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College Hockey:
16 teams… one champion

The field is now set for the NCAA Tournament and there’s plenty of debate that is taking place about how the committee went about seeding things.

Once again, the USCHO.com PairWise Rankings correctly predicted the tournament field. But this year, even the PairWise itself sparked some controvery. Wisconsin’s selection to the tournament, despite being a below-.500 team had a lot of college hockey fans scratching their heads.

Surely it’s hard to justify why a team that can’t even post a .500 record deserves an at-large bid. I’m certainly hoping that in the off-season the NCAA tournament selection committee reviews bringing back the rule that says in order to be a team under consideration, a club my possess a .500 record or better come season’s end. This was the case for a long time and only eliminated around 2000 when teams in the then-MAAC conference had plus-.500 records and nearly met all of the criteria to become an at-large team. At that point, the rule was changed to say that a club must have an RPI above .500 to be a team under consideration (it’s further been tweaked to say that only the teams with the top 25 RPIs will be teams under consideration).

There’s no reason that RPI needs to be eliminated from developing the list of TUCs. My thought would simply be to add an above-.500 record as one of the requirements to make the field as an at-large team.

While they’re at it, I’d also like to see the committee revisit another criteria it eliminated in recent years: records in the final 16 games. It was a shame to see clubs like Boston University, Vermont and Harvard all make incredible late season runs and not make the NCAA field. Some will argue that every game should hold equal importance, making the opening games of the season matter just as much as the league title game. That’s a valid point, but my one response to that is simply that the overall college schedule, then, should change. It’s very difficult for a coach to step on the ice for practice number one on Monday and then be expected to have his team in game-ready shape by Friday. BU’s Jack Parker admitted that he treated his first two games of the year (against Robert Morris and Alaska) as exhibition games this season, and who could blame him as his team had had a handful of practices before having to travel to Alaska to open the season.

All of this said, based on all the criteria in place, the committee did its job in not just picking the 16-team field but also seeding the clubs. At the end of the day, there were certainly some complaints, but I liked the committees overall rationale.

With the six teams from the WCHA in the field, and most of them seeded either second or third, avoiding a first-round matchup became impossible. It was fortunate that this occured only once (Denver vs. Wisconsin).

As for the locations of where each team ended up, I liked the committee’s rationale. With two host schools in the tournament, the committees hands were locked with Colorado College and Wisconsin. Thus, it seems the committee chose to take the top two seeds – Michigan and Miami – and send both teams east to avoid ever having to play a team on home ice. I don’t think that this necessarily gives Michigan and Miami an advantage (though Michigan may possibly have the easiest path to the Frozen Four) but at least they’re not “rewarded” with having to play a “road” game as the top seed in the regional final.

This year’s region of death appears to the Colorado Springs. Defending national champion Michigan State will have a tough time repeating having to face host Colorado College in the opening round. And New Hampshire doesn’t have a cake walk in its first game against Notre Dame. Whichever team can survive this region, though, may just win the national title.

I thought if any one team kind of got screwed it was Denver. The Pioneers won their conference tournament on Saturday but now must beat Wisconsin at Bucky’s home. If they do survive this game, I like their chances of playing for the national title in their own backyards. What an atmosphere that would make.

All in all, I like the job the committee did in placing these teams. Now the question lies which teams will survive to make it to Denver. I’ll be back with those thoughts later this week.

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