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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers Watch and Wait as Selection Sunday Nears

All the Gophers can do is scoreboard watch

Gopher Hockey

As the NCAA Hockey conference tournaments come to a close this weekend and the field of 16 is announced for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers just have to watch, wait and hope. As of today the Gophers will be in the field of 16 when it is announced at Noon on Sunday, but there are several possible results of the six conference tournaments that could end up in the Gophers having played their last game two weeks ago. Below we will take a look at the conference tournaments and try and decipher who Minnesota fans should be rooting for Friday and Saturday to make sure Minnesota’s name is called on Sunday.

A reminder that as of right now before any games are played on Friday, this is the current pairwise rankings via www.uscho.com

uscho.com

Minnesota sits in the thirteenth position, and of course the top 16 will make the tournament. UNLESS the automatic bid winners from the various conference tournaments are below the #16 threshold—which there will be at least two of. So you see Minnesota goes from comfortably sitting three spots below the cut line, to suddenly only one spot off the far edge of the bubble. Which is why depending on the site you like to follow Minnesota currently has a 92% chance via College Hockey News, an 87% chance via playoffstatus.com, and just a 76% chance via College Hockey Ranked to be in the field of 16.

So lets take a conference by conference look at who will be stealing bids, who should be in, and who should Minnesota fans be rooting for.

Atlantic Hockey

#1 Mercyhurst vs #7 Robert Morris

#2 Canisius vs #5 Air Force

Who is in?

Just the Conference champion. Mercyhurst at #20 is the highest ranked team in the pairwise. The winner of the conference tournament will get the automatic bid and take away one Top-16 spot.

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

Take your pick. No result here will have any effect on Minnesota’s chances.

Big Ten

#2 Ohio State at #1 Notre Dame

Who is in?

Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan are all locks. Penn State has about a 99.8% chance, so yeah they should be a lock too. Minnesota hopes that they will be team #5.

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

Again, take your pick. Both Big Ten teams are in and will have no impact on the Gophers chances.

ECAC

#1 Cornell vs #7 Princeton

#3 Clarkson vs #4 Harvard

Who is in?

This is where things begin to get interesting. Cornell is the only absolute lock to be in the field. Clarkson is a very strong possibility to get in, but if they lose to Harvard then they could find themselves on the outside looking in. If either Princeton or Harvard win the ECAC, they will steal a big from a top-16 team.

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

The safest possibility is to root for both Cornell and Clarkson to win Friday night. That will guarantee spots for those two teams, and guarantee that the ECAC does not steal an extra at-large bid. There are several possibilities where Harvard can win the ECAC and the Gophers can still get in, generally over Clarkson for the last spot, but things get a lot more complicated that way. Just rooting for chalk is the much easier scenario.

Hockey East

#1 Boston College vs #4 Boston University

#2 Northeastern vs #3 Providence

Who is in?

Once again, this is where things get interesting. Providence and Northeastern are locks for the tournament. Despite being the #1 seed, Boston College needs to do some work. They have a slight possibility to get in with one win, but probably will need to win the entire tournament to make the NCAAs. Boston University is in the same position as the Eagles. If either BC or BU wins Hockey East, then three teams will get in the NCAA Tournament and one more top-16 bid will be lost.

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

The safest outcome would be having the winner of the Providence/Northeastern game win Hockey East. Neither BC or BU can jump over the Gophers for an at-large spot, so its just keeping them from winning the tournament and potentially taking the Gophers spot.

NCHC

#1 St. Cloud State vs #4 North Dakota

#2 Denver vs #3 UMD

Who is in?

St. Cloud State and Denver are locks. UMD is close to a lock, but there are several scenarios that show them on the outside looking in if they lose their semifinal to Denver. North Dakota is squarely on the bubble. There are scenarios that show them getting in with zero wins on the weekend, and several more that show them getting in with just one win. Obviously if they win both games, they are in for sure, and that could be the bid that keeps the Gophers out.Who Should

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

This one doesn’t get any easier for Minnesota fans. Root against North Dakota. Both to get Minnesota in, and to keep the F’ing Hawks out.

WCHA

#5 Michigan Tech at #2 North Michigan

Who is in?

Minnesota State is in the tournament despite losing to Michigan Tech in the WCHA semifinal series last weekend. The winner of the championship game is also in and will take away a top-16 spot.

Who Should Gophers Fans Root For?

Another it doesn’t matter. The winner is in and will take away an at-large spot. But it does not matter which one.

So...What Happens to Keep Minnesota Out?

We know for sure that two conference champions (Atlantic Hockey, WCHA) will be outside of the top-16 teams and will take away two potential at large berths. Thus, #14 in the pairwise in the current cut off for at-large teams. Minnesota sits at #13. Thus in the final three conferences that have teams alive still outside of the top-16 who could win their way in (ECAC, Hockey East, NCHC) only one can have a team outside of the top-16 win. If two or more happen, the Gophers are done. (Note...there may be a few very slight scenarios out of the 49,152 possibilities where the Gophers could still get in if just two lower ranked teams win...but we won’t even worry about that)

With BC and BU playing in the semi-finals, we won’t know for sure until Saturday whether or not that conference could steal a bid. However, we could know that the threat of the Gophers missing out is non-existent Friday night. If Clarkson, Cornell and St. Cloud State all win on Friday night, it’s nearly a 100% lock Minnesota is in the tournament. The flip side is that if Cornell and Clarkson both lose Friday night...it’s going to be a very nervous Saturday night in Dinkytown.

If you want to play around with all of the 49,152 different possibilities you can check out either the USCHO Pairwise Predictor or the College Hockey News ‘You Are The Committee” Tool and try and figure out how Minnesota either gets in or out depending on what else may happen.

We will try and keep up with the results tonight and Saturday and provide updates on twitter based upon the results as we get closer to Selection Sunday. The NCAA Selection Show will air on ESPN U at Noon. If the Gophers do get in, its a very good chance they will be heading out east and probably playing Cornell in the first round of the tournament. But, things can chance in the next two days, Either way we will have a recap on Sunday.