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2019 NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament Preview: Futures, Odds, Point Spreads, Over/Under

Using mathematical models to predict the winners

BC Athletics

Welcome to the NCAA tournament!

There are just two weekends left in the women’s hockey season, and eight teams are just three wins away from a national championship.

The NCAA tournament bracket was announced on Sunday night, with the top four seeds — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northeastern, and Clarkson — each earning a home quarterfinal game, with the winner advancing to the Frozen Four.

Now that we’ve got ourselves a bracket, let’s project out the first round of the tournament using each team’s KRACH and GRaNT Ratings. The two systems are used for different purposes: KRACH is best used to calculate game odds, and GRaNT is best used to calculate game scores.

Here’s our tournament bracket:

First and foremost, here are the odds to win the entire tournament. These results are simulated using KRACH, based on the odds of each team winning its game and the odds of defeating each possible opponent in each successive round. If you want to see the mathematical nitty-gritty, and God bless you if you do, click here.

(1) Wisconsin +117 (46.11%)
(2) Minnesota +224 (30.91%)
(3) Northeastern +846 (10.57%)
(4) Clarkson +1,728 (5.47%)
Boston College +3,157 (3.07%)
Cornell +4,325 (2.26%)
Princeton +6,269 (1.57%)
Syracuse +249,900 (0.04%) (lol)

Let’s break down each individual quarterfinals matchup and see who’s likely to come out on top.

Syracuse Orange (13-21-3, 10-8-2 CHA)
at No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (32-4-2, 18-4-2-1 WCHA)

KRACH Projected Line:
Wisconsin -2,333 (95.89%)

GRaNT Projected Spread:
Wisconsin -3.71

GRaNT Projected Final Score:
Wisconsin 4.47, Syracuse 0.76

GRaNT Projected Over/Under:
5.23

Well, congratulations to Syracuse for making their first NCAA tournament, but they are going to be lucky to leave Madison with their limbs still attached. Syracuse has the worst record of any team to ever make the national tournament, and the models reflect that. The Orange are the only team in the field who would not have qualified as an at-large team (as the 28th ranked team in the Pairwise), so that’s explains why they are such an outlier.

Furthermore, Syracuse didn’t win any non-conference games this season, going a very BC Men’s Hockey-esque 0-13-1 against teams not in the CHA. Not good!

Wisconsin, on the other hand, is one of the two national juggernauts this season. They are nearly 50/50 to win the whole thing, though getting a virtual bye (sorry, Cuse) helps goose that number a little bit – Minnesota, who’s roughly as good as Wisconsin, doesn’t have the same luxury.

Princeton Tigers (20-7-5, 15-4-3 ECAC)
at No. 3 Minnesota Golden Gophers (30-5-1, 19-4-1-0 WCHA)

KRACH Projected Line:
Minnesota -434 (81.27%)

GRaNT Projected Spread:
Minnesota -1.54

GRaNT Projected Final Score:
Minnesota 3.61, Princeton 2.07

GRaNT Projected Over/Under:
5.68

Now we get ourselves to the games that could conceivably have an upset. Minnesota is still a strong favorite in this game, but bigger upsets than this one have happened in the NCAA tournament before.

Princeton, though, is sort of limping into the NCAA tournament, having lost 4 of their last 6, though they took ECAC regular season champion Cornell to double overtime in the ECAC semifinals. That was a good result, but Minnesota is not Cornell, and the Tigers are going to play at a higher level than that to pull off the upset.

Here’s the good news for Princeton: They know they can compete with these top teams. In their first weekend of the season, the Tigers skated with Wisconsin stride for stride for two games, losing both but being within one goal late in the third period in both matchups. Anecdotally, Badger fans have been saying that Princeton was one of the toughest opponents they’ve had to play this year, so take that for what it’s worth.

The Gophers have been playing pretty well lately, though they’ve had some hiccups along the way. They lost the WCHA championship to Wisconsin — which, whatever, one of them had to lose — but they also had a couple one-goal wins against not-great teams (Bemidji and Minnesota State) in the not-so-distant-past along with an overtime loss (Minnesota-Duluth) the week prior. In addition, relatively speaking, the Gophers defense has been on the struggle bus a little bit. They haven’t gotten a shutout since the first half of the season, back in December 2018... something to ponder.

