In five short weeks, the puck will drop for the NCAA men's hockey tournament, and this week a few questions were answered about how the event will look. It remains at 16 teams, four regional sites (with one to be determined) and one automatic qualifier for each of the six conferences.
Because there have been few games between conferences, the PairWise Ratings, the formula that the NCAA men's ice hockey committee use to pick its field, aren't effective this year. The committee will use components of the PairWise, such as head-to-head results, to compare teams within conferences, but filling those 10 at-large spots will rely heavily on subjectivity. To help in that end, the committee has added regional advisors, East and West, to assist in the selections.
With that in mind, here are my projections of the top 16 that will make the NCAA tournament field, based on games played through Thursday.
1. North Dakota (15-4-1): In the driver's seat to win the NCHC.
2. Boston College (13-3-1): Wild prospect Matt Boldy is averaging 1.27 points per game.
3. Minnesota State Mankato (13-2-1): Dryden McKay's GAA is 0.79.
4. Gophers (17-5): Impressive sweep at Notre Dame.
5. Wisconsin (14-8): Road sweep of Gophers, followed by split at Michigan.
6. St. Cloud State (13-8): Season-ending series vs. UMD will be huge.
7. Michigan (11-7): Talent isn't an issue for Wolverines.
8. Minnesota Duluth (12-8-2): Bulldogs have lost three straight, scoring only two goals.
9. Nebraska Omaha (13-6-1): Mavs have four more vs. UND to end season.
10. Boston University (8-2): Terriers need to get to 13 games to qualify for NCAAs.
11. Massachusetts (11-5-3): Tuesday's game at Providence is key.
12. Quinnipiac (13-5-4): Assist machine Odeen Tufto leads Bobcats.
13. Providence (9-6-4): Friars are 5-1-2 since Jan. 16.
14. Clarkson (9-7-4): Golden Knights could give ECAC two NCAA teams.
15. Bowling Green (16-8): Falcons are 4-7 since a 12-1 start.
16. American International (13-3): Yellow Jackets in line for AHA autobid.
With the 16 teams picked, it's time to fill the regionals. First-round intraconference matchups are to be avoided, and the NCAA committee would like to limit the number of flights needed.
Midwest Regional, Fargo
1. North Dakota vs. 16. American International
8. Minnesota Duluth vs. 10. Boston University
East Regional, Bridgeport, Conn.
2. Boston College vs. 15. Bowling Green
6. St. Cloud State vs. 11. Massachusetts
West Regional, Loveland, Colo.
3. Minnesota State vs. 14 Clarkson
7. Michigan vs. 9. Nebraska Omaha
Northeast Regional, site TBD
4. Gophers vs. 13. Providence
5. Wisconsin vs. 12. Quinnipiac
There you have it. There was only one intraconference first-round matchup when using strict seeding, No. 8 Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 9 Nebraska Omaha, so UNO was moved to the East and No. 10 Boston University to the Midwest to remedy that.
Also, to provide more geographic balance, I swapped the 6-11 St. Cloud-State vs. Massachusetts matchup from the West to the East, moving the 7-9 Michigan vs. Nebraska Omaha matchup to the West.