-Lowell vs. #9 North Dakota

Midwest Regional
#4 St. Cloud State vs. #13 Cornell
#5 Wisconsin vs. #12 Michigan

Northeast Regional
#2 Boston College vs. #15 Northeastern
#7 Quinnipiac vs. #10 Notre Dame

East Regional
#3 Union vs. #14 Vermont
#6 Ferris State vs. #11 Providence

We have two intra-conference games we must take care of in Wisconsin-Michigan and Boston College-Northeastern. But, we can only move teams within their assigned groups. So, the swaps we make see #5 Wisconsin and #8 UMass-Lowell switch spots, putting Wisconsin in the West Regional in St. Paul. Next, we switch #14 Vermont and #15 Northeastern, putting Vermont in the Northeast Regional in Worcester. Our bracket:

West Regional
#1 Minnesota vs. #16 Mercyhurst
#8 Wisconsin vs. #9 North Dakota

Midwest Regional
#4 St. Cloud State vs. #13 Cornell
#5 UMass-Lowell vs. #12 Michigan

Northeast Regional
#2 Boston College vs. #15 Vermont
#7 Quinnipiac vs. #10 Notre Dame

East Regional
#3 Union vs. #14 Northeastern
#6 Ferris State vs. #11 Providence

No intra-conference games to worry about. Attendance is good at all four regionals. There’s our bracket for the week. Until next week…

Geoff Discher is Examiner.com's National College Hockey Examiner as well as the Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here and here, joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He's always chock full of fact and opinion.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!

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