If the NCAA hockey tournament were starting today -- and let's assume the current first-place teams won their respective postseason conference tournaments -- the Gophers would be the last of the 16 teams in the field.

Or, if anybody but Niagara emerged as the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion or there was a major upset winner in any of the other postseason tournaments, the Gophers would be out.

Never mind that they are No. 4 in the uscho.com national poll this week, or No. 5 in the USA Today poll.

Interesting, eh?

Here is how I've come to these conclusions. As we all know, the PairWise ratings -- based on team comparisons that a computer can do easily -- mimic how the NCAA picks it's at-large teams.

The champions of the five conferences get automatic bids. Then nine at-large teams are named.

So who is in the field?

Well, the current conference leaders are Niagara in Atlantic Hockey, Miami in the CCHA, Quinnipiac in the ECAC, Boston College in Hockey East and Denver in the WCHA. For the purposes of this exercise, let's say they all win their conference tournaments and get automatic bids.

The four tops seeds -- who will be in separate regionals -- according to the current PairWise ratings would all be schools out East:

Top overall seed: Boston College, No. 1 in the PairWise, first in Hockey East (automatic bid, assuming Eagles win conference tournament), defending NCAA champion, coming to Minneapolis for the Mariucci Classic. Coaches by legendary Jerry York, who just tied the record for most victories by a Division I college coach.

Second seed: New Hampshire, No. 2 in PW.

Third seed: Dartmouth, No. 3 in PW. Would be sent to Midwest or West Region

Fourth seed: Yale, No. 4 in PW. Would be sent to Midwest or West Region.

The four No. 2 seeds in the regionals would be: Boston University, Notre Dame, Miami (automatic bid) and Quinnipiac (automatic)

The four No. 3 seeds: Western Michigan, Denver (automatic), Cornell, Union

The four No. 4 seeds: North Dakota, Harvard, Gophers and Niagara (automatic) ... Gophers, No. 15 in PW, would be last at-large team in.

If one team -- or more -- below Niagara in the PW ratings wins a conference tournament, thereby grabbing an automatic spot, then the Gophers would be out of the NCAAs.

Just missing as of today: Ohio State, tied with Niagara for No. 16 in PW, and three WCHA teams -- No. 18 Nebraska Omaha, No. 19. St. Cloud State and No. 20. Colorado College.

Obviously, a lot can change with the PW ratings week to week. And there are still three months left in the regular season and postseason tournaments to play. This is just a snapshot look at how things stand on Dec. 3.

Here is a breakdown by conference of who would be in:

Atlantic Hockey (1): Niagara

CCHA (3): Notre Dame, Miami, Western Michigan.

ECAC (6): Dartmouth, Yale, Quinnipiac, Cornell, Union, Harvard.

Hockey East (3): Boston College, New Hampshire, Boston University

WCHA (3): Denver, North Dakota, Gophers.

Six ECAC teams in the NCAAs! That would be something for that league. Probably won't end with that many. Things will sort out.

The WCHA only has three because everyone is beating everyone in the conference. Take Saturday for example, lowly Wisconsin wins on the road at first place Denver and Alaska Anchorage gets its first conference win over visiting St. Cloud State, tied for second.

The top four teams in strength of schedule, which influences RPI, an important stat in the PW ratings, are: Dartmouth, Boston College, Boston University and Yale. Three of those teams would be No. 1 seeds today.

The Gophers and Nebraska Omaha, two NCAA bubble teams (as of today) who just split with each other, are Nos. 42 and 43, respectively, out of 59 Division I teams.

The Gophers' strength of schedule will take a jump with Colorado College, Air Force, Boston College and Notre Dame coming up in that succession. They sorta eased into this season. Now it gets rough.


Boston College coach Jerry York's march to a milestone hit a speed bump on Friday. The Eagles, who lost their seassn opener to Northeastern 3-1, won 10 in a row until losing at Boston University 4-2.

But on Saturday, BC bounced back to win 5-2 at home. It was the 924th win for York, tying York with retired Ron Mason of Michigan State for most wins all-tiime as a college hockey coach.

York's record is now 924-558-94 in 41 seasons. He will try to break Mason's mark on Friday at Providence.

The Friars are 7-6-1, 5-4-0 in Hockey East, so a road win is not a foregone conclusion.

If BC, 11-2, 10-2, should lose, there next game is not until the Mariucci Classic. So Gophers fans would have a chance to see hockey history. The Eagles play one-win Alabama-Huntsville on the first day of the tournament and the Gophers on the second.