CHN NCAA Tournament Bracket Analysis
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
So, if you read our final bracket projection last night, you'll see that we got all of the placements right — except ALL the No. 3 seeds. (The 16 teams in the field were all right, of course, since they're no-brainers thanks to the Pairwise.)
OK, that's a big exception. And kudos to some armchair analysts out there that I saw correctly call that change.
We had a straight serpentine bracket. That means 1-16, 8-9 / 2-15, 7-10 / 3-14, 6-11 / 4-13, 5-12. It was clean, it was easy. There were no intra-conference matchups to avoid. There were no host schools to worry about flipping.
Those who suggested the committee would go the way it did, was because of attendance reasons.
But, for years — basically since going to a 16-team tournament in 2003 — the committee has really de-emphasized attendance as a factor. It made some tweaks here and there for attendance purposes when it didn't upset things too much — but really, it tied itself into the strict Pairwise, 1-16, in that serpentine order, as much as possible.
Whether that's right or wrong, that's another debate all together. I've argued that the committee should allow itself lots of leeway to do common sense seedings. But, fact of the matter was, attendance was not really much of a factor.
By re-arranging all of the No. 3 seeds, however, it perhaps signals a philosophical change back to the old ways for the committee. We'll have to wait and see what the committee has to do say about it.
So, instead of 5-12 North Dakota vs. Michigan, the Wolverines go to Fort Wayne, Ind., to face No. 8 overall Bemidji State. That put No. 9 Yale against No. 5 North Dakota up in Worcester, Mass. The committee would probably have put New Hampshire in Worcester if it could have, but Yale can't play Cornell in Albany. So New Hampshire goes to Albany instead, and will still draw a sizable contingent. Left over is Northern Michigan, which just swaps out to St. Paul, Minn.
So we're left with this:
1. Miami vs. 4. Ala.-Huntsville
2. Bemidji St., 3. Michigan
1. Denver vs. 4. RIT
2. Cornell, 3. New Hampshire
1. Wisconsin vs. 4. Vermont
2. St. Cloud vs. 3. N. Michigan
1. Boston College vs. 4. Alaska
2. North Dakota, 3. Yale
The team that gets hurt the most is Yale, which goes from playing No. 8 overall Bemidji State in our projections, a team that just lost and tied in its tournament, to No. 5 overall North Dakota, which is one of the hottest teams in the country. Now, a subjective argument could be made that Yale, without Sean Backman, is a weakened No. 3 seed, and Michigan is hot and should play Bemidji State. But that's a subjective argument that hockey usually avoids. Let's face it, though, this was for attendance reasons (and yes, travel costs — i.e., in both senses, money).
Quick thoughts on the regionals:
Midwest: If Miami and Michigan get through, it sets up a rematch of the CCHA semifinal just played. This is the kind of thing the committee used to try to avoid. It doesn't try to avoid it these days, but it also usually doesn't actively create it. In this case, because of the "attendance move," it did.
East: Well, it should certainly be a well-attended regional. Friday with Cornell and New Hampshire should be fun. These teams played in January, and Cornell dominated, but UNH was coming off a long layoff. RIT should bring some people too. Not to put the whammy on, but there's a potential delicious Saturday matchup between Hobey finalist goalies Marc Cheverie (Denver) and Ben Scrivens (Cornell). Most would've had Cheverie on top in that pecking order, but after his clunker weekend at the Final Five, and three straight shutouts by Scrivens, maybe not so much.
West: So, a first-round matchup between a team that has never won an NCAA game (St. Cloud State) vs. a team thas hasn't been here since 1999, and hasn't won a game since 1993. Then you have Vermont, a team that a lot of people will be griping about being in, since it finished eighth in its own league, but that's the way it goes.
Northeast: The obvious thing that stands out here is the potential second-round matchup between Boston College and North Dakota, two teams that have hooked up so many times over the last 12 years, mostly at the Frozen Four. BC has had the better of those games, but North Dakota did crush BC in a Northeast Regional matchup along the way, too. And Alaska in the NCAAs is a great story, just two years after the mess with former coach Doc DelCastillo.
We'll have more reactions from the coaches and committee throughout the day.