Well, the Big Ten Tournament is in the books and five of the conference’s six teams began their offseason this weekend.
In case you live under a rock, here’s how the Big Ten Tournament finished:
- Ohio State defeated Penn State 3-1
- Michigan took down Wisconsin 5-1
- Minnesota defeated Ohio State 3-0
- Michigan beat Michigan State 4-1
- Minnesota defeated Michigan 4-2 in the championship game
And here are my final three thoughts of the season:
1. Hail to the victors, which in this case is Minnesota
Just like the regular season, it was Minnesota hoisting the trophy at the end of the Big Ten Tournament. The Gophers looked like the Gophers this weekend (hopefully that doesn’t start another insanely long battle in the comments between Minnesota and North Dakota fans).
Adam Wilcox played strong in net and Minnesota’s offense showed up in a big was at Joe Louis Arena. This weekend showed what a dangerous team Minnesota has the potential to be, and given how many players it brought back from last year’s team the Gophers have a lot of potential to keep going and make a run in the tournament. If I’m Minnesota State, North Dakota or Miami, I’m absolutely thrilled that Minnesota is not in my regional. They are an extremely dangerous No. 3 seed.
Minnesota started and ended the regular season playing great hockey. The middle, however, was hard to watch at points. What went wrong for the Gophers during the dead of winter? I believe they just underperformed and Wilcox went through the first stretch of bad play in his collegiate career.
Minnesota’s seniors pulled it out and with a confident goaltender in net this team will try to make its third run to the Frozen Four in four years.
The Gophers will play Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the tournament. Fun fact: This will be the fifth meeting between the Gophers and Bulldogs this season and they will finish having not played in the same building twice (Compton Family Ice Arena for the Ice Breaker Tournament, Mariucci Arena, Amsoil Arena, Xcel Energy Center for the North Star College Cup and Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester next weekend).
2. One team in
I predicted that the Gophers would be upset in this tournament, but in reality the way that it did play out is the way that it should have.
The Big Ten didn’t deserve to have more than one representative in the NCAA Tournament this season.
That doesn’t mean that I think if Michigan would have defeated Minnesota on Saturday that it should have declined the bid. It’s just a fact that if this conference fielded two teams another very deserving team would have been out in the cold.
Outside of Minnesota, the other five teams in the conference each had clear-cut reasons why they were not an NCAA-Tournament team. Michigan had defensive troubles, Michigan State had offensive troubles, Ohio State had injury troubles, Penn State had goaltending troubles and Wisconsin, well, the Badgers just had troubles.
3. There’s a need to get more teams into the conference
With the kind of season Wisconsin had this season and Penn State had last season it’s downright scary that they were both three postseason wins from the NCAA Tournament. In your typical conference a team near the bottom of the standings would have to win two out of three games on the road in the first round and then pick up a couple wins at the conference tournament to get into the big dance.
There are a couple solutions to this problem. The bottom four seeds could play a best of three first-round series with the winners advancing to the tournament and playing the top two seeds there or the bottom two teams could simply be eliminated from the postseason.
I think the best way would be to get the conference to eight teams. Problem is that’s also the most complex way.
There are some potential options out there. There’s been grumblings of Arizona State possible joining as a hockey-only member, similar to what Johns Hopkins does in Big Ten lacrosse.
The biggest hurdle for schools when it comes to jumping to Division I is having a building to play in. Right now, only one Big Ten school has a building that would fit the bill. Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena has the capabilities to host hockey and there would also a practice facility nearby.
Another thing that is intriguing is that the town of Coralville, Iowa, has looked into the potential of building a 7,000-seat arena, which would be able to host hockey. Coralville is very close to the University of Iowa’s campus, like you could walk there close.
Full disclosure, I don’t have any sources saying that these are actual or potential options. They’re just my thoughts. Of course, there also is always the option where someone like Terry Pegula hands a check to an athletic director and says, “I want a hockey team.”