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NCAA Bracketology: Pure Pandemonium

In a truly messed up year we have lost one of the few constants of women’s college hockey, PWR complaints, and have gained smoke filled room complaints. We take a look at what has been and what could be.

Northeastern Vs. Boston University at Matthew’s Arena Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Welcome back to The Ice Garden’s NCAA Women’s Hockey Bracketology.

In a normal year, right now I would be saying we all basically know exactly what will happen with the National Championship bracket, thanks to Grant Salzano over at BCInterruption. There would be four possible brackets, likely some overlap and we could calculate the odds of each one happening. We’d be hemming about adjustments for flights, in which at least one team would get the really short end of it all.

Though I don’t think I need to remind anyone out there this is far from a normal year. This year the committee essentially has carte blanche to create that smoke filled room that has plagued basketball for years. They will still be looking at the PWR but in a different way. Instead of a national picture we get to look at each conference individually and rank them against their peers. After they do that then they will somehow decide which teams get in from there.

We have some good ideas as to most of the field. At this point, we have two of the eight spots filled by autobids via conference tournament wins plus two teams who are essentially locked in based on their regular season play. That leaves four spots. One of those is an autobid leaving three spaces up for grabs in the most chaotic year of this sport.

The previously mentioned Mr. Salzano decided to do his math thing and try to find a way to ‘normalize’ this years national PWR by taking the last few years of intraconference play and creating a multiplier based on how much a conference typically boosted. He explains it much better in his original piece, but the spark notes is the WCHA gets a big boost, along with this mini-ECAC group, the HEA is average and the CHA is well rather bad. After the current results of the weekend he was kind enough to update his PWR table.

While there are some big flaws in this, it gives us a much better national picture than what we currently have, which is pure conjecture and smoke. From it we can really take the teams that are even in the conversation for those last three spots.

Auto Bids

These teams have won their conference tournaments already and are guaranteed to be heading to Erie.

Robert Morris

The Colonials were the first team to lock up a spot after knocking off Syracuse 1-0 in Erie for the CHA title. Them winning is a bit of a surprise since Penn State, whom we will discuss later, was the clear favorite. Robert Morris looks to go up against the #1 Overall Seed, though that could be altered (keep reading to find out why).

Northeastern

For the fourth consecutive year, the Huskies took care of business in Hockey East. After a dominating regular season, in which no title was awarded by the league, Northeastern powered through the HEA tournament on home ice to once again to look up a top spot. They are in the hunt for the top overall seed, but there will be considerations for matchups.

Locks

These two teams are in the tournament, no one really is arguing this. They will both be in the top-3 for seeding, though order is subject to change. They meet this afternoon with the WCHA crown on the line.

Wisconsin

The Badgers are the favorites to win today, though they were last year against this same Buckeyes squad. A win and they will have a case for the number one seed, a loss and they could fall to the third spot.

Ohio State

OSU wants to take their second straight tournament title and make their case for the two seed, some would argue the top spot, but that is likely reserved fro NU or Wisconsin.

Safe Bets

These next two teams are likely in the tournament regardless of the pending results, though one control’s their own destiny.

Colgate

Most people have had Colgate as a top seed for awhile now, but a recent slide has raised some serious doubts. Those can all be made moot with a win over St. Lawrence to take the ECAC autobid. Either way, with the self destruction that has happened around the country this weekend, the Raiders seem pretty safe around the 4-6 slots.

Minnesota

Some people are saying they might belong below certain teams not yet mentioned, but the Gophers, while not exciting, never had a horrific loss. The only two teams to beat them were Ohio State and Wisconsin. Again with how crazy things got these past few days that lack of negatives on their resume should leave them in the 4-6 slot as well.

Likely Bubble

These are the three best contenders for what are essentially the last two spots, which could be trimmed to one depending on the ECAC title game.

