Jim: Well, Todd, the voters have spoken and, despite a loss to Minnesota State, the Minnesota Golden Gophers remain No. 1 in both the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll and the USA Hockey poll. I think a lot of folks assumed Quinnipiac might take over despite being idle last weekend.
The question, then, is are voters opposed to placing an ECAC Hockey team with no real NCAA resume in the top spot, or was this simply a matter of scheduling and that voters don’t like teams to back into the top spot?
Todd: Great question, and obviously a hot topic judging from the reaction on Twitter on Monday. I had Quinnipiac No. 1 on my ballot this week, but I can understand why people would be hesitant to put the Bobcats there.
You hit on one, that their only game in the last two weeks was a win over Connecticut last Tuesday. I don’t buy into the ECAC bias but I can’t say that it’s not out there.
The factor that I have seen cited was that Quinnipiac’s schedule doesn’t include what some might consider a big-time win. To me, though, the Bobcats have taken care of business and against a schedule that is stronger than Minnesota’s, according to the RPI.
Jim: I personally threw my vote to Minnesota for two reasons: Minnesota lost a one-goal game to a ranked team and Quinnipiac hasn’t played but the UConn game in two weeks.
I do think the Bobcats are an excellent team but also believe the Gophers are still the best team out there. Another loss might change my mind. But for now, Minnesota is my No. 1.
Todd: It all leads to an interesting question: Do we as voters give too much weight to certain teams based on historical success?
If the roles had been switched, and a No. 1 Quinnipiac team had split a conference series against a ranked team while No. 2 Minnesota was idle, would more people have supported knocking Quinnipiac from that hypothetical top spot? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s something to consider.
Jim: I think there is a definite bias against Quinnipiac both for lack of name recognition and lack of league success over the last two decades.
QU is hardly the only team to feel this bias. All Atlantic Hockey teams go through it every day. ECAC teams like Union have gone through it in recent years. It probably is human nature but I’m not sure that justifies anything.
Todd: It is probably more difficult for a team like Colgate to get back into the rankings than for a team like Wisconsin. The list of reasons why could fill our entire discussion, but I think it’s fair to say that some schools have a tougher time moving up than others.
Minnesota State (down one spot to 15th after that split with Minnesota) may be on that list, too.
Jim: I was so focused on who was No. 1 I never looked at Minnesota State. I had the Mavericks 12th on my ballot, giving them credit for Friday’s win.
Changing gears, there is a former No. 1 that really is struggling and that’s Boston College. The Eagles were swept by last-place Maine and decimated on the blue line, missing three defensemen. A lot of teams face injuries but you have to wonder when BC will bounce back.
Todd: You want to keep saying, “It’s BC. They’ve been through this before. They’ll be there at the end.” After all, the Eagles were not good at one point last season, too.
But the challenges are different this season, including the defensive depth you mentioned. I still think it would be a mistake for anyone to count them out but there are definitely issues to be addressed. No better time than after being swept at home by last-place Maine, right?
Jim: I can remember just last season when BC was swept by Maine in Orono and Eagles coach Jerry York called that the turning point. BC went on to win the national title.
I’m not sure if that will happen this season with the defensive injuries but it’s certainly a reason you can’t count the Eagles out.
Last weekend, Western Michigan swept Michigan. Most won’t consider that an achievement with the season the Wolverines are having but it’s still an important statement for the Broncos. Might this be a team to consider for your famous “First NCAA title category?”
Todd: Oh, absolutely. On that note, however, the group of real NCAA title contenders may end up having more teams that have never won a championship than teams that have a banner up. Looking at the PairWise Rankings as they stood Monday, seven of the top 10 teams are looking for their first Division I NCAA title. With teams like Michigan and Wisconsin outside the tournament field right now, this season could be a great chance to add another entry to the 18-team champions club.
Jim: That’s something that I would love to see, particularly as we head into realignment. It would be a heck of a confidence boost to have a team from NEXT year’s WCHA win the national title.
Todd: Minnesota State might be the only one carrying those hopes, and it still is outside the NCAA tournament at-large picture as it goes into its final off weekend of the regular season.
There are three meetings between ranked teams set for the coming week: No. 8 Yale hosts No. 2 Quinnipiac on Saturday; No. 4 Miami hosts No. 20 Alaska on Friday and Saturday; and No. 7 North Dakota hosts No. 19 Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday.
There’s a Michigan-Michigan State series (Friday in Ann Arbor, Saturday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena) that, almost unbelievably, is between the two teams at the bottom of the 11-team CCHA standings.
And we should note before we sign off that next Monday starts the Beanpot, with Harvard playing Boston College and Northeastern playing Boston University.