Welcome to Bracketology
Making sense of the frozen chaos
Welcome to the first edition of The Ice Garden’s Bracketology column. 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. 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.
First up we will look at how the teams rank. This week we will delve into each team and going forward we might just talk about a few that have had dramatic changes in their situation.
Home Ice Favorites
I won’t be putting anyone into locks quite yet but these teams are clearly on the path to hosting come March.
The Badgers have been the cream of the crop all season, building off of Ann-Renée Desbiens Patty Kaz run of last year. After her injury things are in question for them, but with their body of work they will still almost certainly be hosting a game in LaBahn.
They’re the other half of the powerful WCHA duo that has dominated the nation in recent years. The Gophers, while seemingly a step behind the Badgers, should be at home come tournament time and, depending on Desbiens’ recovery, could take the top seed.
The Saints are this year’s dark horse team. They came out of nowhere when they travelled to Boston to sweep a good Northeastern team, including a blowout win in the opener. Until this past weekend the only blemishes on their record were a pair of ties and a loss to fellow top team and arch rival Clarkson. However, this weekend they travelled to Washington D.C. and dropped a game against Mercyhurst which was a big blow to their home ice dreams.
Home Ice Contenders
These teams are currently on the bubble for a top four position and one or even two of them could easily snag a coveted home game.
The Golden Knights currently sit in the fourth position and have a good sized RPI lead on both of the other two contenders to host. The ECAC tournament will likely be at Clarkson due to their taking of the conference series against St. Lawrence and that very well could give them the boost to lock in either the fourth or third spot.
The most important series for the Bulldogs this season so far was hosting fellow contender Boston College early in the season and taking three out of four points, leaving very little wiggle room for them to drop the comparison to BC. They have games against both Minnesota and Wisconsin remaining; they have beaten Wisconsin once before this season, which sent them skyrocketing in the rankings.
Contrary to past seasons, the Eagles are on the outside looking in, trying to bring post-season hockey back to the Heights. While they are close to Duluth in RPI, they have a weaker schedule remaining and will drop a common opponents comparison point if they lose or tie Harvard in a potential Beanpot matchup which would guarantee losing the comparison to Duluth. They also stand closer to seventh place Robert Morris than they do fourth place Clarkson in the RPI.
Here are the main teams contending for the last two spots. At least one of them almost certainly won’t make it, but all three could miss if complete chaos erupts in the conference tournaments.
The Colonials are leading the CHA and should garner their auto bid, but even if they don’t, sitting in seventh would see them in the tournament. Among contenders they have played the second-weakest schedule to date (only Colgate ranks below them) and have a very weak remaining conference slate that could easily see them run the table.
The aforementioned Raiders have had a cake-walk season so far, but have taken care of business against those that they should for the most part. They did endure a disastrous weekend out west to start the new year, and have lost and lost badly to the only two teams they have faced that have garnered national votes in the polls. They sit in eighth and only would make the tournament this year due to Robert Morris playing so well out of the CHA.
The Bobcats are a very long shot to make the tournament in any capacity this season. The biggest thing going for them is the fact that the beat Colgate earlier in the season and play them again this weekend. A flip of that comparison could be huge for their hopes of continuing on. They will be relying on other tournaments going according to chalk for a chance to get an at large bid.
Auto Bid Thieves
These teams, while talented, are unlikely to garner the PWR comparisons they need to get in without winning their tournaments. Each has shown, both in the past and this season, flashes that could propel them into some glass slippers.
The Huskies have some bad losses on their resume and seem to have a penchant for losing in OT at home to teams they should be dominating. But they are clearly a talented team and on any given day could steal a game. They showed this when they tied BC earlier in the season after having chances to win it. While the Eagles would be favored in a single winner-take-all game, the Huskies could very easily knock the Eagles off in a rematch of the 2011 Championship also at Walter Brown.
A fifth team out of the ECAC will not happen, but they could knock one of their rivals out of the tournament. The Tigers were preseason darlings that fell on hard times mostly due to being swept by fellow possible thief Boston University, but since those loses they have not dropped a game.
Those who shall remain nickname-less are always a fly in the ointment for the traditional WCHA powers. They are the clear fourth place team in the league but every year seem to manage to shock at least one of the powers that be and maybe this is the year they do it in the conference tournament.
The Terriers are mostly only here because Hockey East decided to gift them the duty of hosting the conference tournament. They are currently tied for third with UNH and Vermont in Hockey East and as a result could easily drop out of hosting a quarterfinal but still get to host the finals weekend. In past years they have shown a penchant for stealing the Hockey East tournament so are a constant threat to take it, especially with how well they have matched up against BC this season.
As Is Current Bracket
1 Wisconsin v 8 Colgate
2 St. Lawrence v 7 Robert Morris
3 Minnesota v 6. Boston College
4 Clarkson v 5. Minnesota-Duluth
While this bracket would create some interesting matchups, like a rematch of last years championship in the quarterfinals, it will never happen. All four of these matchups are flights and after last year with the committee bizarrely ignoring PWR to save money on hotels for Princeton there is no way this bracket will happen.
Likely Current Bracket
1 Wisconsin v 7 Robert Morris
2 St. Lawrence v 8 Colgate
3 Minnesota v 5 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Clarkson v 6 Boston College
This has the advantage of shaving multiple flights. Robert Morris is going to be on a plane anywhere, sending them to Madison at least keeps the bracket somewhat close when you send Colgate to St. Lawrence which is a clear bus and a conference rematch. Another no-brainer is Duluth to Minneapolis - short bus and close to bracket integrity. What’s left is a rematch of last year’s semifinals and the previous two years quarterfinals with BC and Clarkson.
The committee would love Clarkson to fall out of the top four so they could send them to St. Lawrence as there is no easy way to get teams up there cheaply, but would likely hate it more if Duluth garnered the final hosting spot guaranteeing three flights without a surprise WCHA team like North Dakota sneaking in.
Matchups of the Week
At the top end of the rankings we have Minnesota heading to Duluth for a pair that will either be a quarterfinals preview or the beginning of a nightmare for the penny-pinching committee. If the Bulldogs pull off a sweep, they would be in great shape to catch Clarkson in the RPI, they already have locked up the common opponents comparison.
Down at the bottom end the Quinnipiac-Colgate game is huge to see who can snag the eighth spot. Quinnipiac won earlier this season at home and a win would both likely flip the RPI difference and guarantee a head-to-head win, even if they meet in the conference tournament they would already have two head to head comparison points. A Raiders win, however, would nullify that earlier loss and give them breathing room in the RPI.