Much has changed since my last NCAA Selection discussion two weeks ago.The biggest development — there is now a gap between the top eight teams and everyone else.
Minnesota, a top eight team for most of the season, is now in the same situation as Princeton, Ohio State, UConn — the Gophers have to win their conference tournament to get in (Note: Princeton could still beat out BC for at-large berth if Princeton won out and lost in the ECACHL final, and BC lost out).
That of course, doesn’t mean those eight teams can rest easy. Automatic bid winners outside of the top eight could knock out up to three teams in the top eight. So Harvard, Boston College, and Minnesota-Duluth still have plenty at stake in the next two weeks. The end of this post will focus on the comparison between these teams. The BC-UMD comparison is worth the most discussion because that may decide the final at-large berth if there is just one autobid surprise.
The current bracket projection is
- Boston College at (1) Mercyhurst
- St. Lawrence at UNH
- UMD at Dartmouth
- Harvard at (2) Wisconsin
The only failure of bracket integrity right now is the UMD-Harvard swap. Given that Dartmouth and Wisconsin are fairly close in the criteria (Wisconsin wins the comparison with Dartmouth 3-0, but the teams are less than a game apart in two criteria) and that Harvard and UMD are not too far apart either (Harvard wins the comparison 4-1, and the teams are less than a game apart in two criteria), I have to believe the committee would prefer swapping the two teams over forcing two intraconference matchups. I don’t think that’s likely to change either, unless Harvard puts more distance between itself and UMD in the postseason, and Wisconsin puts more distance between itself and Dartmouth in the postseason.
Right now, Harvard has some breathing room relative to BC and UMD. Harvard can secure the No. 6 spot by winning its ECACHL quarterfinal series against Yale (in 2 or 3 games). If Harvard loses that series in three games, and BC loses in the Hockey East final, the teams’ RPIs are too close to call. If Harvard loses that series in three games, and UMD loses in the WCHA final, then UMD would clearly be ahead of Harvard. If Harvard loses that series in three, and UMD loses in the WCHA final, then the teams’ RPIs are too close to call. The RPI leader would win the comparisons in those too-close-to-call scenarios.
The UMD-BC comparison is the interesting one — it’s tight right now.
- UMD has the most control of its destiny — if the Bulldogs sweep St. Cloud and lose in the WCHA final, they will finish ahead of BC.
- If UMD sweeps St. Cloud and loses in the WCHA semifinal, then BC can definitely finish ahead of UMD by beating Maine next week and winning its Hockey East semifinal. If BC fails to do either, UMD will finish ahead.
- If UMD beats St. Cloud in three, and loses in the WCHA final, and BC beats Maine and loses in the Hockey East final, then the teams’ RPIs are too close to call, but it’d be a slight edge for BC, and that’d be enough for BC to win the comparison.
- If UMD beats St. Cloud in three, and loses in the WCHA semifinal, and BC beats Maine and loses in the WCHA semifinal, then again BC has a slight edge in RPI, and wins the comparison.
- If UMD loses the St. Cloud series, and BC beats Maine, BC will finish ahead.
- If Maine does beat BC, I’ll discuss the implications next week.
One final note — if Providence fails to take one point from UConn this weekend and loses its Hockey East semifinal, that means Providence will cease to have an RPI greater than .500. This could particularly hurt BC, who is 2-1 against Providence, and UNH, who is 2-0-1 against Providence, and Wisconsin, who is 2-0 against Providence. I don’t think this is likely to have an impact on any of the seedings, however.