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NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology: A Nailbiter For BC Fans

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Being on the bubble with no Pairwise is NO FUN!

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Boston College Women’s Hockey had an early exit from the Hockey East tournament with a rough 5-1 loss to UConn in the quarterfinals, but there’s hope that the season isn’t quite over just yet for Katie Crowley’s squad.

The Eagles needed a lot of things to go their way this weekend, but it looks like BC got most of the results they needed to at least be in the discussion. With Colgate just now earning the ECAC championship, the only surprise auto-bid into the NCAA tournament field is going to be Robert Morris out of the CHA. That’s not the ideal result for the Eagles, but it at least puts Penn State, who was solidly in the field before losing in the CHA semifinals, back into the list of bubble teams hoping to get an invitation to Erie, PA next week.

Unfortunately, without a Pairwise to use this year to lock-in the field, the selection committee is going to have to be completely subjective in setting the bracket. Let’s at least start with the programs we know for sure are into the 8 team field:

Hockey East Champion: Northeastern
WCHA Champion: Wisconsin / Ohio State
ECAC Champion: Colgate
CHA Champion: Robert Morris

As of this posting, the WCHA final is still being played between Wisconsin and Ohio State, but as those two teams are currently sitting in a rock-solid #2 and #3 in the polls, we can safely assume both will make it. Wisconsin wins the WCHA in overtime.

That leaves us with three open spots for about six or so teams still in the hunt. They’ve all got warts, so let’s just break the teams down in order of who it feels like has the best case.

Keep in mind, this is all subjective and one man’s opinion. Again, we don’t have a Pairwise to definitively say who will be in.

Minnesota (WCHA): IN

The Gophers have had a dreadful year by their own standards... which is to say a year most programs would kill to have. They don’t have any bad losses, and they do have a couple wins over tournament teams — but a whole lot of losses to those teams, too. They’re 2-4-0 against Ohio State and 0-3-1 against Wisconsin. They’re also 2-0-0 against Duluth, who’s sitting a bit below the Gophers on the bubble as well. That’s a solid enough resume, and seems to be better than the teams below them, so while a lot of folks out west think Minnesota should be out, I expect the Gophers to be in the field.

Boston College (WHEA): IN

We’re biased, obviously, but we think Boston College may be on the right side of the bubble here. The Eagles don’t have any losses to terrible teams, and they are the only team to have beaten #1 Northeastern this season — that’s a big check mark on the resume. Unfortunately, the Eagles do have a pretty big blemish to their record in their awful 5-1 loss to UConn in the Hockey East quarterfinals. None of the other bubble teams had to play a quarterfinal game, so BC has the distinction of having the worst conference tournament of anyone involved here, but their larger body of work, I think, should have them in.

Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA): LAST TEAM IN
Penn State (CHA): FIRST TEAM OUT

Duluth and Penn State feel like the teams battling for the final tournament spot, and it’s a real coin flip, to me, on who gets in. Either one getting in would break the mold for how the tournament gets set: the WCHA has never gotten four teams into the field, and the CHA has never gotten two.

These are two polar-opposite resumes. On the one hand, Duluth played some good teams and was able to knock them off a couple times. They split 1-1 with Ohio State and 1-1 with Wisconsin, though they did go 0-2 against the Gophers. The rest of their schedule was pretty soft, and they do have a brutal loss to Bemidji, who was very not good.

Penn State, on the other hand, won a ton of games this year... but didn’t have a single game against a top 10 team. Their loss in the CHA semifinals complicated things, because they looked like they might not just be in the field, but possibly not be higher than the 8 seed. But they lost, so here we are.

I am more inclined to give the spot here to the team that has proven they can beat a top team rather than a team that just doesn’t have much of a resume, but given that Penn State had the best year of any CHA team in years (though, again, they didn’t have to play any teams from other conferences), I wouldn’t quibble with the committee putting in the Nittany Lions over the Bulldogs as a reward for such a season, especially when it would make the bracket a bit cleaner for non-conference matchups, and especially since having half the teams in the field be from the same conference is kind of lame (sorry, WCHA fans).

Providence (WHEA): OUT
St. Lawrence (ECAC): OUT
Clarkson (ECAC): OUT

The Friars, Saints, and Golden Knights are the only three teams with much of an argument otherwise to get in.

Providence mostly gets considered here on the strength of their 2-1 record against Boston College, but they were blown to bits four times by a very angry Northeastern team in the second half of the year, and that combined with a so-so remaining resume means they just aren’t there.

St. Lawrence had a super-hot end to the year, knocking off Clarkson four times in a row to advance to the ECAC championship game and only losing by one to Colgate. Unfortunately, SLU just didn’t do enough outside of that run. Their season started super late, and they’re below .500 at 6-7-0. A whopping 10 of their 13 games were against Colgate and Clarkson, so that’s a lot better than it looks, but it’s a limited resume.

Clarkson looked to have a good shot to get in for most of the season, but they totally fell apart at the end of the year. Their season ended with four straight losses to St. Lawrence, and their already-not-good 8-10-1 record was bolstered by playing a couple games against LIU of the NEWHA conference. A month ago I’d have told you they would have had a shot, but certainly not now.

With your eight teams selected, now you’ve got to deal with seeding — and while that’s less stressful of an exercise than deciding who gets in, it’s just as subjective. This is how I’d seed them if I were in charge:

(1) Northeastern (WHEA Champion)
(2) Wisconsin (WCHA Champion)
(3) Ohio State
(4) Colgate (ECAC Champion)
Minnesota
Boston College
Minnesota-Duluth
Robert Morris

Only the top 4 are “seeded,” so to speak, but with no flights to worry about (the whole tournament will take place in Erie, PA), that doesn’t matter as much as it usually does.

That would give us a bracket of:

Robert Morris @ (1) Northeastern
Minnesota-Duluth @ (2) WCHA Champ (UW/OSU)
Boston College @ (3) WCHA Runner-Up (OSU/UW)
Minnesota @ (4) Colgate

Flights are no issue, as we said, so can we make these matchups any better?

There have been virtually zero non-conference games this season, so we suspect the committee will align the bracket to give all non-conference matchups if teams are at least close. We have one non-conference matchup with Duluth @ Wisconsin/Ohio State, but the only way we could reasonably get rid of it would be to send Robert Morris to the WCHA champion. That could happen if the committee decides Wisconsin is #1, but I don’t see that happening since there’s a big difference between Duluth and Robert Morris and you’d like to protect the top seed. I suspect the committee would keep the bracket as-is for that reason.

Of course, if Penn State is in the field instead of Duluth, well, we’d have four non-conference matchups with perfect bracket integrity! What a dream!

We could always be totally wrong here, obviously. Now we just have to sit and wait. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will take place at NCAA.com at 9pm EST tonight.