Jim: Well, Todd, the NCAA tournament is finally here. The field of 16 is set without any surprises whatsoever. The committee really went straight by the book on the seeding and selection, which does give you faith that the system is the system and that smoky rooms and conspiracy theories weren’t part of this year’s selection. Still, the field isn’t without at least some controversy. Start with Boston College, which had to be shipped to St. Louis because New Hampshire, the host in the Manchester regional, dropped to a No. 4 seed. The guidelines are the guidelines, as I just said, but that doesn’t mean that Boston College can’t gripe if it wants.
Todd: Of course. Anyone can gripe. But the fact is, if you want to gripe, gripe about the way things are set up, not about how the committee did its job. Everything is transparent, which is what a lot of us love about the system. The NCAA tells us how it picks the teams and most of how it decides where to send them.
Was there a different way that the committee could have done things? Probably. But, much as Jayson Moy explains every week in Bracketology, the teams get grouped by bands and they try to stay as close to a 1-16, 2-15, etc., system in the first round. This season, having two host schools in the two eastern regionals made things pretty cut-and-dried.
Jim: It was definitely cut-and-dried, and I actually appreciate that about the selection process. And if teams like BC or Miami do want to gripe, they need to ask themselves why they don’t apply to host regionals. That said, BC coach Jerry York did tell me that he’s had conversations with Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna about having leagues host regionals (similar to St. Louis and the CCHA this year) and thus eliminating the need to place host teams in their home regional.
Todd: I think that would be a reasonable alternative, although I’m not sure the conferences would think so because of the financial guarantee process with NCAA events and the chance that they’d be the ones losing money in case of bad attendance. Even then, though, would the NCAA be willing to sacrifice the attendance draw of having New Hampshire play in its home state to keep Boston College closer to home? That could be an interesting discussion, too.
Jim: That does make for an interesting discussion. You’re right that the conferences might not want to be on the hook financially. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll hear more about this for the next few days.
So looking at the regions, which ones are the strongest in your eyes? I look at St. Louis and think that could be the bracket of death. Though it’s not good to bet against BC in the NCAA tournament, the Eagles are going to have to very tough games no matter who they play. I also look at Bridgeport as a relatively weak bracket.
Todd: I agree on St. Louis. My guess it that it’ll be Boston College and Michigan in the regional final there, but I wouldn’t expect those semifinals to be blowouts by any stretch of the imagination. If the Green Bay regional final ends up being North Dakota against Denver again, we might be in for another long night at the Resch Center. In 2006, the regional final there between Wisconsin and Cornell went to three overtimes, and the Sioux and Pioneers just played two OTs in the WCHA final on Saturday.
Jim: Speaking of overtime, I was surprised by how few overtime games there were this past weekend. Though with North Dakota and Denver playing two OTs, maybe they made up for it. So if you had to make picks right now, which teams will we see in St. Paul in two weeks?
Todd: I’m really tempted to take the easy way out and pick all the No. 1 seeds. North Dakota is on an impressive run and seems incredibly focused — Sioux players wouldn’t touch the Broadmoor Trophy last Saturday, just like they didn’t touch the MacNaughton Cup earlier. Boston College seems to be in the same boat. But I’m not sure about the other two regionals. I think Yale is good enough to get through the weekend, and it appears to be in peak form after outscoring its opponents 10-0 last weekend. And Miami has a gauntlet to run in Manchester, starting with host New Hampshire.
I reserve the right to change things before I submit my official bracket to the College Hockey Pickem, but right now I’m going go No. 1 across the board — North Dakota, Boston College, Yale and Miami.
Jim: I just submitted my bracket to College Hockey Pickem and had a very similar Frozen Four to yours. My only change was having Minnesota-Duluth coming out of Bridgeport instead of Yale. While we’re making picks, we can also look at the Hobey Baker race. Who is in your top three with one week left? I still stand by Andy Miele and Matt Frattin, but last time I picked UNH’s Paul Thompson. After last weekend, I’m changing that to Boston College’s Cam Atkinson. He was explosive on Saturday night against Merrimack.
Todd: I was having that same discussion with someone in St. Paul last weekend, and, to be honest, unless something outstanding happens this weekend, it’s down to Frattin and Miele in my mind. And I think they’re just about neck and neck, so the regionals will be incredibly important. I agree on adding Atkinson to the mix, though, and he’s capable of making a big splash in the national tournament like he did last year.
As if there wasn’t enough to watch this weekend, there’s one more element. Should be a great weekend.