Conference tournaments begin this weekend in four of college hockey’s six Division I men’s conferences, meaning we’re less than three weeks away from selection Sunday, when the NCAA tournament selection committee announces its field.
The PairWise Ratings mimic the formula that the committee uses to pick the teams for its 16-team tournament. With that in mind here is this week’s version of Bracketology, a projection of the NCAA field.
The big winners over the weekend were the Big Ten, which now has Notre Dame joining Ohio State in the field, and the state of Minnesota, which has three of the four No. 1 seeds. Of course, this is just a snapshot of the moment, because every game played can change the PairWise.
The PairWise Ratings through Monday:
1. St. Cloud State
3. Minnesota Duluth
4. Minnesota State
7. Ohio State
8. Arizona State
14. Western Michigan
15. Notre Dame
Penn State American International
Others of note
20. North Dakota
27. Michigan State
Note: American International, No. 32 in the PairWise, is projected to win the Atlantic Hockey tournament title and its automatic NCAA bid, thus bumping Penn State.
Here’s how the NCAA bracket projects:
West Regional (Fargo)
1. St. Cloud State vs. 16. American International
8. Arizona State vs. 11. Northeastern
Note: The 8-9 matchup of ASU and Providence won’t happen, because the Friars are shipped to the East Regional in Providence to boost attendance.
Northeast Regional (Manchester, N.H.)
2. Massachusetts vs. 15. Notre Dame
7. Ohio State vs. 10. Clarkson
East Regional (Providence, R.I.)
3. Minnesota Duluth vs. 13. Harvard
6. Quinnipiac vs. 9. Providence
Note: No. 14 Western Michigan would have been UMD’s first-round opponent, but the Broncos are moved to avoid an intraconference matchup. Quinnipiac and Denver are swapped to avoid a first-round ECAC matchup in the Midwest.
Midwest Regional (Allentown, Pa.)
4. Minnesota State vs. 14. Western Michigan
5. Denver vs. 12. Cornell
Since the 9-12 band of No. 3 seeds all were from the East, and the 5-8 band of No. 2 seeds had three Western teams, not many moves could be made this week to greatly improve attendance.
So, what’s the chance of three Minnesota teams being No. 1 seeds? I’d say decent. Minnesota State should be one of it takes care of business and wins the WCHA tournament. St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth close the regular season this weekend in the Granite City, then have the always rugged NCHC playoffs. If the Huskies and Bulldogs end up playing for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title on March 23 in St. Paul, there’s a strong chance both are No. 1 seeds.
As for the Gophers, they still need to win the Big Ten tournament and its automatic bid to make the NCAA field.