Joseph Gravellese: For day two at our look at the NCAA tournament, we shift to Lovely Cincy and the Midwest regional, whose #1 seed is the Wisconsin Badgers.
As we know, all of these regionals are unpredictable. But this one might be the most challenging of all to call. Minnesota, BC, and Union basically all had #1 seeds locked up back in January, and the question now is whether they will do what is expected of them.
That's not the case for Wisconsin, who squeezed in by virtue of winning the B1G tournament (going through the gauntlet of Penn State and Ohio State) while Ferris State stumbled in the WCHA tournament.
This last #1 could have been St. Cloud's, too; and it would have been Lowell's if they had beaten Sacred Heart. Womp womp. Point being: There's no clear favorite here. The Badgers are a #1 but face a pretty powerful and well-respected foe in North Dakota as the #4.
Ferris State has been very good all year, albeit in a weak conference, and takes on a Colgate team that is a pretty big mystery to most fans toiling in the ECAC below the level of some of that league's more prominent programs.
Grant Salzano: Yes, this one is a tough one. Wisconsin's got to be pretty frustrated having to play North Dakota instead of Vermont, as bracket integrity would have given them. Instead, the Catamounts are sent to Bridgeport to get curbstomped by Union.
North Dakota isn't exactly playing on a hot streak. They backed right into the tournament thanks to a third place game win. But the fact that they are North Dakota means they can't be overlooked.
JG: OF COURSE the NCHC has a third place game... Of course.
They can't be overlooked, and they won't be overlooked, which might kind of work against them. I kind of think Wisconsin cruised into Manchester last year thinking "UMass-Lowell? Pfffff, we just won the WCHA" and got themselves waxed by the Riverhawks. That won't happen this year.
But I'm not sold on Wisconsin. Full props to them from recovering and getting all the way up to a #1 seed, which I never would have guessed after they got demolished on consecutive nights by BC and BU. But they seemed rather shaky to me in the Big Ten tournament and did not have to face Michigan or Minnesota.
They don't really excel on offense or defense, ranking #11 and #18 respectively. They give up a lot of opportunities, though they have a good goalie in Joel Rumpel who allows them to do that. But it's troubling to me when you have a good goalie with a .930 sv% and are still 18th in the nation in GAA.
GS: I agree that NoDak being who they are will probably work against them. Wisconsin is, I think, the better team. Not so much so that it would be a wild upset for them to take the win, but the Badgers should take it.
On the other side we've got our familiar foe Ferris State, along with the opposite of a name opponent, Colgate.
JG: And this is definitely a tricky one to call. I've only seen Colgate twice this year ... both over the weekend int he tournament. They looked good against Quinnipiac, winning in double OT. But they looked entirely out of their league against Union. The U steamrolled them. They've been steamrolling a lot of teams, but yeah.
GS: I like Ferris in this one. They play in a soft conference, sure, but they're pretty well rounded as a club. 7th in team D. 10th in team O. 6th in penalty killing. They're a nice little club.
JG: They've got some pieces still from that team that ran to the 2012 national title game, too. I agree that I think Ferris is the pick in this one.
GS: Colgate, though.. 30th in O and 29th in D. How did they even make the tournament as an at-large?
30th in power play. 27th in penalty killing... At what point during a hockey game are they good?
JG: Yeah, I don't know. They were always sort of hanging around to that last at-large spot all year. I think it might just be unusual for us to live in a world where the ECAC is one of the deepest conferences with solid strength of schedule.
Colgate and Ferris met waaaaaay back at the start of the season for a two-game set in NY and they split the series; Ferris blasted them 7-4 in the opener, then Colgate won 1-0 in game two. They played them again in January at the Mariucci Classic and pretty convincingly and shockingly won 3-0.
They've won a lot of close games. And they've squeezed out some wins over good teams.
They beat Union early in the year; they have the wins over Ferris; they tied Minnesota 1-1 out at Mariucci. They had a one goal win over Vermont. But they've also had some soft games, too, including a loss to UMass.
GS: Hockey is weird, man.
I would be shocked if they won this game, second maybe only to Robert Morris against Minnesota.
So they probably will.
JG: I don't know if I would be "shocked," honestly. Colgate has played a tough schedule. I would be a lot more shocked if Denver beat BC, honestly. And I'd be more shocked if Vermont beat Union. Like, really, really shocked.
I'd also be pretty surprised (though not stunned) if Providence beat Quinnipiac. I would consider all of those to be more surprising than a Colgate win over Ferris.
GS: I would have thought so too until I looked at the peripheral stats.
JG: Don't be such a #NERD man. You're discounting #GRIT and #COMPETELEVEL and I bet if we had some Colgate honk here to chat with us about it that's what they'd chalk their wins up to.
They've beaten enough good teams this year that they have to be considered a contender to get out of the region, even though they're an underdog for sure.
GS: So who do you have in this game?
JG: I have Ferris in a 1-goal game, I just wouldn't be shocked if Colgate won.
GS: Reasonable. I have Ferris too, but definitely more comfortably than one goal.
JG: I did pick North Dakota in the other game on a pure hunch. And then I picked the Redacteds to beat Ferris because I think those two teams are honestly pretty comparable in terms of talent, and it would be so HOCKEY for North Dakota to squeeze in thanks to a third place game and then go to the Frozen Four.
I get that it's not really a super smart upset pick or a hot take when you're picking North Dakota, but there you go.
They went on a pretty damn impressive run down the stretch before that loss to Miami in the NACHO semifinal.
GS: Yeah, I don't have too many surprises here, I have Wisconsin in game 1 and Ferris over Colgate, with Ferris making the trip to Philly.
JG: Tomorrow, we bring the conversation to your neck of the woods, the beautiful town of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to talk about whether or not anyone in that bracket can beat Union*.
GS: Ugh. Union.