Bracket ABCs: Championship Weekend Edition
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
This is our last Bracket ABCs until Saturday. Much of the updating will take place in quick form, now, on our Pairwise Live Blog throughout the weekend.
Hopefully, by now, everyone is utilizing our You Are the Committee. Special thanks, as always, to its original author, John Whelan. Plus we have enhancements this year, such as the ability to link back to your results scenario that you came up with, and/or share that link with others, either directly or through social media. We link to many of them below.
Special shout out as well to Jim Dahl over at SiouxSports.com, who has again run through all 393,216 possible remaining combination of results, and listed the odds for each team to make the NCAAs. It's an invaluable resource.
With that, here is the summary of where teams stand. And remember our usual links for the Current Pairwise, and our Pairwise Primer.
We've been saying for weeks that Quinnipiac was a sure-fire No. 1 overall seed, and if it's possible to be even more certain, than we are now. However, although we've been saying all along that this means Quinnipiac would be the top seed in the Providence Regional, this is not necessarily the case because of the one fly in the ointment — Brown. Brown defeated Rensselaer in last week's ECAC quarterfinal series. If Brown goes on to win the whole ECAC tournament, it would be placed in Providence because it is the host of the Regional. And since Brown would certainly be a No. 4 seed in this scenario, and Quinnpiac the No. 1, then the committee will avoid matching up two ECAC teams against each other in the first round. As a result, Quinnipiac would go to Manchester. Quinnipiac would prefer Providence, because it's closer to its fan base. The Bobcats can take care of this problem by defeating Brown in the ECAC semis on Friday.
We've also been saying for weeks that Minnesota is locked into the second overall seed, and that is certainly true. Minnesota will be the top seed in Grand Rapids, barring some funky funkness. There are a lot of WCHA teams that could be 4 seeds, however, and that matchup would be avoided, so what team Minnesota is paired with, could get interesting. What would this funkness be? See the Yale section.
Miami looks very good for a top seed in the Midwest Regional in nearby Toledo. Even if Miami slips to No. 5 overall, it's likely it will be in Toledo anyway, because that's where the No. 4 overall team would go. The committee, remember, prefers to keep 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5 together.
4. Boston College
The fourth of seven teams that have already wrapped up a bid. The question is whether BC can hold onto a No. 1 seed and a likely spot in Manchester. If it slips into 2-seed territory (5th through 8th overall), then anything goes. Obviously, things are contingent upon what happens to the Eagles and the teams immediate around them, but BC is looking to be in the 3-7 range when things are said and done. Whether BC stays East as a 2 seed, is a crapshoot right now.
Despite being No. 5 right now, Yale actually can miss the NCAAs if it loses two games at the ECAC tournament. This scenario is just one of a few that leaves Yale out of the NCAAs entirely, and the one that requires the least amount of non-top-16 teams to win automatic bids. In this case, just BU and Michigan winning their tournaments, with Union winning the ECACs, would knock Yale. Obviously, there are even crazier sets of upsets that leave out Yale too.
This is all because Yale's RPI would take a significant enough hit to flip many comparisons.
If Yale wins the ECAC tournament, in can be a 1 seed, and would get it at the Manchester Regional, which would certainly be nice. There another scenario that gets Yale the 1 seed without winning the ECAC championship, and Brown does. This would throw things into chaos, because Brown would host in Providence, meaning neither Quinnipiac or Yale could be there. So Quinnipiac would go to Manchester, and Yale would go somewhere like Grand Rapids.
And how about this whack-a-doodle scenario: Brown gets the 4 seed, pushing Quinnipiac to Manchester. Boston College gets a 1 seed and gets placed in Providence. Providence — the team — gets in as a 3 seed, and Yale as a 2 seed. This sets up a Providence Regional of Boston College vs. Brown, and Yale vs. Providence. Someone at the Dunkin' Donuts Center is praying to the gods for that one.
Lowell has locked up its second straight NCAA bid. It's most likely to be a 2 seed, but could easily be a 1 seed by winning the Hockey East tournament. That would put Lowell in Manchester, unless New Hampshire is a 4 seed there, which is possible. Again, the committee would avoid first-round matchups against teams from the same conference.
7. North Dakota
North Dakota has locked up a bid, now it will see if it can get a No. 1 seed. If it does, it could wind up anywhere, since all the sites are flights. And it very well could be Manchester. If North Dakota hovers around the 7 range, it could also easily be matched up with Minnesota again, which honest to goodness is just luck of the draw, but seems to happen a lot.
8. New Hampshire
Now we get to our first team that won't be playing this weekend, which helps New Hampshire in the sense that it can't lose any more games. That is why its NCAA bid is locked up. The question is whether UNH remains a 2 seed or drops to 3. Obviously, it's contingent on how the teams directly below here do this weekend.
There is a microscopic chance New Hampshire drops to 13 overall and thus winds up a 4 seed. I'm not even going to try to explain it. Here it is — thanks to Scott McLaughlin. That would really hose one of its fellow Hockey East teams from getting to play close to its fans. Again, that's because the committee is mandated to avoid first-round matchups against teams from the same conference. So, if Boston College or Lowell wins out, and this nightmare scenario happens, then BC or Lowell would have no choice but to go West.
