March 7, 2006 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bracket ABCs

Another Weekly Look at Teams' NCAA Hopes

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Welcome back for this week's version of College Hockey News' "Bracket ABCs." Yes, we've renamed it that. Why? Why not. So it's Bracket ABCs, as is "Analysis", "Breakdown", and "Comparison" (or perhaps, "Confusion").

Picking up where we left off last week, there wasn't a ton of movement in the Pairwise this week. Mainly that's because everyone won who was supposed to, or there were teams that had the week off, such as the top teams in the CCHA and ECAC.

That said, some of the other games wound up affecting teams like Michigan and Cornell, which dropped a bit. And Boston College's 0-1-1 weekend with New Hampshire flip-flopped those two teams while Denver went head of both of them.

So here we go. Remember, it's futile to create a bracket as if the season ends today, because it doesn't. And predicting the future is almost impossible. But we can get a good sense of what's going on.

Oh, and here is last week's article for reference. No use in repeating it all.

1. Minnesota — Unchanged from last week. In, and the almost definite No. 1 seed overall. We'll ask the same question as last week: Why is Wisconsin definitely going to Green Bay? Minnesota is closer to Green Bay than Grand Forks. Yes, we know that Wisconsin is much closer to Green Bay than to Grand Forks, and in the past, we have advocated the committee using common sense in such a situation, and not going to the hard and fast stipulation. In this case, the committee's own stipulations state that the top overall seed goes to the region closest to home. That would mean, Minnesota goes to Green Bay. But, it's close enough where we wouldn't mind them switching it. However — and this is the key — in this case, there is too big a detriment to the No. 1 overall seed: Minnesota could face North Dakota, in North Dakota's own building, in the second round. Now, this is a second-round matchup, so the committee could be less inclined to protect them in that case. But perhaps it should.

2. Wisconsin — Back in the saddle after two wins over St. Cloud State, this position seems impenetrable. But will they play in Green Bay? See above.

3. Miami — Here's another interesting one: If Miami somehow passes Wisconsin to the No. 2 overall seed, Miami is also much closer to Green Bay than it is to Albany, N.Y. By about 300 miles, in fact. If Minnesota is the No. 1 seed, and Miami is the No. 2 seed, and Minnesota goes to Grand Forks — then Miami should go to Green Bay. Of course, if the committee was going to send Miami to Green Bay and not Wisconsin, then it might as well just send Minnesota there. In which case, Grand Forks is farther than Albany, and Miami would go to Albany anyway. Better yet — it's all moot, since Miami has little chance of catching Wisconsin for No. 2, barring a Wisconsin meltdown this weekend against Michigan Tech.

4. Boston University — Michigan State is playing a TUC this week (Fairbanks) and BU isn't (Massachusetts). But even with an MSU sweep, it cannot flip the BU comparison. That means this is likely to stay this way unless BU loses this weekend. Either way, though, you have to figure that BU will be in Worcester (as the host), lined up to play Michigan State in Round 2, with the only thing up for grabs being who gets the last line change.

5. Michigan State — See above.

6. Colorado College — We said last week that the Tigers seemed locked into this spot, and after getting just one point against Denver last weekend, and staying here, that seems to be even more true. CC has essentially no chance of losing ground to teams below, and no chance of gaining ground on teams above. So the Tigers appear to be a No. 2 seed in Albany, in Miami's bracket. The only question would be if CC loses two games to St. Cloud this weekend, while Harvard sweeps St. Lawrence.

7. Nebraska-Omaha — UNO can get caught by Harvard if the Crimson win two games against St. Lawrence, and UNO falters to Northern Michigan — which is entirely possible, since Harvard has beaten SLU seven straight games at home. If that happens, all it does is help Harvard line up to play Wisconsin instead of Minnesota — which is not a bad tradeoff. UNO could sink as low as 12, but probably not beyond that.

8. Harvard — The Crimson have a chance to reach 6, albeit slight. That would set them up with two tough games in Albany, but at least they wouldn't be going West. Still, somewhere between 7-10 is most likely, in which case you're looking at a tough game followed by possibly a second rounder against Minnesota or Wisconsin.

9. North Dakota — North Dakota appears to be the final rock solid team in the tournament right now. If it slips up, it could drop to a 4 seed, which raises interesting scenarios. But the Sioux appear in. That interesting scenario would take place because they wouldn't be allowed to play a WCHA team in the first round, but they also must stay in Grand Forks because they are the host school. That means Wisconsin would probably have to be shipped to Albany in that case — or Minnesota.

10. Cornell — This is the first team in the list that is truly vulnerable to not making the tournament, though Cornell is likely in already. The Big Red didn't play, but slipped a couple of spots. It could've been worse, had Union defeated Yale (don't ask). You know what's amazing? If Cornell had swept its season-opening series against Michigan State, instead of splitting, the Big Red would be the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament right now. What does that say about the nature of the Pairwise? Especially since that would make them only No. 10 in KRACH.

11. Maine — Like we said last week, Maine has very little chance of moving much. We can see them being a 3 seed at Albany against the likes of UNO or Harvard. If it sneaks up to a 2, it will probably be in Albany anyway, or in Grand Forks against North Dakota. Be careful what you wish for.

12. Denver — Helped itself big time with three points against CC this past weekend. So long as the Pioneers take this series against Minnesota-Duluth, all should be fine for a bid. Depending on what happens after that, a 3 seed aginst UNO or Harvard is possible, or a 4 seed against BU or Miami. A 2 side is an outside chance.

13. Michigan — The Wolverines are hosting Ferris State, which, two weeks ago, took three points from Michigan in a home-and-home, including overtaking a 3-0 third-period deficit to win in overtime. Michigan's goaltending is shaky, and the team is vulnerable. A slip this weekend, and see you later. If not, then winning one of two at The Joe will be plenty to get Michigan in the tournament, where it would play BU in the first round in Worcester, or perhaps get a 3 seed and play CC in Albany, or Harvard perhaps.

14. New Hampshire — Helped itself out with three points against BU, but still sits on the bubble. Obviously, the Wildcats must beat Providence this weekend to get in. After that, a semifinal loss to, say, BU might make them vulnerable to getting bounced by BC, if the Eagles sweep Vermont and then win their semifinal against Maine. Otherwise, it's unlikely anyone could catch them, unless Ferris State defeats Michigan this weekend.

15. Ferris State — Didn't think it was possible from looking at it last week, but if Ferris State wins this series, it will flip the Michigan comparison, and could flip the UNH one. If things break right, including a sweep, it could also flip the Denver comparison, and that would definitely put the Bulldogs in the tournament. It's still a lot to ask for, but it's possible.

16. Boston College — If BC and UNH both win this weekend, it will be almost impossible for BC to flip back that comparison. In that case, it would need help from Michigan losing, but then that would help Ferris State. BC needs help.

17. Dartmouth — Won't get in without an autobid, but it is possible.

18-20. Northern Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, St. Lawrence — Have outside shots if they sweep this weekend against UNO, Michigan State, and Harvard, respectively. But otherwise, no chance without an autobid. Anyone below 20, forget it.

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