Boston College

It feels like everything came up Newton this weekend with all the games going the way of the Eagles putting them seemingly in the drivers seat for an at large bid. BC has no bad losses and do have a marquee victory over Northeastern, even if it was right as the Huskies had started their season. While their playoff loss to UConn was far from ideal, it was the sixth time those two teams had met, the Eagles taking all of the previous five, and it gets very hard to beat a team that many times in a row. All of that put together should leave the Eagles in the 6 or 7 spot.

Minnesota Duluth

This one is where we get controversial. The Bulldogs have not earned a spot in the tournament. But due to the smaller field to draw from and some epic self destructions, they sit on the inside of the tournament bubble, assuming no more upsets. Duluth is hanging their caps on their two marquee wins, one each against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

The issue is in the regular season they played only six games against teams that aren’t at the bottom of the RPI table, going 2-4 and having one of the worst strength of schedule metrics in the country. They were swept by Minnesota, whom some people think should be below these Bulldogs, and split against both Ohio State and Wisconsin. If they had no blemishes this alone would almost certainly get them in, however, they have a pair of massive blemishes. They played a pair of games against Bemidji State, one of the worst teams in the country. In that set of games they scored a single goal, late in the overtime of the second game, after losing the first game to Bemidji. Then you have to take a look at their tournament appearance, where things got extremely ugly in a 7-2 loss to Ohio State. You might think they had played themselves out with that result, but with help they stay in the mix.

Penn State

Is the committee really going to give the CHA two bids? Smart money should always be no on that question. But PSU did have a good season then had the misfortune of having a bad day in a single elimination game. Their bigger issue is their resume has no good wins and a truly horrific tie to Lindenwood. With the limitations to the PWR this year, they sit around 5th in the unadjusted rankings which could make the committee consider them, as many people were discussing the last two days.

Unlikely Bubble

These two teams likely are not going to get an at-large bid, but with the vagueness of the committee’s mandate’s and the wild speculation, both these teams have been in discussions.

St. Lawrence

The Saints have the best chance of these two teams because they are still playing and can earn an autobid. They are outside looking in for at large because the ECAC this year was just weird. Only four teams and a lot of cancelled games led to a situation where only Colgate had a winning record against the other ECAC teams, they supplemented with wins against Long Island and Sacred Heart. SLU making it in wouldn’t be the worst decision an NCAA committee has ever made but it would not be the right call.

Providence

Many people were advocating for the Friars going into their HEA title bout with Northeastern. They technically won the season series against Boston College, a pair of one goal games with other meetings between them cancelled due to COVID, and did have a lack of truly horrible losses. The issue: they were blown out four times by Northeastern this season, capped off by a rout in the title game. While the metrics never really had them in the same region as BC, many people were thinking they might sneak in with their championship game appearance, this seems doubtful though.

Likely Seeding

We will take a stab at how the eight team field will shake out.

  1. Northeastern (HEA Champ)
  2. WCHA Champion (Wisconsin/ Ohio State)
  3. WCHA Runner-up (Wisconsin/ Ohio State)
  4. Colgate (ECAC Champ)
  5. Minnesota (At-Large)
  6. Boston College (At- Large)
  7. Minnesota Duluth (or Penn State) (At-Large)
  8. Robert Morris (CHA Champ)

Last team In: Minnesota Duluth

First Team Out: Penn State

Next Team Out: St. Lawrence

Matchups

While it seems like NU should clearly be the number one seed there is some debate about Wisconsin, if they win the WCHA. Then you run into the issue of four WCHA teams. Every year we get a hosed down bracket to avoid flights and save money where you bus to somebody regardless of ranking. This year, all quarterfinals will be held in Erie, PA (the Finals site), eliminating flights so everyone called for a complete removal of intra conference matchups. Now that is being put to the test if four WCHA teams make it, will they protect NU and give them the clear 8 seed or will they have the Huskies take on Duluth? Gut says they will allow a single matchup to not crazily destroy the integrity.

1. Northeastern v 8. Robert Morris

4. Colgate v 5. Minnesota

2. Wisconsin v 7. Minnesota Duluth

3. Ohio State v 6. Boston College

The bracket will be revealed at 9 p.m. eastern tonight.