Cornell Big Red (20-7-5, 15-4-3 ECAC)
at No. 3 Northeastern Huskies (27-5-5, 21-3-3 WHEA)

KRACH Projected Line:
Northeastern -199 (66.57%)

GRaNT Projected Spread:
Northeastern -0.86

GRaNT Projected Final Score:
Northeastern 2.98, Cornell 2.12

GRaNT Projected Over/Under:
5.10

Our last two ECAC/WHEA interconference matchups are pretty great. Either road team pulling an upset would surprise nobody, and in fact it’s more likely that at least one of Cornell and Boston College gets a win — 62.57% to be exact — than neither of them.

Cornell vs. Northeastern is a matchup of two teams that won their regular season championship. Cornell really came into the postseason on a roll, going 12-1-1 in their previous 14, before stumbling hard in the ECAC tournament, dropping a game to #8 seeded RPI and then getting dominated 4-1 by Clarkson in the final — both games on home ice.

On the other hand, Northeastern was sort of the opposite. The Huskies just sort of limped into the end of the regular season a little bit with a 3-2-2 run down the stretch (and a couple overtime wins before that) before sweeping through the conference tournament to win Hockey East. Goaltender Aerin Frankel, who started the year putting up otherworldly numbers in net, has come back down to earth a bit, and Northeastern fans in general will probably tell you they aren’t completely comfortable with how well their team has played over the medium term.

Still, the Huskies have had a much better year overall. Despite Cornell having the higher season-long winning percentage, KRACH is very unimpressed with Cornell’s strength of schedule (26th) compared to the Huskies’ (7th) — something that could come back to bite them now that it’s tournament time.

Boston College Eagles (26-11-1, 19-7-1 WHEA)
at No. 4 Clarkson Golden Knights (29-7-2, 16-5-1 ECAC)

KRACH Projected Line:
Clarkson -128 (56.23%)

GRaNT Projected Spread:
Boston College -0.13

GRaNT Projected Final Score:
Boston College 2.82, Clarkson 2.57

GRaNT Projected Over/Under:
5.37

Our last quarterfinal, as is often the case with the 4 vs. 5 game, is very close to a total toss-up. In fact, our two models disagree on which team will win the game. KRACH has Clarkson slightly favored (nearly a pick ‘em), but GRaNT, which factors in margin of victory in its calculation, thinks BC will eke this one out. Intrigue!

Clarkson took the ECAC tournament championship game in convincing fashion against Cornell, but it hadn’t been all sunshine and roses for the Golden Knights leading up to that. Five of Clarkson’s seven games leading up to this weekend went to overtime, with the Knights going 4-2-1 overall in that time, and they needed a goal with literally one second left in regulation against not-good Quinnipiac just to force overtime in their second ECAC quarterfinal game.

Much like Cornell vs. Northeastern, the two teams in this matchup also came in as polar opposites. Boston College was red-hot going into the Hockey East championship game against Northeastern with a 13-1-1 record dating back to early January, but they looked like they didn’t quite have the legs against Northeastern in the WHEA final at times. While they did completely blitz the Huskies in the second period, BC ended up needing an absolute miracle of a goal in the closing seconds to force overtime before ultimately losing the title anyway. If BC plays the way they did against Boston University or in the second period against Northeastern, they will beat anybody. But if they come out flat, they may struggle trying to play from behind.

One last note about this game is BC’s struggles this season away from Conte Forum. The Eagles are 16-1-0 as the home team this year and a mind-boggling 7-9-1 on the road. Add to that the fact that Clarkson is 17-1-1 at Cheel Arena this season, and mentally you really start to tilt this game in favor of Clarkson and out of “pick ‘em” range.

The NCAA quarterfinals all take place on Saturday afternoon at the rink of the higher seeded team. We’ll have more coverage of the tournament as the weekend approaches!