Welcome to the first edition of The Ice Garden’s Bracketology column this year. In this column I will be discussing the NCAA bracket based on the PWR rankings both as they currently stand and how they will likely shape up. Starting next week you can follow along from home using the PWR Calculator BCI’s Grant Salzano created from scratch - on the site you can edit past and future results to see where the rankings would end up. Though for now you can still see how the regular season results will play out before the tournament predictor goes live once the regular season concludes.
Last year was quite a head scratcher and a certain metallically colored rodent took exception and has solidified their car to play. Now we will have the benefit of the PWR which should take away the smoke filled room aspect and we have eliminated the flight requirements.
Home Ice Favorites
There are six teams that currently have a favorable path to home ice in the NCAA tournament obviously at least two of them will fail in this goal.
The Gophers are the most secure team to get home ice. They have a pair of easy wins to wrap the regular season and then will have one of the easiest quarterfinal matchups in the country as St. Thomas comes to visit for a pair before bowing out. Assuming Minnesota wins those four games (as they should) it would take a lot of other weird results to happen to seem them drop down to fifth.
The Badgers control their destiny but have a more difficult path. They travel to Columbus for a pair that will decide the second seed in the WCHA and give the winner a leg up on NCAA home ice. Either way they will almost certainly meet up with the Buckeyes again in the WCHA semifinals.
We will once again address the elephant in the room. In chasing the WCHA regular season title that was already hurt by the game they will not play against St. Cloud, the Buckeyes coaching staff threw a major wrench in their attempts to win a national title. If they had simply gotten to OT they would have had almost no negative effects win lose or draw. The regulation loss however has proved to be a rather large issue as they now need to make some splashes to guarantee their staying at home in couple of weeks.
After Minnesota, the Huskies probably have the easiest path to home ice. This weekend will be challenging against potential spoiler UConn but as of right now they have no NCAA tournament teams left in their path to a fish straight Hockey East title.
It hasn’t exactly been smooth for Harvard since they won the Ivy League and the Beanpot dropping once and tying another. They will need to win the ECAC to be confident in a home ice spot but definitely can not afford to lose to rival Yale in the title game if they want any hope.
The Bulldogs really weren’t considered threats heading into the season but despite not being able to win the Ivy Yale has quietly amassed a very good record and contain their destiny for the ECAC regular season crown. They will need at least to reach the ECAC finals and probably to win it if they want home ice.
Here we will talk about the schools that pose a credible threat to dance even without winning their conference tournaments.
The Golden Knights have had every opportunity to be safer but just cant stay consistent. They will be one of the last at large teams if they make it but will hope to erase doubt in the ECAC tournament.
The Raiders are stuck in the middle of an ever revolving ECAC mess where no team can consistently beat the rest. Whether or not this is a recipe for national success or not is yet to be seen. Colgate should be in and could get home ice if things got really weird but look just to safely make it into the tournament for now.
Things had been looking up for the Bobcats at the holiday break before the wheels have fallen off. Quinnipiac should be in the tournament and are an outside hope of hosting but that seems less and less likely as the season has progressed, this weekend against Yale will be pivotal.
Minnesota Duluth is in the interesting position of knowing where they seeded in their conference the whole way. The Bulldogs are well above the bottom half of their conference, which is incredibly weak, and a few steps behind the three representatives of the Big 10. While they also have a slim chance at hosting they will be a factor in seeding due to their sweep of Harvard.
Auto Bid Hopefuls
While everyone that makes a conference tournament can win it these our our most likely bid thieves out there.
The other Huskies have been knocking on the door of a conference title for awhile but always seem to get thwarted. This year they once again likely need to win that trophy in order to dance and they will have this weekend to preview where they stand as they take on Northeastern.
Vermont is new to this air. They historically have been a bottom dweller in HEA but the coaching staff has made them a serious contender in recent years. This year they could take the second seed in their conference tournament but they first have to go through our next team which might not be so eager to let the Catamounts into that spot.
The Eagles are an interesting team this year. They clearly can hang with just about anybody and have one hell of a goalie that can steal a game, but when they are off well let’s just say that Eagles fans have had some depressed weekends. Even beating NU in the Beanpot probably leaves them a bit short of an at-large bid but they could definitely win three games to get a trophy.
The Saints were another team that has done a lot but probably not quite enough to get themselves in without winning the ECAC. They will have a tough road as they will be traveling for their Quarterfinal.
My Bracket Prediction
1 Minnesota hosting 8. Minnesota-Duluth v 9. Colgate
2 Northeastern hosting 7. Quinnipiac v. 11. CHA
3 Ohio State hosting 6. Wisconsin v. 10. Clarkson
4 Harvard v 5. Yale
This bracket sees mostly chalk in the conference tournaments except Ohio State upsets Minnesota in the WCHA final after splitting the regular season final weekend with Wisconsin. If Minnesota were to take the WCHA in this scenario OSU and Harvard would flip.
As Is Current Bracket
1 Minnesota hosting 8. Colgate v 9. Quinnipiac
2 Ohio Start hosting 7. Harvard v. 10. Clarkson
3 Wisconsin hosting 6. Minnesota-Duluth v. 11. CHA
4 Northeastern v 5. Yale
The committee this year is tasked with avoiding intra conference matchups in the opening round, notably not in the quarterfinals especially with the 4/5 seeds, if there are less than four teams from the same conference in the bottom six. Right now the ECAC occupies the 7-10 spots and as such there are two all ECAC meetings but at least one is unavoidable. The committee will have discretion but they might leave this as is.