Gopher Hockey: NCAA Tournament Bracket Analysis

For a while there, I was convinced both North Dakota and Wisconsin would end up in the West Regional with Minnesota. Two games prevented that frustrating conclusion and shaped the tournament landscape.

NCAA Hockey Bracket

After weeks of speculation about how the selection committee would assign teams to regionals to boost attendance, the bracket was announced this afternoon without much controversy. The seeds were assigned according to the Pairwise power for fourteen of the sixteen teams in the tournament. This is as close to a pure seeding as one could hope for. The only change: #13 North Dakota and #14 Vermont swapped regionals.

I had mentally prepared to write a blistering critique of the selection committee’s process and their flawed determinations of what’s important in a tournament, but they preempted me by giving me pretty much exactly what I wanted. Either the committee decided to see how a straightforward seeding and assignment worked out, or the results in the weekend’s tournaments tied their hands to such a degree that they had very few options for tinkering. I’m guessing know it’s the latter.

Make no mistake, if the committee could have placed either Wisconsin or North Dakota in St. Paul, they would have. Two games prevented that scenario.

First, North Dakota lost to Miami in the NCHC semi-final. The loss dropped the not-the-Sioux into the four seed band. It also put them in serious danger of being bumped from the tournament altogether, which would have happened if Ohio State had beaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Earning a four seed ensured that UND would not appear in the West Regional because Minnesota is the #1 overall seed in the tournament, guaranteed to play the #16 (the lowest four seed) in the first round. That four seed was definitely going to be a team that earned an automatic qualification by winning the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament.

If Ohio State had earned the Big Ten’s automatic qualification into the tournament they would have ended North Dakota’s season. Seeds #16 (Robert Morris) and #15 (Denver) were both automatic qualifiers. The Buckeyes would have been the third, and would have stolen UND’s #14 seed.

Had the Buckeyes defeated the Badgers (or even if it had been Minnesota in the championship game defeating the Badgers), there’s a strong chance that Wisconsin would have ended up in the two seed band. If that were the case, Wisconsin would likely be heading up I-94 once again this weekend.

As we know, Wisconsin won that game and earned the #4 seed overall (still #1 seed in their regional), forcing the committee to move them to Cincinnati, the same site at which North Dakota landed. Since they’re in a regional together, both of those teams cannot advance to the Frozen Four, which is something Minnesota fans can be happy about.

I know UND fans will believe I wrote that because I’m afraid of their team. I’m not. I just enjoy the thought of those two teams savaging each other in the first round. Two teams enter, one team (at most) leaves. What’s not to like about that?

I’m also looking forward to that regional’s other first-round contest between Ferris State and Colgate, a rematch of the Mariucci Classic championship game. Ferris State looked horrible in that game (in horrible ketchup and mustard uniforms), and Colgate won easily. We’ll see if Ferris State just had a bad day in Minneapolis or if Colgate has their number.

Other interesting first round matchups include #2 Overall Boston College versus #15 Denver, because an upset there would be delicious. I also think UMass-Lowell against Minnesota State- Mankato is intriguing because its two hyphen schools vying for punctuation greatness.

We’ll have a detailed looked at the teams in the West Regional coming up this week, so stick with The Daily Gopher for all your Golden Gopher NCAA Hockey Tournament Coverage. Also, let me know what you think of the regionals and the matchups you’re looking forward to watching in the comments.

It’s time to get serious. Ski-U-Mah.

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