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NCAA hockey bracketology: CCHA creating mess of NCAA field

February 9, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor (mwellens@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

Next season will be the last for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, but it's not fading into the night quietly.

It fact, it's being quite annoying for those of us who do bracketology each week.

If the season ended today, the CCHA would land six teams in the NCAA tournament - Michigan, Ferris State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State and Northern Michigan.

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MATT WELLENS

With that many teams from one conference, there are bound to be some intraconference matchups in the initial draw and the NCAA is not a fan of intraconference matchups in the big ice dance.

Traditionally, the NCAA has broken up conference rivals if a league has five teams or less from the same league, even though the guidelines say the selection committee can stick with conference matchups for the sake of bracket integrity, attendance, or if they can't be easily broken if there are five or more teams from any given league.

In recent years, however, when the WCHA has landed five teams in the tournament, the committee has broken up those intraconference matchups.

The last time the NCAA tournament featured an opening-round showdown between league rivals was in 2008 when six WCHA teams were selected. What made things even more complicated was that Colorado College was in the tournament and hosting the West Regional. Wisconsin snuck in as a bubble team and was the host of the Midwest Regional.

The WCHA nearly had seven teams in the NCAA tournament in 2008, but Princeton - or Wisconsin, depending on who you ask - stole No. 14 Minnesota State-Mankato's at-large spot by winning the ECAC tournament.

The final bracket featured three WCHA teams in Madison - UW, Denver and North Dakota - St. Cloud State in Albany, N.Y., CC at home and Minnesota in Worcester, Mass.

Wisconsin, which beat Denver, and North Dakota were the only WCHA teams to win in the opening round, with the Fighting Sioux falling to eventual NCAA champion Boston College in the national semifinals

So with 2008 in mind, I'm going to shift away from my normal stance of avoiding CCHA matchups when it comes to today's bracketology to see how the field shakes out.

Here are the top 16 teams in the USCHO.com PairWise rankings. Ties are broken via the RPI.

PairWise Top 16:1. Boston University; 2. Michigan; 3. UMass-Lowell; 4. Ferris State; 5. Minnesota-Duluth; 6. Boston College; 7. Minnesota; 8. Merrimack; 9. Maine; 10. Notre Dame; 11. Union; 12. Ohio State; 13. Michigan State; 14. Northern Michigan; 15. North Dakota; 16. Colorado College.

Every conference leader except Air Force of Atlantic Hockey is in the top 16 of the PairWise, so Colorado College gets bumped out and the Falcons become the No. 16 seed.

Here is how the initial bracket shapes up, starting with the top four seeds being placed closest to home. From there, I'll seed based on bracket integrity with No. 1 playing No. 16, No. 8 playing No. 9, etc.

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.) - 1. Boston University vs. 16. Air Force; 8. Merrimack vs. 9 Maine.

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.) - 4. Ferris State vs. 13. Michigan State; 5. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12. Ohio State.

Midwest Regional (Green Bay) - 2. Michigan vs. 15. North Dakota; 7. Minnesota vs. 10. Notre Dame.

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.) - 3. UMass-Lowell vs. 14. Northern Michigan; 6. Boston College vs. 11. Union.

There is one intraconference matchup that must be broken up, and that's Merrimack and Maine from Hockey East. Also, Minnesota must be placed in the Midwest, since it's the host there. The Hockey East matchup is easy to fix by flipping Maine and Notre Dame.

To get Minnesota in St. Paul, I could John Madden this bracket, but I'm going to make a move that not only preserves some bracket integrity, but boosts attendance - Michigan's foursome will play in St. Paul while Ferris State and company will head to Titletown.

Here is how my final bracket looks:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.) - 1. Boston University vs. 16. Air Force; 8. Merrimack vs. 10. Notre Dame.

Midwest Regional (Green Bay) - 4. Ferris State vs. 13. Michigan State; 5. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 12. Ohio State.

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.) - 2. Michigan vs. 15. North Dakota; 7. Minnesota vs. 9. Maine.

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.) - 3. UMass-Lowell vs. 14. Northern Michigan; 6. Boston College vs. 11. Union.

There is one CCHA matchup between Ferris State and Michigan State still, but I'll keep it in place since it cannot be easily broken without killing bracket integrity or hurting attendance.

As for Northern, Bridgeport is a tough spot to land, but at the point, the 'Cats and their fans should just be happy to be in the field.

Mining Journal Sports Editor Matt Wellens will have another bracketology analysis on Thursday of next week and keep it up right until the field is announced on Sunday, March 18. Matt can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.

 
 

 

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