So, if we were at the end of the season, here are the teams who would make it in (assuming that the highest-ranked team within each conference wins the conference title):
1. Boston College (Hockey East Champion)
2. University of New Hampshire
3. Dartmouth College (ECAC Champion)
4. Yale University
5. Boston University
6. Notre Dame (CCHA Champion)
7. Miami University
8. Quinnipiac University
9. Western Michigan University
10. University of Denver (WCHA Champion)
11. Cornell University
12. Union College
13. University of North Dakota
14. Harvard University
15. University of Minnesota
16. Niagara University (Atlantic Hockey Champion) *
*As Niagara is tied with Ohio State for #16, Niagara wins that tie-breaker because otherwise no AHA teams would be represented.
One seeds would be the first four listed: BC, UNH, Dartmouth, and Yale.
Two seeds would be the second four: BU, Notre Dame, Miami, and Quinnipiac.
Three seeds would be the third four: WMU, Denver, Cornell, and Union.
Four seeds would be the final four: North Dakota, Harvard, Minnesota, and Niagara.
Before we get further into the brackets, let's look at how each conference stacks up. Atlantic Hockey has a single representative in Niagara (4); the CCHA has three representatives in Notre Dame (2), Miami (2), and Western Michigan (3); the ECAC has an surprising six representatives in Dartmouth (1), Yale (1), Quinnipiac (2), Cornell (3), Union (3), and Harvard (4); Hockey East has the same number as the CCHA, three, in BC (1), UNH (1), and BU (2); and finally the WCHA has three as well with Denver (3), North Dakota (4), and Minnesota (4).
That itself is astonishing. When looking at the last ten years, the time at which the tournament took its current 16-team format, the averages for each conference compared to the number of bids they would receive in the 2013 Tournament, there is quite a difference in most leagues. Atlantic Hockey averages 1 bid (1.2 when counting teams which joined AHA from other conferences which have since collapsed), which is the same number of bids it receives. Hockey East receives 3 bids, compared to its norm of 3.6. It gets more stark from there. The next closest conference to its norm is the CCHA. The CCHA receives 3 bids compared to its 3.9 average. The WCHA receives 3 bids as well, over a bid from its average of 4.4 (4.8 when counting teams which joined the WCHA from other conferences which have since collapsed). The biggest difference comes with the ECAC. Normally, the ECAC receives just over 2 bids, at 2.2, but as of this pairwise calculation, the ECAC would receive six bids. The last time the ECAC received more than two bids was in 2011, when RPI, Union, and Yale represented the league. The last time the ECAC received more bids than one of the "Big Three" conferences was 2005, when the ECAC had three teams (Colgate, Cornell, and Harvard) and the CCHA had only two bids. (Not that it would matter to either conference as that was the year of the four-WCHA Frozen Four.) Will this be the year that the ECAC, the only conference not changing when the big conference realignment happens next year, outstrips their dismal average? We shall see when the time comes.
Another stark difference from what would be considered the "norm" of the tournament is where teams are seeded. The ECAC has ones, a two, threes, and a four. The "perennial powers" of the WCHA have no higher than a three seed, while the CCHA has no one seeds amongst their participants. The one seeds are split evenly between Hockey East and the ECAC. What this says about Eastern Hockey vs. Western Hockey will remain to be seen later this season, but as of yet, the East does not seem to be inferior, especially when looking at Cornell's record against "Western" teams this season: 3-0. Combine that with Yale's two wins against Denver and Colorado College and the almighty West doesn't seem all that dominant this year. That being said, the likelihood of the ECAC getting six bids is low and seems to be a practical joke at this point in time.
So let's look instead at the proposed brackets for the sixteen teams in the tournament were it to happen today. The first complication to consider is host organizations. If a host organization makes the tournament, it must appear in that regional. The only school (and perhaps the most inconvenient school) that this is an issue for is the University of New Hampshire. UNH is a number one seed and would have to remain in the Northeast Regional. That would place number one overall seed Boston College in the East Regional in Providence, as it is closest to its home. When looking at the remaining two teams with number one seeds, one realizes that they are both East-based teams, however they get shipped "out West" as far as Ohio for Dartmouth and Michigan for Yale. Other considerations such as not playing intra-conference games in the first round as well as others, were taken under advisement when putting together the following hypothetical bracket for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The brackets (at the top of the page) look as follows:
1. Boston College vs. 4. Niagara
2. Quinnipiac vs. 3. Western Michigan
1. New Hampshire vs. 4. Harvard
2. Miami vs. 3. Cornell
1. Yale vs. 4. Minnesota
2. Notre Dame vs. 3. Denver
1. Dartmouth vs. 4. North Dakota
2. Boston University vs. 3. Union
While a number one seed is supposed to get you the easiest route to the Frozen Four, it appears that some number one seeds have their work cut out for them. Dartmouth, the number three overall seed, has to face North Dakota in their first game. Yale, the final number one seed, takes on an always intimidating Minnesota in their first game. These brackets would be incredibly interesting to see play out. Ponder the brackets as we take a closer look at the path that our team would have to take to make it to the Frozen Four.
Cornell by no means has the easiest bracket to get out of, nor should it with its number three seed. Cornell's cumulative all-time record against the teams in its bracket, UNH, Miami, and Harvard, is 84-76-8. While that seems like a point in our favor, we need to take a closer look to see what the individual records are. Cornell has played Miami a total of three times. Its record against Miami? 1-2-0. While three games may not be a great sample size, we can look to UNH, a team that used to be in the ECAC before the Divorce. Cornell's record against UNH, however, is not much better, at 12-13-0. How do we get to such a sizable winning percentage within the bracket? Our margin of ten wins over Harvard (71-61-8). This is not incredibly promising from a purely statistical point of view. One can look at the incredible cumulative records of the teams within our bracket. Not including Cornell, the teams have a record of 24-6-5, a winning percentage of 75.7%. This incredible record within a bracket shows how much parity is within the bracket. However, statistics only say so much. This team has the talent to make it out of the bracket should it work hard and prepare for three incredibly tough teams, a New Hampshire team which soared to the ranks of number one in the poll, a Miami team which beat both conference and non-conference teams, and a Harvard team which beat Cornell once already this season.
Should Cornell get out of the bracket, it would face the winner of the Midwest bracket (Dartmouth, North Dakota, BU, or Union). The possibility of an all-ECAC Frozen Four in this exists, unlikely though it may be. But it would be nice to show ECAC relevance to outstrip the number of bids of one or two "Big Three" conferences in the last year that the "Big Three" exist as such.