Picking the 16 teams that will make the NCAA tournament for hockey is pretty easy if you can read a chart.
Coming close to slotting those teams in their proper place isn't too challenging, either, as I showed Sunday morning when I placed all but the No. 4 seeds in their proper place in my final bracket at MiningJournal.net.
Now I face a whole new challenge, however, one that has perplexed bracketologists for ages and ages.
Who's going to win this whole darn thing?
Unfortunately, there's no mathematical ranking system to follow at this point in the season. Winners and losers are all decided on the ice, as it should be.
So here are my game-by-game predictions. Hopefully they go the way of my bracketology prediction instead of my CCHA preseason picks. So much for Notre Dame contending for a CCHA title.
Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)
1. Boston College vs. 4. Air Force - I argued in bracketology that BC would be better off with a Michigan State team that hasn't played in two weeks as opposed to an Air Force squad that outscored its opponents 9-2 in the Atlantic Hockey finals. The Falcons will test the Eagles, but I like Boston College to advance.
2. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3. Maine - UMD was at one time the best team in the country this season, but has stumbled late with losses to Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech and St. Cloud State. Maine has worse losses to Merrimack, Northeastern, UMass and Providence. I'll take the defending champs from Minnesota-Duluth.
Regional final - Boston College, which enters the tourney with 15 straight wins, will breathe a sigh of relief when it sees the defending champs in the Northeast final. The last team to not only beat the Eagles, but sweep them, was Maine. Boston College will get win No. 17 to advance to the Frozen Four.
Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wis.)
1. Michigan vs. 4. Cornell - In my opinion, the Big Red is the weakest team in the tourney, so the Wolverines actually got a gift in swapping the No. 15 overall seed for No. 13 to avoid an intraconference matchup with Michigan State. Cornell has only one win over a tournament team this year - Union - so I'll take Michigan in a rout.
2. Ferris State vs. 3. Denver - I originally liked the hot team in Denver after the Pioneers ran off three overtime victories in the WCHA playoffs before running out of gas against North Dakota in the WCHA championship. DU could be without six players due to injury, so Ferris State will move on, most likely in OT.
Regional final - The Bulldogs and Wolverines met once in CCHA play back on Oct. 27-28 in Ann Arbor with the Wolverines winning 5-2 and 4-0. It will be much closer this time, but Michigan returns to the Frozen Four.
East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)
1. Union vs. 4. Michigan State - Union is coming off an ECAC championship victory, while Michigan State has spent two weeks stewing over the 6-0 and 4-1 whipping Miami delivered in the CCHA playoffs. I'll take a fresh Union squad to move on.
2. Miami vs. 3. UMass-Lowell - The RedHawks won nine of their last 10 games and outscored opponents 36-6 in the process. It's the Hawks' undisciplined 6-2 loss to Western Michigan in the CCHA semis that worries me, because I saw it in three losses to Northern Michigan. I expect a disciplined Miami to move on, however.
Regional final - Union had the best winning percentage against teams under consideration in the PairWise, but only played 18 games against TUCs. Only one of its nine wins came against a team in the tournament - Michigan. Miami wins the regional title.
1. Michigan vs. 2. Miami - The last time Michigan and Miami played was Feb. 3-4 in Ann Arbor and the Wolverines swept, 4-1 and 3-0. The stat that caught my eye from that series, however, was the 20 Miami penalties for 65 minutes. Michigan will get under the RedHawks' skin and return to the NCAA Championship.
1. Boston College vs. 1. North Dakota - North Dakota has a rich history of reaching the Frozen Four, but not reaching the championship game. The team the NCAA will not allow to be called the Fighting Sioux lost last year to Michigan in the national semis and three times to BC from 2006-2009. Boston College will do it again.
NCAA Championship - I love the hot hand and no one is hotter than the Eagles at this point. Michigan will lose back-to-back championships and Boston College will win its third title in five years.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.