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Tears of Unfathomable Sadness, Volume 21: WCHA Arrogance Lives On

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Everyone's favorite BCI series returns with a look at some women's hockey snobbery

BC Athletics

Fear not, BCI faithful. Your favorite series didn't disappear for good.

It's been a little while since we put together a Tears post, although to be fair, our last one was such a mic drop that you could understand if we decided to retire this feature altogether. But situations will still arise that make it necessary for us to laugh at others, and one of those situations presented itself this past weekend.

If you miss the old WCHA arrogance from before the Big Ten ruined men's hockey and split up the western college hockey world, you need only look to women's hockey to see an enhanced version of it still going strong.

Now, to be very, very fair to the midwestern elitists, the WCHA has won 14 of the 15 women's NCAA championships. Minnesota and Wisconsin are the undisputed titans of women's college hockey, and even with their undefeated record, BC is pretty much a pick 'em, not a favorite, in a one-off against either.

But when there are rumors of the top two WCHA teams intentionally dodging the top eastern teams in an attempt to stack the Pairwise deck in their favor, it would probably behoove the coaches of those teams to not flat out admit such things in published articles.

WCHA women getting squeezed out of NCAA tournament
Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Hit me.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association owns 14 of the NCAA’s 15 women’s hockey championships. Yet when the tournament kicks off Saturday, Minnesota and Wisconsin will be the only conference members still alive.

There are 8 teams in the NCAA women's hockey tournament. One of those teams is the champion of the CHA, which of late has played the AHA men's role in back-filling the bottom of the NCAA tournament with its conference champion. The other seven slots are usually divided up among three other conferences.

(Also, I'm pretty sure there is no portion of the pairwise formula called "number of national championships won by other teams in that conference." As great as Minnesota and Wisconsin are, the only thing we know for a fact in an average year about Bemidji State or Minnesota Duluth or whoever is that they are inferior to the WCHA's Top 2, meaning they're probably not going to win the national championship. We have no way of knowing if they're better than a Northeastern or a Princeton or a BU unless they play against those teams. They don't get to just draft off the Gophers and Badgers.)

"It’s become really hard for our league to get three teams in, which is disappointing for our league because it’s the top league in the country," Gophers coach Brad Frost said.

One of the conferences competing for those 7 tournament spots is 50% larger than the other two. Coincidentally,* that conference is the one that usually has gotten the third team. Also coincidentally,* 3 is 50% larger than 2.

*Neither of these are "coincidentally."

The Gophers and Tigers played series against each other in each of the past two seasons, with Minnesota winning all four games. But games between top teams from the East and West are becoming rare.

Frost said that’s because WCHA teams play 28 of their 34 regular-season games in conference and are wary of nonconference losses hurting their NCAA tournament chances. None of this year’s top four WCHA teams played against a school that made it to last year’s tournament.

Okay, jumping right into it!

The party line you usually get is that the WCHA has so many conference games that they only have the opportunity to play a handful of out of conference games, so therefore it's difficult to play the good eastern teams. This doesn't make any sense, obviously, because pretty much every non-conference game they can play is in the east, but they can only play the bottom feeders because reasons.

I find it interesting that Brad Frost is worried about nonconference losses hurting their NCAA tournament chances. If confidence is so high in the WCHA's talent level, shouldn't Frost be thinking about how much playing the eastern teams will benefit the conference, rather than worrying about how losing might hurt?

Every team plays nonconference games. In fact, every eastern team plays eastern nonconference games, but somehow, the idea that losses might hurt your ranking is unique to the WCHA.

"Our league is such a grind,

#CoachSpeak

and so it makes it difficult to schedule the top teams out East,

It's not difficult when coaches are calling you trying to schedule and you ignore the phone calls.

because if you split those games and drop a few in the WCHA, all of a sudden you’re not in the national championship picture," Frost said.

Okay, now we get to the meat and potatoes.

You know, who gets into the NCAA tournament is just math (for the most part), so you can't just say things like this and not be called out on them.

Minnesota lost 4 times this year and ended up 3rd in the Pairwise. Had they replaced their four games against Yale and Penn State with four games against Northeastern and lost them all, they would have still made the NCAA tournament by a very large margin.

Bemidji State, the first WCHA team left out of the field, was pretty solidly behind Princeton and Northeastern in the Pairwise. But you know what would have gotten them in? A midseason sweep of Princeton or Northeastern.

And Frost, you big dummy, if Bemidji had "split those games," they would have had a higher RPI than they ended up with.

"It’s a hard thing to do. We have so few nonconference games, but that is the way it is.

See? I told you that was the party line. But Frost already word-vomited what everyone else knew to be true, so, too late.

Minnesota Duluth was the only WCHA team to play a nonconference series against a current NCAA tournament team, losing twice to top seed Boston College in October. The tournament’s other entrants are Northeastern, Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Mercyhurst.

I'm glad this article brought up Minnesota-Duluth, because the Bulldogs are one of the only western teams who have been interested in scheduling decent eastern opponents. They twice played Harvard, who was ranked at the time, and played another pair against BC, going a combined 1-3-0.

Duluth was not good this year and obviously didn't deserve to make the NCAA tournament. Weird how their out of conference results reflect that, isn't it?

This is the fourth straight NCAA tournament with only two WCHA teams. Bemidji State and North Dakota were two of the first three teams on the outside looking in after spending most of the season ranked in the top 10.

They were in the top 10!?! Wow, that's swell. Too bad only 8 teams make the NCAA tournament. Womp womp.

While there is agreement that top-tier matchups are good for the game, it’s becoming rare outside of the NCAA tournament.

I wish Coach Frost would just come out and say it: The Pairwise sucks for women's hockey and can be manipulated. With so few interconference matchups in women's hockey, the Pairwise struggles to compare teams between conferences and relies on a poor sample size of games to do the best it can. By the top western teams playing only the bottom eastern teams, the conference records are naturally skewed and it exaggerates the WCHA's already impressive records.

The fact that the WCHA had half of its teams in the top ten for the bulk of the season is actually impressive as hell when you consider the fact that it has only 8 of the 35 teams that play Division 1 hockey.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are the two teams that have to worry the least about losses knocking them out of the NCAA tournament. The Gophers' eastern schedule consisted of the 20th and 24th ranked teams in KRACH, while the Badgers' was even worse, with a schedule that included teams ranked 26th and 29th. But now we know it's by design.

The WCHA teams ranked 3rd and 4th in the conference would probably do well to schedule more of the decent eastern teams to show that they're really good enough to earn those last couple tournament spots. But when one of those bubble teams like North Dakota manages to lose to an (often bad) eastern team in the regular season every... single... calendar... year dating back to 2012, they probably aren't willing to prove on the ice what everyone else already knows: they aren't deserving.

Perhaps the WCHA is more top-heavy than the fans and coaches are willing to acknowledge.