Justin K. Aller
To the projected bracket!
There is just one weekend left before the NCAA Tournament field is selected on Sunday. Get excited, you guys, because playoff hockey is here.
If you are interested in playing out the various scenarios this weekend, USCHO.com has their PairWise Predictor which allows you to input your own results for the conference tournaments this weekend and see how the resulting PairWise looks.
Given that there's, oh, more than 300,000 different permutations left, I went straight chalk to see how the tournament field looked. Here are the picks:
Semifinal #2: Connecticut defeats Mercyhurst
Semifinal #1: Niagara defeats Canisius
Championship game: Niagara defeats Connecticut
Semifinal #2: Notre Dame defeats Ohio State
Semifinal #1: Miami defeats Michigan
Championship game: Miami defeats Notre Dame
Semifinal #2: Yale defeats Union
Semifinal #1: Quinnipiac defeats Brown
Championship game: Quinnipiac defeats Yale
Consolation game: Union defeats Brown
Semifinal #2: Boston College defeats Boston University
Semifinal #1: Massachusetts-Lowell defeats Providence
Championship game: Massachusetts-Lowell defeats Boston College
Play-in #2: North Dakota defeats Colorado College
Play-in #1: Wisconsin defeats Minnesota State
Semifinal #2: Minnesota defeats North Dakota
Semifinal #1: St. Cloud State defeats Wisconsin
Championship game: St. Cloud State defeats Minnesota
The resulting PairWise looks like this:
1. Quinnipiac -- ECAC champ
3. Miami -- CCHA champ
4. UMass Lowell -- Hockey East champ
5. Boston College
6t. Niagara -- AHA champ
6t. St. Cloud State -- WCHA champ
8t. North Dakota
8t. New Hampshire
11. Minnesota State
13t. Notre Dame
13t. Western Michigan
Bubble teams, in order: Wisconsin, Boston University, Providence, Dartmouth, Alaska
By conference: WCHA 5, ECAC 4, CCHA 3, Hockey East 3, Atlantic Hockey 1
The resulting bracket would likely look something like this:
East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)
1 Quinnipiac vs. 14 Western Michigan
5 Boston College vs. 11 Minnesota State
Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire)
4 UMass Lowell vs. 13 Notre Dame
8 North Dakota vs. 10 New Hampshire
West Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
2 Minnesota vs. 16 Rensselaer
7 St. Cloud State vs. 9 Yale
Midwest Regional (Toledo, Ohio)
3 Miami vs. 15 Union
6 Niagara vs. 12 Denver
College hockey gone cray-cray this year. Some thoughts:
-- Quinnipiac, which has been locked into the tournament's top seed for the better part of a month, would be rewarded with a first-round matchup with the CCHA's Western Michigan. That's because the last two teams in the tournament, Union and Rensselaer, are both fellow ECAC clubs. The other reason why QU wouldn't be rewarded with the last team in the tournament field is because the Atlantic Hockey champ, Niagara, can climb as high as #4 overall, grabbing the final Eastern one seed from a BC, Lowell or Yale. This is insane.
-- Sticking with Quinnipiac for a moment, the other interesting thing is that Brown, which would need to win the ECAC's auto-bid by winning the tournament this weekend, would be a #4 seed and host the East Regional in Providence. That would push QU out of Providence, paving the way for either Boston College or Lowell to take the Bobcats' spot in the East Regional.
-- Another regional host is still playing hockey. The Michigan Wolverines, basically left for dead a little more than a month ago, are in the CCHA Semis opposite Miami. Not only would the Wolverines extend their NCAA Tournament streak to 23 years -- seriously these guys have played in the NCAA Tournament every season since I was 9 years old -- but they'd also play in Grand Rapids as the host of the West Regional. Michigan would get into the tournament as a #4 seed and likely face future Big Ten Hockey Conference program Minnesota in the opening round.
-- While Bowling Green is out, three of the four Regional hosts are still alive this year. Even better, if both Michigan and Brown get into the NCAAs by winning their respective conference tournaments, they'd push the last two teams in the tournament out. The result would be a tournament with three of four Regional hosts being placed in their own regional as a lower seed. Michigan and Brown would both be #4 seeds, while New Hampshire, which despite the loss to Providence in the Hockey East semis is a lock for the NCAAs, would be either a #2 or #3 seed.
The NCAA has to tweak these regional hosting rules going forward. I'm sure we could get Minnesota fans on board when they are rewarded as a #1 seed with a first round matchup against Michigan in Grand Rapids.
-- If you have some time to kill, also check out Jim Dahl's latest NCAA hockey tournament probabilities. Seven programs, including Boston College, are now a lock for the NCAAs -- Quinnipiac, Minnesota, Miami, Boston College, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota and New Hampshire.
-- In addition, there are 14 other clubs that can receive at-large bids without winning the conference tournament championship: Yale, Notre Dame, Mankato, Niagara, St. Cloud, Denver, Western Michigan, Union, Wisconsin, Providence, Boston University, Rensselaer, Alaska and Robert Morris.
-- Boston College is most likely to finish as the PairWise #5 overall (22.5%), followed by #6 (20.8%) and #3 (17.6%). The program most likely to be the #12 seed is Denver, so without moving around intra-conference matchups and working out travel, BC-Denver is the most likely 5-12 pairing at this time.
-- Bask in the glow of Boston University's NCAA Tournament probabilities:
Tournament invites: 25.8%
Short of winning the Hockey East Championship this weekend, the Terriers are in a tight spot. While BU has a 28.2 percent chance of finishing above the cut line, their tournament chances are slightly lower given the possibility that a team that doesn't finish in the PairWise Top 16 earns a conference auto-bid this weekend. The Terriers will not be wanting for extra motivation on Friday in a Hockey East semis game where BU will be a) playing for their NCAA Tournament lives b) playing to extend their 40-year head coach's career c) against their arch-rivals from down the Green line.