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Boston College Hockey: National Pairwise Picture

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A look at where things stand after last weekend

Elsa/Getty Images

In case the first few months of the season didn't clue you in already, these last few weeks have served as a staunch reminder that anything can happen in college hockey this season. It's getting close to the point where, like the NHL, there's really no such thing as an upset. This volatility means that life will be stressful (but exciting!) for teams on the NCAA tournament bubble, including Boston College.

By virtue of sitting still on Friday night while teams ahead of them lost, BC zoomed up into 14th in the Pairwise going into Saturday's contest with UConn. The Eagles' narrow 3-2 victory allowed them to continue to climb temporarily into 12th, before Michigan's victory pushed the Wolverines past BC, dropping BC to 13th. Here's the tournament picture right now from College Hockey News:

Rk Team PCWs RPI Rk QWB-† W-L-T Win % Wgtd Win % - ‡
1 Minnesota State 58 .5995 1 .0087 19-5-1 .7800 .7874
2 North Dakota 57 .5836 2 .0068 18-5-2 .7600 .7377
3 Boston University 55 .5797 3 .0062 15-4-4 .7391 .7333
4 Nebraska-Omaha 55 .5789 4 .0071 15-6-3 .6875 .6891
5 Harvard 55 .5714 5 .0065 12-4-2 .7222 .7263
6 Bowling Green 53 .5707 6 .0041 15-5-4 .7083 .7137
7 Minnesota-Duluth 52 .5698 7 .0103 14-9-1 .6042 .6048
8 Miami 51 .5659 8 .0081 15-9-0 .6250 .6228
9 Providence 50 .5651 9 .0072 16-8-1 .6600 .6613
10 Michigan Tech 49 .5624 10 .0036 18-7-1 .7115 .6963
11 Denver 48 .5588 11 .0061 14-8-1 .6304 .6226
12 Michigan 47 .5543 12 .0027 15-7-0 .6818 .6863
13 Boston College 46 .5535 13 .0044 15-8-2 .6400 .6529
14 Vermont 45 .5492 14 .0014 15-8-2 .6400 .6429
15 Mass.-Lowell 44 .5489 15 .0014 15-7-3 .6600 .6504
16 Yale 43 .5420 16 .0059 11-6-2 .6316 .6436
17 Colgate 41 .5400 17 .0000 14-8-2 .6250 .6333
18 Merrimack 41 .5356 19 .0029 13-8-3 .6042

.

6081

19 Quinnipiac 40 .5393 18 .0007 15-8-1 .6458 .6325
20 Minnesota 39 .5314 20 .0029 11-9-2 .5455

.5392

21 Western Mich. 38 .5293 21 .0038 11-10-3 .5208 .5289
22 St. Lawrence 36 .5274 22 .0036 13-10-2 .5600 .5703

While you never want to assume anything this season, I feel pretty confident in saying it would be difficult for a team from 23 down to climb into the picture at all. I'd even say that Minnesota at #20 is in deep, deep trouble. Their precipitous fall from the top 3 the day they lashed BC on Black Friday has been extraordinary.

Other observations:

- It doesn't take long to get into trouble. Just a couple of weeks ago, UMass-Lowell was sitting in the top 6 and seemed to be well positioned to contend for a top seed. A bad skid, including getting swept last weekend by Providence, has Lowell right down to the bubble at #15. Conversely, BU, which risked falling down to #12 if they had lost to Lowell last weekend following losing to BC, bounced back with wins over Lowell and two over UVM to get up to 3rd.

- This is the muddle that BC finds themselves in now. Providence, which just last week was scraping the bubble with BC, is up to 9th thanks to their wins over Lowell. BC is similarly in position to make big leaps in the PWR with any number of wins in big games coming up, but they also have 3-4 teams right on their neck that could jump over them with a bad weekend.

- I would expect the cut line in terms of raw RPI number to stay about the same as it is now as teams rise and fall around it. This means that Grant's projection of 7-3-0 in the last 10 being the magic number is probably about right. With the win over UConn, that means 6 wins in the last 9 should have BC in the right spot going in to conference tournaments.

Conference breakdown:
NCHC - 5
Hockey East - 5
WCHA - 3
ECAC - 1
Big Ten - 1
Atlantic - 1

- The NCHC seems to be where the best hockey is being played, with a number of really good teams anchoring the league—including North Dakota, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha—all of whom seem like locks to stay contenders for the rest of the season. Hockey East has a lot of teams right in that bubble area, and with the competitiveness of the league, I'd expect at least one of those teams to be knocked out by attrition. That said, early reports of Hockey East's demise have proven to be premature yet again.

- The Big Ten looks like a total trash heap with Minnesota's demise, though it's coincided with Michigan's meteoric rise. BC is the only team to beat the Wolverines since mid-November, and what a huge win it's turned out to be for PWR purposes. The Wolverines are shredding teams right now, averaging over 5 goals per game since Christmas. Grain of salt warning, though: these games have come against Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and a slumping Minnesota. Easy prediction: someone outside the top 15 wins the autobid via the B1G tournament, messing up the bubble.

- The ECAC appears to have come crashing back to earth this year with only Harvard anchoring the league within the bubble right now. However, Yale, Quinnipiac and Colgate all have a decent chance to get in. This is also another league where I would not be surprised to see someone sneak up and grab an autobid.

- Is Minnesota State the national title favorite right now? They're beefing up largely on a pretty shallow WCHA in terms of quality, and their loss to Bemidji State in the North Star Cup was not particularly impressive. However, they've been the most consistently good team all season long and are a stifling bunch that are excellent at limiting opponents' chances. I think they have a very, very good chance of being #1 overall for the rest of the regular season, given the slight cushion the top 2 have on everyone else. That said, I think the betting-line favorite right now to win it all probably has to be North Dakota. They and Minnesota were both expected to return to the Frozen Four after returning most of the players who battled against one another in the national semifinal in Philadelphia last year; so far NoDak's the one holding up their end of the bargain.

- We're big Merrimack fans this weekend as they take on Lowell in a home-and-home, with Lowell right on BC's tail. Vermont has Penn State on Sunday in another bubble game to keep an eye on.