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Nathan Wells | | December 11, 2019

College Hockey: Everything you need to know about the Frozen Four selection process

Minnesota Duluth adds second trophy to case

Need to know how the selection committee decides the schools for the 2020 Division 1 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament? Look no further. This is the place where all your Bracketology 101 questions will be answered for everything you need to know about the Frozen Four selection process.

RELATED: Frozen Four 2020 schedule and dates

Who gets in? How many teams?

The NCAA Tournament features 16 teams. Six qualify by winning one of the six conference tournaments - Atlantic Hockey, Big Ten, ECAC, Hockey East, NCHC and WCHA - and earning an automatic bid. 

The remaining 10 spots are filled by at-large bids made up of the 10 best teams who didn’t earn an automatic bid.

How are those teams decided? 

Well, the answer deals with math.

A computer ranking system comprised of three different criteria compares each of the 60 men’s Division 1 teams against one another. The more comparisons a team can claim over opponents, the higher it will be ranked. The selection committee does not deviate from the rankings. 

RELATED: The 2020 field of 16, projected

Each game counts the same for tournament consideration, whether it happens on October 5th or March 23rd. Place high enough after the final game gets played and your team is in, no matter the league or reputation.

What are the three different criteria used?

The three different criteria are 1) record against common opponents, 2) head-to-head record, and 3) Ratings Percentage Index (hereafter referred to as RPI).

For the first two criteria, the usage is straightforward. A team earns a point for the better record and for each win in head-to-head play. RPI also offers a single point, however, to get there involves more math.


RPI combines a team’s win-loss record (25 percent), its opponents’ winning percentage (21 percent) and its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (54 percent) into a ranking. Teams also can get quality win bonuses for beating teams in the top 20 and home/away wins are weighted differently. If two teams are tied in points when comparing one another, RPI may also act as a determining factor.

So there’s math. Does the selection committee take anything else into account?

The committee may also evaluate each team’s eligibility and availability of student-athletes for NCAA Championships.

Now that I know the selection process, how does the NCAA committee determine the seeding of all 16 teams?

FROZEN FOUR 2020: Tickets and Info

Seeding all 16 teams involves the committee using a three-step process taken verbatim from the NCAA Tournament pre-championship manual:

1. Once the six automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large teams are selected, the next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are No. 1 seeds and will be placed in the bracket so that if all four teams advance to the Men’s Frozen Four, the No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed in the semifinals. The next four are targeted as No. 2 seeds. The next four are No. 3 seeds and the last four are No. 4 seeds. 

2. Step two is to place the home teams. Host institutions that qualify will be placed at home. 

The following schools and conferences will host 2020 NCAA Tournament regionals:
Albany Regional (Albany, NY) - ECAC Hockey

Worcester Regional (Worcester, MA) - Holy Cross

Allentown Regional (Allentown, PA) - Penn State University

Loveland Regional (Loveland, CO) - University of Denver

Note: Beginning in 2020, regions are now named after the host city rather than geographic location.

3. Step three is to fill in the bracket so that first-round conference matchups are avoided, unless it corrupts the integrity of the bracket. If five or more teams from one conference are selected to the championship, then the integrity of the bracket will be protected (i.e., maintaining the pairing process according to seed will take priority over avoidance of first-round conference matchups). To complete each regional, the committee assigns one team from each of the remaining seeded groups so there is a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed at each regional site.

MEN'S HOCKEY: Stats | Scores | Champ History 

Note: The seeding and pairings criteria are subject to change per the policies of the NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee.

Is there anything else to know?

Those are the basic ideas. There are other, more advanced factors that may come up later as March gets closer, but for now, keep those main Bracketology 101 ideas in mind. Also keep in mind that the and USA Today/USA Hockey national polls do not play a role in the committee deciding which teams make the NCAA Tournament.

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