Give yourself a hand, Minnesota college hockey. You’re going to have the top three seeds in the NCAA tournament.
After the dust settled following Saturday night’s conference championship games – capped by Minnesota Duluth’s 3-2 double-overtime win over St. Cloud State in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff final – three teams from Minnesota occupied the top three spots in the PairWise Ratings, the formula the NCAA uses to fill and seed its 16-team tournament field.
St. Cloud State (30-5-3) is No. 1 in the PairWise, followed by defending national champion Minnesota Duluth (25-11-2) and WCHA regular-season and tournament champion Minnesota State (32-7-2). They’ll be the top three NCAA seeds when the field is announced Sunday (6 p.m., ESPNU), and the fourth will be Massachusetts (28-9).
On Saturday, the other tournament champions crowned were Northeastern in Hockey East, Clarkson in the ECAC, Notre Dame in the Big Ten and American International in Atlantic Hockey. All received automatic NCAA bids.
Here are the PairWise Ratings through Saturday:
1. St. Cloud State
2. Minnesota Duluth *
3. Minnesota State
5. Clarkson *
6. Northeastern *
9. Ohio State
10. Arizona State
12. Notre Dame *
15. Bowling Green
16.Penn State31. American International *
Note: The six conference tournament champions, who receive an automatic NCAA bid, are noted with an asterisk (*).
A couple of notes on the NCAA tournament:
** In a standard bracket, one regional would have seeds 1, 8, 9 and 16; another would have seeds 2, 7, 10 and 15; a third would have seeds 3, 6, 11 and 14; and the fourth would have seeds 4, 5, 12 and 13.
** The tournament selection committee will move teams within a seeding band (1 through 4; 5 through 8; 9 through 12; and 13 through 16) to avoid intraconference first-round matchups and try to boost attendance.
Here is my projected bracket:
West Regional (Fargo)
1. St. Cloud State vs. 16. American International
8. Denver vs. 10. Arizona State
Comment: An 8-9 Denver-Ohio State matchup would be by the book, but I'm guessing the Buckeyes are shipped to Allentown to help attendance, with the Sun Devils landing in Fargo.
Midwest (Allentown, Pa.)
2. Minnesota Duluth vs. 15. Bowling Green
7. Quinnipiac vs. 9. Ohio State
Comment: The Buckeyes land here, and Cornell would be a possibility, too, in the band of No. 3 seeds because of proximity. The committee very well might put the Big Red in Allentown and Ohio State in Providence, but I’ll slot the Buckeyes here.
3. Minnesota State vs. 13. Providence
6. Northeastern vs. 11. Cornell
Comment: Though Providence is not the East host – Brown is – the committee moves the Friars here to aid attendance. That’s not an ideal matchup for Minnesota State.
Northeast (Manchester, N.H.)
4. Massachusetts vs. 14. Harvard
5. Clarkson vs. 12. Notre Dame
Comment: Harvard moves here because Providence goes to Rhode Island.