With the conference tournaments approaching, I’ve been running a lot of scenarios through CHN’s PairWise calculator. It started with my interest in Minnesota’s chances (since I cover Big Ten hockey) but has expanded since then.
According to the Pairwise Probability Matrix, there are about nine teams that are locked into the NCAA tournament, and two others (Providence and Quinnipiac) that have very high chances of making it. North Dakota, Minnesota State, Boston University, Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and Boston College are all most likely making the NCAA tournament.
Regardless of the results this weekend, the NCHC will have five teams make the NCAA tournament -North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha. Very few scenarios have Nebraska-Omaha – the lowest-ranked NCHC team – moving to ninth on the PWR list. I’ve encountered none that have the Mavericks dropping below ninth.
So below I ran through some points of interest, different scenarios, the likelihood of certain teams making it and what they need for that to happen. I will periodically add to this as I calculate more scenarios.
The Bubble Teams
If you’re a fan of a bubble team, you want the highest seeds to win their respective tournaments. Except, of course, for the tournament your team is in. If lower-seeded teams win, ones that are already outside the PWR, their automatic bids take away at-large spots from bubble teams.
The only conference this doesn’t apply to is the NCHC, as three of the four teams participating in their tournament (North Dakota, Denver, Miami) are already guaranteed an NCAA spot. The only NCHC team you don’t want to win is St. Cloud State (see more below). Basically, you want the Huskies to go 0-2 at the tournament. Because if SCSU wins one game, or goes 0-1-1, the Huskies will be eligible to make the NCAA tournament, possibly taking away another at-large spot.
St. Cloud State’s Dilemma
There are some interesting things with this year’s PWR. St. Cloud State could earn an at-large bid, but two losses in the NCHC tournament would render the Huskies ineligible for the tournament with a winning percentage below .500. I’ve run a number of scenarios, and have found the Huskies can lose in the first round (against North Dakota) but would need to at least tie in the consolation game to be eligible. But this doesn’t mean that the Huskies would still be on the inside of the PWR.
Here’s a situation I found where SCSU is eligible, by winning the consolation game. (In this one, UNO also drops past ninth on the PWR list)
The ECAC note
Harvard’s double-overtime game winner against Yale did not eliminate the Bulldogs, but they have a very low chance of making the NCAA tournament (less than 10 percent). But chances are low for Harvard, as they are for two Colgate and St. Lawrence. The Raiders and Saints play in the semifinal, and that’s a must-win game for both teams. But a Friday win and a loss in the championship game doesn’t guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament. The best way for any non-Quinnipiac team to make the NCAA tournament is through a Lake Placid championship.
(I did find one scenario that has Colgate making the NCAA tournament if they lose Saturday, but it took a few tries. Here’s a situation where Colgate wins on Friday, loses Saturday and does not make the NCAA tournament)
A Hockey East look
I haven’t found a scenario that gets more than four teams into the NCAA tournament. It looks like BU, BC and PC will make the NCAA tournament. Most scenarios I’ve calculated have UMass Lowell making the tournament, but here’s one where Vermont loses to BU in the Hockey East championship game and earns the last at-large bid.
This is the best scenario Minnesota has to make the NCAA tournament. Along with the Gophers, Robert Morris, Quinnipiac, North Dakota, Minnesota State and BU would enter through automatic bids.
SCSU would be ineligible (as they would lose both games), leaving the last at-large spot to Harvard. This situation gets two ECAC teams in the tournament, as well as four (UMass Lowell and Providence) Hockey East teams. Bowling Green would be 13th.
There would be total chaos. Wisconsin, Mercyhurst, Ferris State, UNH, Harvard and St. Cloud State would win their conference championships. Bowling Green would get the lowest at-large bid, and pretty much all the bubble teams would be on the outside.
Instead of randomly picking teams, I chose a scenario I think will happen. So I have Michigan State winning the Big Ten tournament, and this is one of a very few scenarios that has two Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament (Minnesota gets the last at-large bid at 14). If UMass Lowell wins the Hockey East tournament, the conference would have four teams in.