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Nathan Wells | NCAA.com | February 21, 2019

College hockey bracketology: Providence enters tournament field, top teams remain

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Time flies. It seems like yesterday that Minnesota Duluth was raising its national championship banner on opening night of the 2018-19 season. Now just over a month separates us from Selection Sunday for the 2019 NCAA tournament.

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Another weekend of college hockey caused some ripples in the brackets. Ohio State, with a chance to clinch its first conference regular season championship since the CCHA’s inaugural year in 1971-72, was swept out of a number 1 seed by Minnesota. Others made the most of an opportunity to move into top spots or get back on the right side of the bubble.

For a refresher on how the NCAA selection committee chooses the 16 teams, check out our article on everything you need to know about the selection process. Otherwise, let’s get right to the teams and our bracket in this week’s edition of bracketology.

This Week’s Bracketology (as of February 20, 2019):

T-1. St. Cloud State (NCHC)
T-1. Massachusetts (Hockey East)
3. Minnesota Duluth
4. Denver
5. Minnesota State (WCHA)
6. Quinnipiac
7. Ohio State (Big Ten)
T-8. Arizona State
T-8. Western Michigan
T-8. Cornell (ECAC)
11. Northeastern
T-12. Providence
T-12. Clarkson
14. UMass Lowell
15. Harvard 
35. American International (Atlantic Hockey)

Since no team can earn an automatic bid before conference tournaments are played, this bracketology assumes the school with the top in-conference winning percentage in each of the six conferences earns the automatic bid. That school is noted with the conference in parenthesis.

For a third straight week, American International leads Atlantic Hockey, bumping Bowling Green from the top 16. Each of the other five conference leaders are within the top 16, which this week is good news for Harvard.

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Before seeding the teams, three different ties need to be broken. Two deal with placing teams on different sides of seed breaks. Besides the weekly St. Cloud State and Massachusetts tie, Arizona State, Western Michigan and Cornell all have 51 comparison wins thanks to the Big Red sweeping the Sun Devils earlier this season. Cornell holds ASU’s comparison, moving the Big Red up and Arizona State down to Western Michigan’s level. Lastly, Providence and Clarkson are tied for 12th, meaning whichever team gets placed ahead of the other would be a three seed.

Using RPI as a tiebreaker, St. Cloud State is placed above the Minutemen, Arizona State is eighth, Western Michigan is ninth and Cornell is tenth, and Providence gets the three seed with Clarkson being a four seed.

Teams By conference:
ECAC: 4
Hockey East: 4
NCHC: 4
Atlantic Hockey: 1
Big Ten: 1
WCHA: 1
Independent: 1

In this week: Providence
Out this week: Bowling Green

Time to seed.

This Week’s Seeding Groups
No. 1 seeds: St. Cloud State, Massachusetts, Minnesota Duluth, Denver
No. 2 seeds: Minnesota State, Quinnipiac, Ohio State, Arizona State
No. 3 seeds: Western Michigan, Cornell, Northeastern, Providence
No. 4 seeds: Clarkson, UMass Lowell, Harvard, American International

Step 2 is to place the home team of each regional since host teams automatically play at its home regional. None are in this week’s bracket. Brown, not Providence, hosts the East Regional in Providence, RI.

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Step 3 fills out the bracket with the idea of avoiding first-round inter-conference matchups. Somehow, despite ECAC, NCHC and Hockey East each sending four teams, no inter-conference matchups occur on a 1-16, 2-15, etc. straight bracket.

For that reason, this week’s bracket ends up being fairly straightforward.

The Bracket:

Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH):
2. Massachusetts vs. 15. Harvard
6. Quinnipiac vs. 11. Northeastern

East Regional (Providence, RI):
4. Denver vs. 13. Clarkson
5. Minnesota State vs. 12. Providence

Midwest Regional (Allentown, PA):
3. Minnesota Duluth vs. 14. UMass Lowell
7. Ohio State vs. 10. Cornell

West Regional (Fargo, ND): 
1. St. Cloud State vs. 16. American International
8. Arizona State vs. 9. Western Michigan

How did we get here?

We get here with one small switch for attendance. Things work out extremely well going by the true 1-16, 2-15, etc. straight bracket and placing the top seeds, in order, to its nearby regions. St. Cloud State ends up in Fargo, Massachusetts goes to in Manchester, Minnesota Duluth heads to Allentown, and Denver, by process of elimination, is in Providence.

Filling out the rest of a true bracket even means Providence ends up with Providence by itself against the lowest number 1 seed. Almost too good to be true.

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Who had the biggest changes this week?

One of the best ways for a team to move up involves beating top teams. Denver, facing Minnesota Duluth, moved up three spots with a win against the Bulldogs on Saturday. The win gave the NCHC three of the four No. 1 seeds. 

Providence, meanwhile, continues to be the proverbial bubble yo-yo. Since January 21st, the Friars have from week to week: Moved down 6, moved up 6, moved down 5, moved down 2 and moved up 5. Needing a good result following a 1-3 stretch, PC swept UMass Lowell in Hockey East play. Harvard’s late come-from-behind win over St. Lawrence avoided a disastrous drop.

Lowell, on the other hand, was one of several teams who dropped as the River Hawks’ 9-0-1 unbeaten run came to an end. Ohio State, a No. 1 seed for the past two weeks in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, dropped down four spots to a No. 2 seed after being swept by the Gophers. AIC kept its spot in this week’s bracketology yet dropped seven spots after being swept by Arizona State, who inched extremely close to its first NCAA tournament.

Lastly, Bowling Green dropped one spot after tying Alaska on Saturday; the one spot that is the difference between being in and out of the NCAA tournament. A win instead would have kept the Falcons on the right side of the bubble.

Who missed an opportunity?

Besides Bowling Green, both Penn State and Notre Dame had opportunities to go from outside the bubble to in the tournament with series against Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively. If one or both was able to sweep, that team would move into an at-large spot. Both split — as has been the case throughout much of Big Ten conference play — and remain two of the first three teams out.

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North Dakota also could have jumped into an at-large spot if the Fighting Hawks completed a road sweep of Western Michigan on Saturday. Incidentally, the Broncos winning was the difference between ninth and 15th this week. 

Yale and Lake Superior State each swept its opposition to keep hopes of an at-large bid alive.

We’ll be back next week with another look at the NCAA tournament and an updated bracket.