We’ve been oddly silent lately. Perhaps it’s the numerous beerfests in the Northeast. Maybe a hundred inches of snow in Upstate NY, or the two inch sheet of ice I removed from my car this morning. Yet, despite all of this wintery goodness, all of us in hockey land know that this is the calm before the storm.
For those keeping a close eye on the various indicators that lead to the NCAA tournament, none seem more volatile this year than the esteemed Pairwise Rankings, and with nearly every game flipping rankings below sixth place, I firmly believe that we’re going to have some spectacular controversies that will either lead to a move to the KRACH, or yet another “tweaking” of the PWR that will “fix” the problems from the previous year, but probably open up a new array of issues for the following season.
With just two weeks to go in the regular season, the NCAA field is WIDE open. While the top four teams in the PWR can be pretty confident that they’re in the tourney when it’s all set and done, none of them are assured of a #1 seed yet. Ties every weekend for the last month aren’t helping anyone stand out either. Once we get outside of this group, things get even more wild. You find a group of “second tier” PWR teams hitting their stride, and regardless of how many wins they rifle off you don’t see them going to a #1 seed. Teams like Clarkson, Boston University and North Dakota are looking particularly dangerous right now.
Then things get REALLY interesting because PWR spots 12-18 are filled with teams separated by only four comparisons. We’ve got a 20 game winner already in Miami, in this group and a 12 game winner in Cornell. We’ve got a team with a losing record in the 13-14-5 Michigan Tech Huskies. Traditional power Boston College is sitting on the bubble tied for 14th with their new Hockey East breathren Vermont, although this evening’s victory over Maine certainly helps their cause. On the outside looking in? 13-15-2 Wisconsin?! And lets not even get me going on the insanity that will occur if Wisconsin takes 3 or 4 points from St. Cloud this weekend.
If a .500 team (or near .500) makes the tournament on an at-large bid, the world will just implode. Second, it’s not often powerhouse teams like Boston College or Wisconsin are on the short-end of the tournament selection process. Their fans will not be happy. With all of the juggling near the bubble, Niagara still has a chance to be an at-large.
It’s time to do some PWR watching, and it’s time for fans all over the country to start biting their nails. Very few teams are safe as we head into the post-season tournament. Just some random thoughts on the good ole PWR.