Committee Chair: 'Not Much Debate' on NCAA Tournament Seedings
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
As we first reported in Saturday night's NCAA tournament bracket projection column, the Men's Ice Hockey Committee had it pretty easy this year. The straight 1-16 pairings that fell according to the Pairwise calculations, could be kept intact with little tinkering.
The Committee needs to place the top 4 seeds in a region closest to their home, and it needs to avoid first-round matchups against teams from the same conference. That was easily do-able with a straight 1-16 ordering.
The only thing that changed was moving No. 14 overall North Dakota to Cincinnati, flipping with No. 13 overall Vermont. In the "natural" pairings, 14 would play 3, which is Union; and 13 would play 4, which is Wisconsin.
However, in order to maximize the "student athlete experience," — i.e. boost the attendance at the Cincinnati regional as much as possible — North Dakota was moved there, since its fan base is huge and likely to bring a good amount of people.
According to Committee Chair Jim Knowlton, the athletic director at Rensselaer, saving money on flights to Cincinnati for Vermont was not a factor in the decision. This stands to reason, because it has never been a prior factor for the Committee, despite some misconception.
"Not one bit," Knowlton said. "I'm sure someone will be happy (about saving money), but we don't even consider it as a committee."
The one down side to making the switch is creating a Bridgeport Regional that includes two teams from Hockey East and two from the ECAC. Many would prefer to see more diverse pairings. In particular, there are two regions were the top two seeds are both from the same conference — the Northeast with Boston College and Mass.-Lowell, and the East with Union and Quinnipiac.
"We labored over it, it wasn't something we did lightly," Knowlton said. "But there's teams from four different leagues in some of the Regions, which is really neat. You can only do that so much, though, when there's five teams from Hockey East (in the tournament)."
Three members of the Committee have teams in the tournament, including Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, so they were all recused from the conversation about seedings and placement.
"After the top 4 (overall) seeds were placed, we sent them out of the room," Knowlton said. "We wanted to make it easy for them so there would be no questions."
The Northeast Regional consists of two Hockey East teams as well, along with a team from the WCHA and NCHC.
The West Regional consists of a Big Ten, Atlantic Hockey, NCHC and Hockey East team. And the Midwest will have one from the Big Ten, WCHA, NCHC and ECAC.
The Committee considered trying to get Colgate to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, but doing so would've meant a flip with Minnesota State, and then Minnesota State would've played Ferris State in Cincinnati. Those two are from the same conference, so that had to be avoided.
Generally speaking, Knowlton, in his first year on the Committee, thinks things went well.
"We looked at each of the sites and I think it will be some exciting hockey," he said. "There's 16 teams that can win a national championship. You look at the teams that got in, the teams on the bubble, there's not a team that can't win the national championship."