The WCHA's Final Five as been a tournament of upsets. Lower seeds have won all four games so far. And if the trend continues, Colorado College, which finished eight in the regular season, will beat Wisconsin in the title game tonight and get an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament.
Upsets have happened across the board in the four other Division I tournaments this week.
And that's a problem for St. Cloud State. The Huskies lost 4-1 to Wisconsin on Friday in the Final Five semifinals and now are tied for No. 11 in the PairWise Rankings, a mathematical formula which mimics how the NCAA seeds and fills out its 16-team tournament field.
No problem, you say? Actually, it is. The Huskies are "tied" for No. 11, but they lose the tiebreaker to both Niagara and Minnesota State, who have higher RPIs, a measurement of a team's strength of schedule.
So the Huskies are actually No. 13. They got themselves in that predicament by going 3-5-0 in nonconference games. (The Gophers were 8-0-0 in nonconference play, the only team in the country without a loss or tie outside its league. Minnesota State was 6-0-2.)
But there are 16 spots, right?
Yes, but two of them already will be taken by teams not in the PairWise's top 16.
The winner of the Wisconsin-Colorado College game will grab one. Wisconsin has the best RPI of teams tied for No. 17; ditto for CC among teams tied for No. 25.
The Atlantic Hockey champion also will be a team not among the PairWise's top 16. In fact, Canisus and Mercyhurst are not in the PairWise Rankings at all because their RPI is under .500.
What that means is the NCAA already can go 14 deep at most from the top of the PairWise Rankings. Remember St. Cloud State is No. 13.
If another team not in the PairWise's top 14 wins a tournament, the NCAA cutout drops to 13. And so on.
SCSU has to root for the favorites to win tournament games today and Sunday.
Here are the games the Huskies have to watch today:
Hockey East championship: UMass-Lowell, No. 3 with highest RPI, vs. Boston University, tied No. 17 with Wisconsin, but really No. 18, 6 p.m. in Boston ... Huskies need UMass-Lowell to win
ECAC championship: Union, No. 14, vs. Brown, No. 20 with highest RPI, 6 p.m. at Atlantic City, N.J. ... Huskies have to root for Union while at the same wondering if the Dutchmen could jump them in the PairWise with a win.
Notre Dame, No. 8 with highest RPI, vs. Ohio State, tied for No. 25, but really No. 26, 1 p.m. in Detroit
Miami, tied for No. 3 but really No. 4, vs. Michigan, No. 29, 4:35 p.m. in Detroit
Huskies need Notre Dame and Miami to win
SIX FOR WCHA?
If St. Cloud State can get in as at at-large team, the WCHA, in its final year with the present teams, would have six teams in the NCAA tournament. The other four conferences would have 10.
Hooray for the WCHA, huh?
Already securely in are the Golden Gophers as the No. 2 seed in the overall field behind Quinnipiac.
The Gophers are No. 2 in the PairWise, hence their seed. No. 6 North Dakota, No. 10 Denver, which lost in the first round to CC, and Minnesota State Mankato, the team with the highest RPI among teams tied for No. 11, are also in.
The Gophers will be the top seed in whatever region they are assigned to, probably the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.
North Dakota will probably be a second seed wherever it goes, DU and MSU third seeds.