Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Oct. 27, 2009

Todd: We’re back again with another week of Tuesday Morning Quarterback, and it seems like a good time not to be a top-10 team in college hockey. Only one of the seven teams in the top 10 of last week’s USCHO.com/CBS College Sports poll that played managed not to lose. That one team was No. 4 Denver, which pulled off a rare feat: two straight shutouts at Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. Cornell, Yale and Princeton didn’t play, but everyone else lost. I suppose we’ve been seeing that more often over the last few years, but does it still surprise you when that much of a shake-up goes down in one week, Jim?

Jim: I guess it should be surprising when you see so many teams in the top 10 fall, but early in the season, I think it’s par for the course. One of the challenges of expanding to a 20-team poll, which USCHO.com did a number of years ago, is coming up with that top 20 before every team has taken the ice. We all can think that a Miami or Denver will be a powerhouse, and the national champions always deserve some recognition, but until you get out there and see a month or so of games played, it’s difficult to decipher. Boston University is a perfect example. The Terriers are 1-2-0 right now yet still maintain a top-five ranking while Massachusetts barely snuck into this weeks poll and sits at 3-0-0 and already beat BU. So I think until things shake out in the standings, pollsters tend to go back to their “old reliables” — the teams that perennially end up near the top — as their top 20. One team that still isn’t in that top 20 but I think might warrant some attention is Hockey East cellar-dwellar Merrimack. It has started 4-0-0 at home, though three wins most will argue came against Atlantic Hockey teams (and the AHA isn’t exactly tearing up non-league play). The one other win for the Warriors, though, came against No. 7 Vermont. I saw that game on Friday and can say Merrimack is one extremely improved team.

Todd: We see e-mails all the time asking how we pick the teams in the poll. From a collection of voters from across the country is the answer, but I think the real question is about how those voters get to picking their top 20. From my experience, it’s about a lot of factors — not just which team has just beaten another or by how many, and not just on a team’s reputation or hype. At this point in the season, though, a team’s expectations do mean a lot because there simply isn’t enough on the ice to go on. Look at the Ivies — three of them were in the top 10 last week, and none had played even a game. I sometimes wonder whether that means we should push back the starting point of the poll — or maybe whether the Ivies should get in some games earlier. Thoughts on either?

Jim: Well, the Ivies will never begin play any earlier. They’re very set in their ways, which makes it a challenge for the non-Ivies in the Division to schedule non-league games (I am amazed this year at the number of non-league games between ECAC teams). As for starting the poll earlier, I don’t think that matters, either. When you come down to it, polls, as coaches will tell you every day of the week, are for fans and media. So the fact that one writer might think Miami should be No. 1 and one might think Yale might be (as was the case in the other national poll this week) doesn’t really matter. The only “poll” that ever matters isn’t even a poll, it just looks like one. And that’s the PairWise Rankings on the final day of the season. All this talk about polls, though, makes me wonder which top 10 team you think might look most vulnerable this weekend? Mass.-Lowell just jumped into the top 10 but now plays a home-and-home with BU. Might this week’s upsets begin there?

Todd: Which way would it be the upset, really? BU’s at No. 4; Lowell’s in ninth. But I don’t know if we’ve determined yet which is the better team three weeks into the season. If either team manages to sweep, that’s a good way of finding out. I’ll be keeping an eye on No. 1 Miami’s series at Northern Michigan. The Wildcats were 3-1-1 against the RedHawks last season, with all the games in Oxford, including a CCHA quarterfinal series. They get Miami at home this time.

Jim: I think that no matter what, Lowell beating BU — particularly if it’s a two-game sweep — is an upset. Lowell has had awful results against the Terriers historically. The River Hawks went 0-fer in four chances last season including the unforgettable Hockey East title game where BU won, 1-0. So if Lowell came away with a sweep of the defending national champions, that would certainly be an upset. So, too, is the game you pointed out. As much as NMU manhandled Miami a season ago, it would be a major upset if the Wildcats earned even a single victory at home this weekend. This is supposed to be Miami’s year, so starting with two losses early in conference play would be a major blow. But that’s why they play the games. Until next week …


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