With the conference tournaments — the last weekend of the season before the NCAA tournament selections are known — upon us, it’s time to take a look at the NCAA bubble teams in detail
Ohio State: The Buckeyes reside squarely on the bubble despite a second-place finish in the CCHA’s regular season. Even winning its semifinal matchup can’t guarantee OSU an NCAA berth, as plenty of scenarios exist to force the Buckeyes home even with a 1-1 record at the CCHA Super Six this weekend. To get in, Ohio State is rooting against upsets in other conference tournaments, especially the ECACHL, where both Colgate and Vermont can steal PairWise points with enough wins. Fellow bubble team Wisconsin can also hurt Ohio State’s hopes with wins at the WCHA Final Five. Note: Alaska-Fairbanks can still be a Team Under Consideration (one win this weekend is probably enough for the Nanooks), which would help the Buckeyes thanks to a 2-0 record against UAF in the regular season.
Michigan State: The critical comparison is with Northern Michigan, which the Spartans must have to bolster their hopes. MSU can only turn that comparison by winning head-to-head against the Wildcats, which can only happen in the championship game (which makes the bubble a moot point, since Michigan State would get the CCHA’s autobid), or in the third-place game. No other scenario seems to offer the Spartans hope. Of course, MSU, like Ohio State, is rooting against other bubble teams.
Northern Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska-Fairbanks: These teams must win the CCHA to get in.
Harvard: The Crimson is as close to a lock as can be, although two losses at the ECACHL tournament, combined with enough upsets and bubble-team wins elsewhere, could hypothetically push Harvard out of a bid.
Colgate: The Raiders are the bane of nearly every bubble team, since wins this weekend can move them ahead of several competing teams — not to mention the fact that a Colgate tournament title opens the door to scenarios that boost fellow ECACHL member Dartmouth (see below). Having said that, the Raiders need one win this weekend to have a reasonable chance at the NCAAs. A critical comparison is with Wisconsin, which can damage the Raiders’ hopes with a solid performance in the WCHA tournament. Colgate controls its destiny to a greater extent than Vermont, which needs more help from other teams to make it into the NCAAs.
Vermont: Similar to Colgate, Vermont needs a win to stay in contention, though the Catamounts face plenty of scenarios in which they stay home even with a 1-1 ECACHL tournament performance. It helps UVM’s cause to defeat Colgate head-to-head in the tournament, since that (1) guarantees Colgate can’t take away a bubble bid via the ECACHL championship, and also (2) turns the Colgate-Vermont comparison, helping put Vermont ahead of the Raiders in the NCAA pecking order.
Dartmouth: Yes, despite finishing behind Colgate and Vermont in the ECACHL regular season and losing to the Cats in the ECACHL quarterfinals, the Big Green is still a bubble team. In fact, there exist scenarios in which the Big Green makes the NCAAs while the Raiders and the Catamounts stay home. Dartmouth needs other bubble teams to stay behind it in the PWR, which means it’s rooting for favorites. Another twist: despite not playing this weekend, Dartmouth may improve its record against TUCs if Colgate wins the ECACHL, since that has the capacity to put Brown (which the Raiders played four times this year) back in the ranks of the TUCs. Dartmouth went 2-0 against the Bears this year. Another twist: Dartmouth lost to Quinnipiac this season, meaning that a QU title in Atlantic Hockey would make that loss count against Dartmouth’s TUC record.
Locks: Boston College
Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire: Like Harvard, these teams are all very-near-locks, as only a series of upsets in the CCHA and ECACHL, coupled with losses this weekend, can keep them out. At least two of these three teams — and probably all three — will make it, but losing in the Hockey East semifinals leaves the door open a crack for an early vacation.
Locks: Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota
North Dakota: No scenario currently presents itself under which the Sioux stay home for the NCAAs, but UND’s overall PairWise standing is low enough that it’s impossible to completely rule out that possibility without checking all the combinations of results — and there are thousands upon thousands of those.
Wisconsin: As has been documented elsewhere, the Badgers might actually have been better off losing their Game 3 last weekend to Alaska-Anchorage. Winning that series knocked UAA out of the ranks of the TUCs, which cost Wisconsin several TUC wins that would have helped out its NCAA resume. Still, the Badgers have a favorable position, with plenty of scenarios to get in even without winning a game at the WCHA Final Five. Beating North Dakota in the play-in game can only help, since that gives the Badgers the head-to-head PWR comparison with the Sioux. Two wins this weekend (meaning a third-place finish or better) make Wisconsin all but bulletproof.