This is where I would love to see the committee deviate from treating the Pairwise as gospel. I've written about this time and again — most recently here. The Pairwise numbers aren't precise enough to treat the difference between 13 and 12 as some holy writ. If it makes more sense to treat UNH as 12, make it a 3 seed in New Hampshire and keep Lowell there, then the committee should do that. But it won't.
Anyway, this scenario has a very slim chance of playing out.
9. Notre Dame
Notre Dame needs to win its semifinal game against Ohio State, or else things could get dicey. Win, and it will be a 2 or 3 seed, lose and dropping down to a 4 at best is likely.
10. Minnesota State
Minnesota State all but locked up its bid to the NCAAs by winning the WCHA playoff series against Nebraska-Omaha. It's the Mavs' first trip to the WCHA Final Five since 2003, which is also the only other time MSU made the NCAAs in Division I. Winning the WCHA championship will be a tough task, but it's possible MSU could be a No. 1 seed if it does. Most likely scenarios have MSU as a 2 or 3 seed, so there's not much difference between that.
Niagara is most likely in, even with a loss. If Niagara continues on to win the Atlantic championship, it could be a high 2 seed and play in Toledo or Manchester. The big thing, of course, is if Niagara doesn't win, and still gets in, thus giving Atlantic Hockey two bids for the first time in its history. Neither Connecticut or Cansius has made the NCAAs before, while Mercyhurst last made it in 2005. ... Here, also, is a scenario where Niagara is a 1 seed, which would be quite interesting.
12. St. Cloud State
It's still possible that St. Cloud could become the first team since Colorado College in 1994 to win the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champ, and not make the NCAAs. After the hullaballoo that caused — remember, in a 12-team field at that time — the NCAA implemented a rule that awarded two automatic bids to each conference (only four conferences at the time), with one going to the regular-season champ and the other to the playoff champ. That rule stayed in effect until the MAAC (later Atlantic Hockey) was granted its automatic bid in 2001.
Denver was knocked out of its playoffs, but has more security for the NCAAs than Western Michigan, because of its cushion in RPI and Record vs. TUCs. So Denver appears pretty safe, barring a lot of upsets. Remarkably, the top 13 teams are pretty locked in unless a lot of other things happen, even though the four teams above here all play and can lose more this weekend.
14. Western Michigan
Here's just one of many scenarios where Western Michigan is out. The Broncos are little better than 50/50 according to Jim Dahl. WMU is only in real danger of dropping one slot, in most cases, because a team just below it will pass it in RPI. But that one slot could be enough to keep them out given all the teams below here that are still alive for conference championships. That is the issue.
Union needs to win the championship, or get some help. Remember, the ECAC has a consolation game, which could be a saving grace for Union if it loses the semifinal. This is one of those cases where having the game could only help a team like Union. But if it wins the semi, and loses the final, it's most likely not going to make it — though plenty of scenarios exists where it does. Winning the championship could keep Union in the East in Manchester, but with Quinnipiac in Providence, that regional is not an option.
Wisconsin has the potential to play up to three games, or as few as one. Going 0-1 or even 1-1, and Wisconsin appears to be toast. That means it has to at least make the WCHA championship game. That's a tall order, needing to get through Minnesota State and then St. Cloud State, but certainly possible.
17-18. Providence, Boston University
Both teams have slim chances of making the NCAAs without winning the Hockey East championship. But there are some good possibilities. However, it's oddly possible for both to make the NCAAs and Hockey East gets five teams in. BU has a slightly better chance than Providence of making the NCAAs if it loses the final game, and it largely hinges on Miami winning the CCHA tournament (go figure). According to Scott McLaughlin, the way to get five Hockey East teams in goes like this: Providence over BU in the Hockey East final, favorites win everywhere else, Union loses the ECAC consolation game.
For the second time in three years, RPI could lose its only playoff series, and still make the NCAAs. That year, it was a first-round series, and RPI had to wait three weeks to play again. In this case, it would only be two. RPI needs Union, Wisconsin, Providence and BU to lose. Pretty simple. Perhaps not even all of them, just most of them.
Here is the nuttiness that gets Alaska into the NCAAs. This constitutes about a 0.1% chance, according to Jim Dahl — though it should be noted that, with those percentages, all possible scenarios are assumed to be equally possible. However, because of the relative superiority of some teams over others, some scenarios are more likely than others.
24. Robert Morris
Yes, believe it or not, RMU has to be included here. It's hard to believe, but, despite losing its quarterfinal Atlantic Hockey playoff series, the Colonials can actually qualify as an at-large team, despite never really being in the top 16 at any point this year. According to Jim Dahl's calculator, this has a 0.7% chance of happening — though, again, see the caveat in the Alaska section about what those odds mean. In any event, it doesn't seem that implausible. Robert Morris would get in with this scenario: All higher seeds win, except Mercyhurst beats UConn and Ohio St. beats Notre Dame.
The reason for this is the ole' Record vs. TUCs. Because Robert Morris has played fewer TUCs than many other schools, the differences from a couple wins and losses are greater. Right now, Connecticut is a TUC. Robert Morris just got swept by UConn in the Atlantic quarterfinals, and is now 1-3 against it. If UConn loses the Atlantic semifinal, it drops out of TUC status, and Robert Morris' Record vs. TUCs goes from .500 to .625, a big difference and enough to flip numerous comparisons. Robert Morris was 3-1-1 this year against the likes of Miami, Ohio State and Quinnipiac. So the explains it.