Last season, Michigan rode its home crowd straight to the Frozen Four in Minneapolis with NCAA Tournament wins over St. Cloud State and top-seeded Denver.

Next week, Yost Ice Arena will again play host to the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament. And if the Wolverines make the field, as is expected, they will remain in Ann Arbor by NCAA rule.

But Michigan fans should not get too comfortable with seeing their team play its most important games of the season on home ice. As the NCAA Tournament expands, new and more neutral sites will be interested in hosting games. And the NCAA would probably favor their use to help balance competition.

“We haven’t had enough options, particularly out West, to consider more neutral facilities,” Massachusetts Athletic Director and NCAA selection committee chair Ian McCaw said. “Most of the bids we’ve received (for) Western Regional sites have been on-campus buildings. But it is something, again, that the committee has discussed.”

This year’s tournament will include 16 teams (four more than last year) and two more regional sites. The games in the two Eastern locations will be played at neutral arenas in Providence, R.I. and Worcester, Mass.

Mariucci Arena, home of the University of Minnesota, and Yost Ice Arena are campus sites that will host the Midwest and West brackets, respectively.

As far as who else might take the ice in Ann Arbor, the only thing that is decided is that Michigan won’t face another CCHA team in the first round. The NCAA likes to mix things up when it comes time to dance.

“We just feel it causes too much familiarity,” McCaw said. “Part of what you want to do with a national tournament is bring the different leagues together where there is interleague play and try to really have those crossover games.”

There will be 10 at-large bids granted into the field of 16. Wayne State and New Hampshire have already clinched spots after winning their respective conference tournaments.

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