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Chris Peters | | March 19, 2017

College Hockey: One last bracketology prediction before the NCAA field is revealed

  Where will your team land in the NCAA Ice Hockey bracket?

UPDATE: The 2017 tournament field has been announced.

Frozen Four: Interactive Bracket | Printable Bracket | Tournament Field Announced

On a frenetic Championship Saturday in men’s college hockey, we now know the 16 teams that will be playing in the 2017 NCAA national tournament. We’ll find out Sunday at noon ET on ESPNU where everyone will be going for their regionals, while each of the four No. 1 seeds will be announced at 11:30 a.m. on Twitter (@NCAAIceHockey and @Buccigross).

Saturday brought plenty of drama, with five of the six conference championship games being decided by just one goal, including a pair that needed double-overtime to crown a champ.

Some teams were left to sweat bullets until the bitter end, most notably Ohio State. They would have been eliminated had Penn State not beaten Wisconsin in double overtime the final game of the night. The win represented Penn State’s first conference title in program history, to go along with their first ever national tournament berth. Ohio State will have to remember to send some chocolates to their Big Ten foes turned friends as they earned their first tournament spot since 2009 thanks to the Nittany Lions. Penn State also helped secure a No. 1 seed for Minnesota with their win over Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Michigan Tech earned a double-overtime victory over Bowling Green to win the Broadmoor Trophy as WCHA tournament champions, earning the only auto-bid that displaced a team in the Pairwise top 16 (Boston College). Air Force, which won Atlantic Hockey with a 2-1 victory over Robert Morris, ended up improving its stock enough to earn a No. 3 seed in the tournament, which helped both Ohio State and Providence stay in the mix for the tournament.

Though the wait is almost over to see who goes where, waiting is overrated. So here’s a look at our final bracketology. Keep in mind, this is merely a guess at what the selection committee is thinking. We broke down how the committee goes about its decision in our first bracketology way back in December. But until it’s set in stone, there are plenty of different ways this can go still.

The Tournament Field (Conference tournament champions in parenthesis)

1. Denver
2. Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
3. Harvard (ECAC)
4. Minnesota
5. UMass-Lowell (Hockey East)
6. Western Michigan
7. Boston University
8. Union
9. Penn State (Big Ten)
10. North Dakota
11. Cornell
12. Air Force (Atlantic Hockey)
13. Notre Dame
14. Providence
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan Tech (WCHA)

Notes: North Dakota is automatically placed in Fargo as the regional’s host. Committee looks to avoid intra-conference matchups in the first round. Attendance is a consideration when placing teams in regionals.


No. 1 seeds: Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Harvard, Minnesota
No. 2 seeds: UMass-Lowell, Western Michigan, Boston University, Union
No. 3 seeds: Penn State, North Dakota, Cornell, Air Force
No. 4 seeds: Notre Dame, Providence, Ohio State, Michigan Tech

West Fargo, N.D.

1 Denver vs. 16 Michigan Tech
8 Union vs. 10 North Dakota

Rationale: The committee has a big decision to make with Denver. Would they try to move them out of Fargo so that the No. 1 overall seed avoids the host? It’s a possibility they end up in Cincinnati, but I think keeping Denver in Fargo goes furthest for bracket integrity. It also keeps the lowest of the No. 2 seeds (No. 8 overall) in the same bracket. Perhaps it’s not the ideal scenario for the Pioneers, but there’s no guarantee the hosts get past a very talented Union squad. Are there ever any guarantees in this tournament?

MidwestCincinnati, Ohio

2 Minnesota Duluth vs. 15 Ohio State
6 Western Michigan vs. 12 Air Force

Rationale: UMD keeps its natural first-round opponent, which just so happens to help attendance as a local team. Meanwhile, Western Michigan makes good sense here as another attendance helper since we’ve already had to jumble the matchups between No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. Air Force ends up here for reasons explained in the Manchester segment.

East Providence, R.I.

3 Harvard vs. 14 Providence
7 Boston University vs. 9 Penn State

Rationale: The big decision with this regional is if Providence should get to play at home despite being a No. 4 seed. Brown University is the host school for this regional, meaning Providence is not required to play here. I just don’t think the committee will move them just to move them. This regional setup should do well for attendance with Harvard and BU in there in addition to Providence. Meanwhile, Penn State’s first national tournament appearance comes in almost as close as you can get it this year. The distance between State College and either Cincinnati or Providence is virtually the same and they fit a little more naturally here.

NortheastManchester, N.H.

4 Minnesota vs. 13 Notre Dame
5 UMass-Lowell vs. 11 Cornell

Rationale: As the lowest of the three No. 1 seeds hailing from the west, Minnesota is the obvious choice to be shipped out east. We had a shot at a pure 4-13, 5-12 bracket, but flipping Cornell and Air Force gets the Big Red a little closer to home for maybe a little relief in what could be an attendance-challenged region. The Hockey East champion UMass-Lowell River Hawks should have a lot of support, however, as they look like a legit threat to contend for the title having just missed out on a No. 1 seed this year.

And just so you can visualize another option I considered strongly, here’s an alternate bracket, though I’ll leave the above as my official prediction for what I think the committee will do.

Midwest -- Cincinnati, Ohio

1 Denver vs. 15 Ohio State
8 Union vs. 9 Penn State

West Fargo, N.D.

2 Minnesota Duluth vs. 16 Michigan Tech
7 Boston University vs. 10. North Dakota

East Providence, R.I.

3 Harvard vs. 14 Providence
6 Western Michigan vs. 12 Air Force

NortheastManchester, N.H.

4 Minnesota vs. 13 Notre Dame
5. UMass-Lowell vs. 11 Cornell

We’ll see what the real committee comes up with around noon. There are a lot of things that are taken into consideration and not everyone is going to be happy with what they end up with. That’s all part of the process, though. One thing is for sure, however. This field of 16 teams is pretty darn good, which should make for an incredibly entertaining tournament.

It doesn’t get much better than this as we’re just a week away from finding out which of these 16 teams will be headed to Chicago for the Men’s Frozen Four.

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