NCAA Bracket ABCs
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
We're here for the final week of Bracket ABC's (analysis, breakdown and comparison) before the selections are announced on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
A couple of new wrinkles have cropped up since last week. One has to do with the potential for Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Michigan to wind up right on the bubble at the 14-15 slots (remember, two slots are reserved for autobid champs of the CHA and Atlantic Hockey). Would the committee say that, since Northern Michigan swept UNO just last week, two games head-to-head, that it can leap them over UNO, even though UNO wins on the overall criteria? If you think not, remember that last year, the committee leaped Denver over CC in the 2-3 slots because Denver defeated CC in the WCHA title game. There are differences, though. For one, this is for selection, not seeding, which is a bigger deal. Second, UNO won two games from NMU earlier in the year, and the individual comparison is not as close as last year's Denver-CC was.
The other interesting wrinkle actually has the potential to be a complete nightmare scenario for the committee. Atlantic Hockey could get two bids, with Holy Cross, and the league as a whole, drastically benefiting from Holy Cross intentionally losing the AH final to Bentley. Yes, you read that correctly. (Though that is not necessarily the case — it depends on other factors.) For more, keep reading.
Let's say everyone is rooting against poor old Bentley.
The good news is, with the unveiling of CHN's You Are the Committee tool, you can play around with all sorts of scenarios and see where each team will end up.
1. Minnesota — This slot seems virtually guaranteed at this point, particularly assuming a semifinal win against a tired opponent from the WCHA play-in game. The question remains about where the Gophers will land, and it's all dependent on where North Dakota falls. The committee recently affirmed that a team doesn't HAVE TO be closest to home, so even though Green Bay is a little closer to Minneapolis than Grand Forks, the Gophers can still go to Grand Forks. But the committee has to weight the lesser of two evils, and protect Minnesota as much as possible, while also protecting the gate in Green Bay. Thing is, Green Bay has already sold over 8,000 seats in an 8,800-seat arena. So the committee doesn't necessarily have to protect the gate. Of course, a lot of those people bought the tickets probably assuming the Badgers will be there.
2. Wisconsin — Wisconsin could still be the No. 1 overall seed, if it defeats Minnesota in the final game. That would solve a lot of potential problems, mentioned above.
3. Michigan State — Michigan State's possibility to maintain a No. 1 seed hinges upon its fate vis-a-vis Miami. Do better than Miami, be a No. 1; do worse, be a No. 2. Either way, the Spartans appear as if they will play in the East. If both teams go 1-1, MSU should stay here.
4. Boston University — A No. 1 seed looks like a good bet with a Hockey East semifinal win, regardless of what happens in the final. We know BU will be in Worcester. Last week we said BU would stay ahead of Michigan State, but we were wrong because MSU barely passed BU in RPI, thanks to play Fairbanks as opposed to UMass.
5. Cornell — A No. 1 seed is possible with an ECAC Tournament championship, but two losses and other crazy scenarios have Cornell out of the tournament. Cornell is a team with a lot of flux in either direction. Cornell's goal is to avoid being out West, and the best way to avoid that is by being between 4-6 overall seed, or be the same seed/band as North Dakota.
6. Miami — See Michigan State.
7. Harvard — There is a scenario where Harvard becomes a No. 1 seed, which wouldn't be a total shock considering how it is playing lately. With one win, the Crimson are a secure two seed. And they appear to be a virtual lock for the tournament. Win the tournament, and a No. 1 seed is possible.
8. North Dakota — North Dakota will make the tournament. Where it gets seeded will affect a lot of other things, because it is a host and must be in Grand Forks, and can't play a WCHA team in the first round.
9. Michigan — A win this weekend assures a bid, two losses would make it sketchy.
10. Colorado College — We said last week it looked like CC was locked into a No. 2 seed, unless it got swept by St. Cloud while Harvard swept SLU. Well, the sweeps didn't happen, but the series results did, and CC did drop. CC is just barely losing a couple of comparison above it, so is hoping for Michigan and North Dakota to lose to get back to a No. 2 seed despite being idle. It would take a host of major upsets for CC not to make the tournament.
11. New Hampshire — Looking good after a strong weekend. It helps that Hockey East doesn't have a consolation game, because none of the four teams can lose twice.
12. Maine — The Black Bears won two games, against a non-TUC, so it didn't help much. Then, Denver's series loss was a killer. That's because Denver dropped to 16 in RPI, and Maine lost its RPI bonus point it had from earlier this season when it swept Denver at home. That hurt, and Maine dropped to here.
13. Boston College — BC got the help it needed with UNO getting swept and Denver losing its series. Obviously, the Eagles are still in danger if they lose the semifinal against Maine, but even that might keep them at 14.
14. Nebraska-Omaha — Assuming no upset conference tournament champions, it looks like UNO is in regardless of their two losses to Northern Michigan last weekend. The first-round opponent will likely be Boston University in Worcester or Wisconsin in Green Bay.
15. Denver — There are some oddball scenarios that get Denver into the tournament despite it being idle this weekend. It has to do with a significant number of minor upsets all occuring, including North Dakota winning the WCHA tournament.
16. Dartmouth — Simply have to win the ECAC Tournament to get in for the first time in 26 years.
17. Northern Michigan — Going 1-1 will not move NMU up, and going 2-0 would obviously get the Cats the automatic bid. So barring that, it can't get in, unless the committee somehow decides that last week's sweep of UNO deserves to trump the overall criteria, if UNO is on the bubble.
18. Ferris State — Out.
19. Holy Cross — Obviously in contention for an automatic bid, and if they win the championship, the Crusaders can actually move up to be a No. 3 seed in some very legitimate scenarios, which would be remarkable. But even more striking is that, with a loss to Bentley in the AHA Championship game — thus making Bentley an automatic Team Under Consideration — Holy Cross gets a significant boost to its criteria strength. Enough to flip a ton of comparisons and move Holy Cross up to a No. 3 seed even with losing the AHA Tournament. So Holy Cross would be an at-large No. 3 seed in this scenario, and Bentley would get the autobid, putting two AHA teams in the NCAA Tournament. ... Remember, the committee actually reserves the right to toss this out the window for so-called weaker leagues, or leagues with a low composite RPI, so it may not happen anyway. But wow. ... The bigger problem, really, is not the possibility of two AHA teams, it's that Holy Cross could, potentially, benefit from losing. That's a very real issue. Though Holy Cross may not know that it benefits them without knowing the results of other games. (Thanks to colleague Mike Machnik for his work on pinpointing this phenomenon.)
Everyone else is out, except St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, Colgate, Mercyhurst, Bentley and Connecticut, which are all alive still for automatic bids.