NCAA hockey bracketology: Wisconsin sneaks into tournament in Week 1 projections

St. Cloud State is the No. 1 overall seed at this point in the season. - Justin K. Aller

The Badgers find themselves a No. 4 seed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., in our initial NCAA hockey bracketology projections.

I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not too early to start thinking about the NCAA tournament. Well, maybe it's a tad early, but let's roll with it anyways.

Every year, we start tracking Wisconsin's progress toward the NCAA tournament and this year is no different. In our first installment of bracketology, the Badgers check in as the No. 15 overall seed in the tournament, just barely squeezing into the field.

Wisconsin's current slot would set up a first-round matchup with Minnesota, but given the fact the NCAA tries to avoid intra-conference matchups in the first round at all costs, the Badgers end up getting shipped to Worcester, Mass., to take on Providence.

At this stage of the season, there are three Big Ten teams in the field. In addition to the Badgers and Gophers, Michigan is the No. 5 overall seed.

Step 1: Pick the 16 tournament teams

1. St. Cloud State (NCHC)
2. Minnesota (Big 10)
3. Providence (Hockey East)
4. Ferris State (WCHA)
5. Michigan
6. Boston College
7. Clarkson (ECAC)
8. Quinnipiac
9. UMass-Lowell
10. Union
11. Northeastern
12. Lake Superior State
13. Cornell
14. New Hampshire
15. Wisconsin
16. Miami

-- Mercyhurst (Atlantic Hockey)

Bubble teams (in order): Minnesota State, Vermont, Notre Dame, Colgate, North Dakota

All conferences earn an auto-bid to the tournament, which means Mercyhurst will take the final spot currently held by Miami.

Step 2: Assign the seeds

No. 1 seeds: St. Cloud, Minnesota, Providence, Ferris State
No. 2 seeds: Michigan, Boston College, Clarkson, Quinnipiac
No. 3 seeds: UMass-Lowell, Union, Northeastern, Lake Superior State
No. 4 seeds: Cornell, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Mercyhurst

Step 3: Place host schools in regionals

The only team in the tournament at this point hosting a regional is Minnesota, which is hosting the West Regional in St. Paul. Therefore, the Gophers are the No. 1 seed in the West.

Step 4: Place No. 1 seeds in regionals

No. 1 seeds are placed based on proximity to regional site.

With Minnesota the No. 1 seed in the West, St. Cloud is the top seed in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati.

No. 3 overall seed Providence is the top seed at the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.
No. 4 overall seed Ferris State is the top seed at the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.

Step 5: Place the other 12 teams avoiding intra-conference matchups, if possible.

Begin by filling each bracket by banding groups. Remember that teams are not assigned to the regional closest to their campus sites by ranking order within the banding.

If this is the case, then the committee should seed so that the quarterfinals are seeded such that the four regional championships are played by No. 1 v. No. 8, No. 2 v. No. 7, No. 3 v. No. 6 and No. 4 v. No. 5.

No. 2 seeds:

No. 8 Quinnipiac is placed in No. 1 St. Cloud's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 7 Clarkson is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 6 Boston College is placed in No. 3 Providence's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 5 Michigan is placed in No. 4 Ferris State's Regional, the East.

No. 3 seeds:

No. 9 UMass-Lowell is placed in No. 8 Quinnipiac's Regional, the Midwest.
No. 10 Union is placed in No. 7 Clarkson's Regional, the West.
No. 11 Northeastern is placed in No. 6 Boston College's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 12 Lake Superior St. is placed in No. 5 Michigan's Regional, the East.

No. 4 seeds:

No. 13 Cornell is placed in No. 4 Ferris State's Regional, the East.
No. 14 New Hampshire is placed in No. 3 Providence's Regional, the Northeast.
No. 15 Wisconsin is placed in No. 2 Minnesota's Regional, the West.
No. 16 Mercyhurst is placed in No. 1 St. Cloud State's Regional, the Midwest.

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)

No. 3 Providence vs. No. 14 New Hampshire
No. 6 Boston College vs. No. 11 Northeastern

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.)

No. 2 Minnesota vs. No. 15 Wisconsin
No. 7 Clarkson vs. No. 10 Union

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)

No. 4 Ferris State vs. No. 13 Cornell
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 12 Lake Superior State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)

No. 1 St. Cloud State vs. No. 16 Mercyhurst
No. 8 Quinnipiac vs. No. 9 UMass-Lowell

Our first concern is to avoid intra-conference matchups. Currently, we have four. Wisconsin vs. Minnesota and Clarkson vs. Union in the West, as well as Providence vs. New Hampshire and Boston College vs. Northeastern in the East. Luckily for us, we can fix all four very easily.

Wisconsin will flip with New Hampshire, setting up a Providence vs. Wisconsin matchup in the Northeast and a Minnesota vs. New Hampshire matchup in the West.

We'll also flip Union and Northeastern, setting up a Clarkson vs. Northeastern matchup in the West, and a Boston College vs. Union showdown in the Northeast.

Our bracket as we have it set up now:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)

No. 3 Providence vs. No. 15 Wisconsin
No. 6 Boston College vs. No. 10 Union

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.)

No. 2 Minnesota vs. No. 14 New Hampshire
No. 7 Clarkson vs. No. 11 Northeastern

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)

No. 4 Ferris State vs. No. 13 Cornell
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 12 Lake Superior State

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)

No. 1 St. Cloud State vs. No. 16 Mercyhurst
No. 8 Quinnipiac vs. No. 9 UMass-Lowell

Is there anything that we can change right now to make the tournament better for attendance?

The obvious change is to flip the Quinnipiac vs. Lowell matchup with the Michigan vs. Lake State matchup. Quinnipiac is a half-hour away from Bridgeport, and Lowell is about two hours away. That would give the East a significant attendance boost.

That switch also puts Michigan within driving distance of Cincinnanti for Wolverines fans.

The downside in the switch is hurting the No. 1 overall seed, St. Cloud. Instead of a hypothetical second-round game vs. the worst No. 2 seed, Quinnipiac, it will be in a region with the best No. 2 seed, Michigan.

It's a tough decision, but at the end of the day I'll take the major attendance boost.

Our final bracket this week:

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)

No. 3 Providence vs. No. 15 Wisconsin
No. 6 Boston College vs. No. 10 Union

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.)

No. 2 Minnesota vs. No. 14 New Hampshire
No. 7 Clarkson vs. No. 11 Northeastern

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)

No. 4 Ferris State vs. No. 13 Cornell
No. 8 Quinnipiac vs. No. 9 UMass-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)

No. 1 St. Cloud State vs. No. 16 Mercyhurst
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 12 Lake Superior State

Week-by-week Wisconsin tournament tracker:

Week 1: No. 15 overall seed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.

For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter --
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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