The NCAA men’s hockey selection show takes place tonight, Sunday, March 21.
- Start time: 7 PM EST
- TV channel: ESPNU
- Stream: WatchESPN.com
- The basics:
16 teams, including 6 autobids, will be slotted into four regional sites: Albany, NY; Bridgeport, CT; Loveland, CO; and Fargo, ND. The regionals will take place from March 26-28.
The winners of each single-elimination regional will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, PA on April 8-10.
Due to the lack of nonconference games, this is the first time in decades that the NCAA hockey tournament field will be picked subjectively by a committee, rather than dictated by the Pairwise rankings.
- The outlook for Boston College:
Wednesday night’s heartbreaking loss to UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East semifinal took the Eagles out of the running for their first Hockey East tournament title since 2012.
But on the bright side, that result should really not have much impact on BC’s national position when the tournament field is selected.
BC will almost certainly be one of the four #1 seeds in the tournament. The only teams who I figure will be slotted in ahead of BC are NCHC champion North Dakota, and Big Ten champion Minnesota.
Minnesota State, who ran away with the WCHA regular season title, also faltered in their conference tournament, so they will likely stay ranked behind BC.
Because BC will be the only Eastern team likely to be a 1 seed — maaaaaybe UMass given their run to the Hockey East title, but probably not — they will be slotted in to one of the two eastern regionals; by the letter of the law, their closest regional (Bridgeport), but Albany theoretically could happen, too, since it’s basically just as close.
The likeliest opponent for BC is probably either Atlantic Hockey champion American International, or ECAC champion/autobid St. Lawrence, who managed to squeak in with an autobid despite a 5-win regular season (yikes) by winning two games in the 3-team ECAC tournament. COVID year, folks! Odds are, those will be your two #4 seeds in the eastern regionals.
Theoretically, if they are less strict about geography, BC could end up with one of the bubble western teams looking to squeeze in to the tournament - like Notre Dame, or Nebraska-Omaha.
None of us really know the relative strength of these conferences this year, but my gut reaction would be a lot more concerned if BC got an NCHC team than anyone else. But we’ll see. BC certainly *can* beat any team in this year’s field, on paper.
- The outlook for Hockey East:
BC will make the tournament. So will UMass-Amherst as the league’s autobid.
From there it gets a little bit murkier. BU seemed like a 100% lock until recently, and should still be 95% fine, though they played themselves into trouble down the stretch with a loss to Merrimack, a loss to Lowell in the conference quarterfinals, and lingering questions over whether they played enough games for us to really consider them a top 10-12 team.
That said, given their record against BC and their sitting in the top 10 in polls most of the year, they are almost definitely going to be the third Hockey East name called, and that seems like the bare minimum Hockey East will get in.
Providence is squarely a bubble team, and proooooobably the 4th Hockey East team, though the perception that the NCHC and Big Ten are stronger than Hockey East this year may cost them.
UConn seems to have been largely written off by many after losing to Providence in the Hockey East quarterfinals, but technically, their Pairwise ranking is still the fourth-best of any team in the league. They have a case to make it in over Providence, or I guess as a 5th Hockey East team. If I had to guess, I would say both outcomes are unlikely.
Nothing would ever really surprise me in a subjective system, but UMass-Lowell almost certainly will not make it despite their strong run in the conference tournament, given their mediocre regular season performance. But hey, you never know.
Lowell is 10-9-1, UConn is 10-11-2, and Providence is 11-9-5. Take your pick.
- The names on the bubble, nationally:
In addition to the Hockey East teams bubble-surfing, some interesting names are sitting on the bubble across the country.
Notre Dame is hoping the Committee will put in four Big Ten teams (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are the locks). This seems quite possible.
The NCHC will certainly put in at least 4, but maybe 5 teams. North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth are locks. Denver looked to be out after going below .500 during the regular season, but they went on a run to the NCHC final losing only to #1 overall North Dakota. They certainly have a solid chance of getting in, especially since they beat Nebraska-Omaha head to head in the playoffs (the other bubble team) and have more regulation wins than the Mavericks.
The WCHA will get two teams in - Minnesota State and Lake Superior State, who won the conference tournament. Bemidji State also has a shot to be a third WCHA team. I wouldn’t wager on this, but it’s possible.
The ECAC will amazingly probably get two teams team in from their temporary four-team league. St. Lawrence, who won the autobid, and Quinnipiac, who win 16 games before losing to SLU in OT in the conference final. Odds are pretty good that one of QU (as a 3 seed) or SLU (as a 4 seed) will be in BC’s bracket.
Atlantic Hockey will probably only get their champion (AIC) in. Army theoretically has a shot to get in as an at-large depending on how much the committee wants to troll western fans (usually a lot!). But given their 1-3 record against AIC, loss in the conference semifinal, a loss to first-year program Long Island in nonconference play, and the addition of St. Lawrence to the field, I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s unlikely.
If the committee goes with 4 B1G, 4 NCHC, 2 WCHA, 2 ECAC, 1 Atlantic Hockey, that would leave 3 spots for Hockey East.
My best guess would be that the committee will opt to balance the tournament a little bit more between East and West, and put in a fourth Hockey East team at the expense of either the B1G or the NCHC. Four Hockey East teams, QU, SLU and AIC mean you basically have 7 Eastern teams and 9 Western teams, and you’d be flying just one western team East. That seems pretty likely and reasonable to me.
We’ll find out tonight. No matter what happens, the USCHO threads and tweets are gonna be LIT!!!