UPDATE: THG is running our bracket challenge again this year with $50 off an authentic MTU jersey to the winner, click below to sign up:

Editor’s Note from Tim Braun: So those of you that listen to the Chasing MacNaughton Podcast will recognize the name Dustin Lindstrom. He’s a regular on the podcast and over the years, he and I have come up with our own brackets over the years, so I asked him to put one together this year with the strange world that is an NCAA Tournament selection process without a working Pairwise. Here is what he came up with:

My locks for the tournament, 13 total teams (autobids in Bold):

Big Ten:

  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Michigan

Hockey East:

  • Boston College
  • Massachusetts
  • Boston University

ECAC:

  • St. Lawrence

Atlantic Hockey:

  • American International

NCHC:

  • North Dakota
  • St. Cloud State
  • Minnesota-Duluth

WCHA:

  • Minnesota State
  • Lake Superior State

Bubble teams:

  • Providence
  • Bemidji State
  • Nebraska-Omaha
  • Quinnipiac
  • Army
  • Notre Dame

Out of the six bubble teams, I think that the committee is going to give the nod, first, to Quinnipiac. Despite their loss to St. Lawrence in the ECAC championship game, I think the committee will give them credit for a stellar regular season record, despite racking up many wins against lower level competition, and getting swept at home by Bowling Green. There is an argument to be made to leave Quinnipiac out of the field, but I don’t think the committee will go that direction.

That leaves two spots for the five remaining teams. I think the committee is going to decide to only give Atlantic Hockey one bid, which means that Army is out. The reasoning for this is the historical record for Atlantic Hockey. It is rare for the conference to get more than one bid. So, Providence, Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Notre Dame…all 4 of these teams have fairly comparable resumes. Notre Dame was barely above .500 and struggled against Arizona State plus they were clearly fourth in the Big Ten so they’re out. In the end, I believe that the committee is going to leave out Bemidji State. I don’t see the committee giving the WCHA 3 bids, even though, I think Bemidji State is a team that could make some noise in the tournament and likely has the best resume of the remaining teams, I’m afraid the committee is going to take history into account, and that is not good for the WCHA. That leaves Providence and Nebraska-Omaha as the last 2 teams.

My 16 teams, ranked 1-16 are:

  1. North Dakota
  2. Boston College
  3. Minnesota
  4. Minnesota State
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Wisconsin
  7. St. Cloud State
  8. Michigan
  9. Minnesota-Duluth
  10. Boston University
  11. Quinnipiac
  12. Providence
  13. Nebraska-Omaha
  14. Lake Superior State
  15. American International
  16. St. Lawrence

I think that the committee will shuffle teams around more than normal, and move teams between bands, to accommodate fewer flights this year. To do this, I think that Minnesota State and Massachusetts will be swapped, and I think that Boston University and Michigan will be swapped. Both of these changes are made to reduce travel, not because one team should be ranked ahead of another. I also think that each band will be treated as completely interchangeable, meaning, 4 overall seed doesn’t need to play 5 overall seed, and the 16 doesn’t need to play 1 overall.

With that in mind, seeds are:

#1 Seeds: North Dakota, Boston College, Minnesota, Massachusetts

#2 Seeds: Minnesota State, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, Boston University

#3 Seeds: Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, Quinnipiac, Providence

#4 Seeds: Nebraska-Omaha, Lake Superior State, American International, St. Lawrence

The first team placed is North Dakota, in Fargo. As the host, we know that UND will be in Fargo. After that Boston College gets placed in the closest regional, Bridgeport, Minnesota goes to Loveland, and Massachusetts to Albany.

After the 1 seeds are placed, I like to place the 4 seeds next. There are 2 western and 2 eastern 4 seeds. Neither western 4 seed is a bus trip to either regional. I look at St. Lawrence and American International to be fairly interchangeable, from a competitiveness standpoint. I am going to place St. Lawrence with Massachusetts, and American International with Boston College, to minimize travel. In the west, Nebraska-Omaha is in the same conference as North Dakota, so they will be placed with Minnesota, in Loveland, and Lake Superior State will be sent to Fargo.

For 2 seeds, either St. Cloud State or Minnesota State need to go to Fargo, since they are both bus trips. Wisconsin is a flight to anywhere, and Boston University needs to stay east.

At the 3 line, Minnesota-Duluth is the only team that is a bus trip to Fargo, so they go to Fargo. Michigan is a flight to anywhere, and therefor they end up going to Loveland. The 2 eastern teams, Quinnipiac and Providence can go to either eastern region.

At this point, the brackets look like this:

FargoLovelandBridgeportAlbany
1 North Dakota1 Minnesota1 Boston College1 Massachusetts
2222
3 Minnesota-Duluth3 Michigan33
4 Lake Superior4 Nebraska-Omaha4 St. Lawrence4 American Int’l

The 2 seeds in the west are placed with St. Cloud going to Loveland, because they cannot be matched up against Minnesota-Duluth, due to an inter-conference matchup, and both St. Cloud and Minnesota State being bus trips to Fargo. Minnesota State goes to Fargo.

FargoLovelandBridgeportAlbany
1 North Dakota1 Minnesota1 Boston College1 Massachusetts
2 Minnesota State2 St. Cloud State22
3 Minnesota-Duluth3 Michigan33
4 Lake Superior4 Nebraska-Omaha4 St. Lawrence4 American Int’l

In the eastern regions, Boston University cannot play Providence, so they must be matched up against Quinnipiac. Boston University and Quinnipiac both make sense to placed in Bridgeport, which leaves Providence and Wisconsin (the only western team to go east, 1 in inevitable, due to there being more western teams in the tourney).

THG’s final Bracket:

FargoLovelandBridgeportAlbany
1 North Dakota1 Minnesota1 Boston College1 Massachusetts
2 Minnesota State2 St. Cloud State2 Boston University2 Wisconsin
3 Minnesota-Duluth3 Michigan3 Quinnipiac3 Providence
4 Lake Superior4 Nebraska-Omaha4 St. Lawrence4 American Int’l

These are the brackets that I have come up with, with the predominant strategy being limiting travel, and reducing flights as much as possible.

Editor’s wrap up: I think Dustin did a great job of laying out what he thinks the NCAA committee will do in this strange season to create a bracket without the normal pairwise plug and play they usually have. The committee has a very difficult job and no matter what they come up with there will be teams and conferences upset with their decisions. Here is who will ultimately make the decision:

  • Mike Kemp, Omaha associate athletic director (chair)
  • Michael Cross, Penn State assistant athletic director
  • Bob Daniels, Ferris State coach
  • Mike Schafer, Cornell coach
  • Derek Schooley, Robert Morris coach
  • Jeffrey L. Schulman, Vermont athletic director

One last wrench to throw into all of this is the fact that Mike Kemp, the chair and representative from the NCHC will have to recuse himself from discussions of Nebraska-Omaha’s inclusion in the tournament. Will that situation help or hurt UNO’s chances of making it as one of the last teams in the tournament? We’ll fine out during the selection show on Sunday, March 21 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPNU.