Three thoughts from the B1G Tournament

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.”

 

 

37 COMMENTS

  1. SCSU didn’t melt down, they had a 7 minutes of penalties called on them back-to-back that would, at best, be called “questionable,” you make it sound like David Eddy is just scoring for the first time at this level when in fact he’s always been a goal scorer, he just started this season cold, and CC may be tied for 6th, but they’re 3-1-0 and have only played 4 games.  It’d be nice to see coverage that doesn’t look like you guys just read box scores, ’cause we can all do that at home. 

  2. Just got back from the WIS-MIN game. Though MIN was clearly quicker tonight, WIS was more physical and just plain out worked the Gophers. With 3 sophmores finding the back of the net for the Badgers and freshman goalie Rumpel turning away 24 shots, WIS was too much for Kent Patterson and the Gophers, which managed a late power play goal with just over one minute remaining.
    Despite the Badgers poor looking record, three of their five losses came in overtime on the road, also throwing in a tie away from home. They swept then #4 North Dakota, which probably doesn’t say too much now, and the handled the #1 Minnesota Gophers like they belong in the top ten. MIN shouldn’t hang their heads for losing to an unranked WIS team on the road in one of the biggest college hockey rivalries we know. 
    The Badgers need to keep up their intensity the next few weeks with series against, 
    Colorado College and Minnesota Duluth coming up. If they can sweep and split the big dogs while taking “easy” wins against the likes of Mercyhurst, RIT, Bemidji State, etc. They can set themselves up nicely for the playoffs.

  3. Yes the big 10 Conference definitely needs more than 6 teams as that is not enough and is quite disappointing due to the fact that the conference started due to Penn State going division one in that sport. Actually even though they are in the big 10 in most sports they should of gone to another conference closer also. The big ten conference broke up rivalries that have been going on a long time such as Minnesota and North Dakota plus others. Actually they should go back to the old conferences and rivalries. This just doesn’t work with this conference and also just in case should have a 3rd place game in case of possibility of getting into the tournament like North Dakota did last year. Also broke up conferences like the ccha with all the rivalries plus Notre Dame having a hard time adjusting to Hockey East. It did develope the NCHA which is a powerful conference where anybody can beat anybody. Hockey east has adjusted very well and is still a tough conference.
    Am not sure where the conference will get other teams to join maybe Arizona State but that is much traveling. This conference just doesn’t work and know they miss there rivalries. Of course my wife is a Michigan fan and I am Minnesota so that works out somewhat due to our rivalry but still it is hard to make the conference work.
    Did also want to comment that the attendance at the Joe in Detroit was maybe about 6335 or so for the championship game between Minnesota and Michigan. This is ridiculous as you usually get both teams attend more. The Joe is not the spot to have a tournament and with this being said maybe should be a smaller arena. The old wcha worked at the excel center because of the fans coming to see and the rivalries.

    • They can’t, they are mandated to be in the Big Ten conference by contact with the Big Ten. All Big Ten schools are. If there is a Big Ten conference in existence, the programs are required to be in it. That’s why it’s BS to blame the gophers for the break up of the WCHA. They had no choice, they had to go.

  4. So Drew, you aren’t going to talk about the Elephant in the room? Of the top three things from this weekend, the ATTENDANCE NIGHTMARE has to be discussed. Even though Paula doesn’t want to go there, because you can’t talk badly about “hockeytown” and the state of Michigan.

    • $45.00 per ticket, no alcohol sales, $6.00 hotdogs, $5.00 sodas and bad start times for games on weekdays when people have to work: 4:30 and 8:00pm

  5. I had the opportunity to tune in to three other conference tourneys this weekend besides watching at least the majority of all 5 B1G games. At Boston, St. Paul, and Minneapolis there were fans in camera range. At the XCel Energy center, the upper levels were closed off and everyone in attendance was seated in the lower bowl. The B1G tourney had vast expanses of empty seats that reminded me of small town high school hockey where the few in attendance are related to one of the players. If the B1G cares a whit about hockey (another debate for another time) they won’t allow another Debacle in Detroit in 2017.

    • I agree that the attendance in Detroit was downright awful. The sadder thing is that it wasn’t that much worse than what we saw at the X last spring. The one difference which speaks volumes, in my opinion, is that last year, there was at least decent attendance at the Gopher game. This year, even with Michigan playing Michigan State in “primetime” it was still a ghost town. I’m not sure there’s a good solution though.

      • Not just Detroit. As I said elsewhere, the BU/Lowell game was sparsely attended. But also the Mariucci was pretty bare for the Penn St series.

    • I noticed that, too. I watched the Thursday games–in the afternoon session, I could hear player communication (on the ice) over the “crowd” noise.

  6. I believe that the B10 will have a very difficult time getting more then two teams in the tournament every year. Without a lot of participation, teams are just going to be beating up on each other, bringing down their rankings. It won’t be unusual for a team to have 5-6 conference losses at the least.
    I like the idea of the bottom four teams playing a best of three, and then going to the semi-finals. That has merit.
    From what I saw on the TV, attendance was horrific. When it goes back to Detroit in 2017, it will be in the new Red Wings arena (I believe). That ‘MAY’ help. But quite frankly, the last 10 or so years, College Hockey enthusiasm in Michigan has declined a considerable amount. From what it was 20-30 years ago, is now just a small fraction of what it was. No idea why, except that like most of Michigan, people have moved away for job’s or into retirement. Also, if you factor in the cost of going to the B10, NCAA regional and then maybe the F. Four, your talking about a major investment. One I can no longer afford.
    Let me add one other item about Michigan State besides a lack of offense; they could use a Coach as well.

    • Decatur, I’d disagree about the beating up on each other argument. We saw this year that NCHC teams beating up on each other didn’t hurt their tournament prospects one bit. I think the issue is playing better in non-conference games to raise RPI. That’s what really cost most B1G schools this year. St. Cloud had 17 losses this year (17!) and got in based on the overall strength of the NCHC and the schedule they played.

  7. Curious —- does anyone know if the Gophers would have gotten an at large bid if they had lost the final to Michigan.

      • Thanks — of the cuff, I thought yes as well, but I never ran the scenarios the through pairwise calculator they had on line.

    • Yes they would have gotten in. Mass-Lowell, Colgate, Miami and I believe Mich Tech all had to win at the same time for the gohpers to be out. As soon Colgate or Lowell lost (don’t remember which game was finished first) the gophers were a lock… Minny probably would have been a 4 or a low 3 seed for sure if they lost to Mich.

  8. For as much crap as I love to give the cupcake 6 league, (they were downright horrible this year) I doubt there will be many years that they only get 1 team in the national tourney. Every conference has swings. That being said……GO BULLDOGS!

    • So are you a Nodak fan, a bulldog fan, or a fan of whoever the gophers are playing???? I think both the later and Nodak…. I’m the same with Nodak, so i can’t really complain… can’t wait to see who wins it this year!!! it should be some good hockey!!!

      • An enemy of your enemy is your friend. Will be a lot of good games this weekend. I should take half the day off on Friday…..

      • The cupcake 6 has 0 titles. They were not a conference until last year. The NCHC has 0 titles. They were not a conference until last year.

      • And your comment has nothing to do with how pathetic the big joke conference was this year. But thanks for responding.

  9. I know the B1G schools used to play teams in Alaska, but having ASU join up seems insane. I have a hard time getting past that point since UAF/UAA showed it’s possible, but the NCHC/WCHA seems like a likelier home

  10. What Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and Rutgers had was the academics. All B1G universities are members of the American Association of Universities (Nebraska-Lincoln was at the time the offer was extended and was kicked out in part because the med school is not part of UNL, and agricultural research grants are not competitive enough). Arizona State is not in the AAU, but the University of Arizona is.

  11. With only 6 teams in the conference, there is no question that the Big Ten’s automatic bid should go to the regular season champion and not the tournament champion. Just the idea that a team like Michigan, who was dead to rights in the PairWise, could win two games in their hometown and suddenly get into the NCAA tournament is pretty insulting. And if Michigan had beaten Minnesota in the tournament final and then had Minnesota failed to get an at large bid? That would have been a complete and utter farce. I realize that in most years, the Big Ten won’t be as lackluster as it was this season. Wisconsin, for one, is never this bad and even the likes of Ohio State figure to improve in the near future. But until the conference has at least a couple more teams, I FIRMLY believe that the auto bid should go to the regular season champion.

  12. Some of these comments/articles make it sound like a lot of people weren’t aware of the existence of auto-bids until this season. Did you guys not know that it’s been like this for a long time now? It didn’t start this season with the B1G, there has been the opportunity for the last few at large bids to get screwed by auto-bids for years, whether it was the ECAC, AHA, CCHA, HE, or even the WCHA! If Michigan had beaten MN, it wouldn’t have been the first (or worst, by a long shot) time this has ever occurred.

    • You’re totally right, but I believe that unless or until the Big Ten has 8 or 10 teams, the automatic bid should go to the team that wins the regular season title…which is an infinitely more impressive (and more difficult) thing to accomplish than winning a couple games over a weekend tournament. I have no problem with auto bids for really tough conferences like the WCHA, NCHC, or Hockey East. Those tournaments are two weeks long. But in the case of the Big Ten where a team that’s dead in the water can get into the NCAA tournament by simply winning two games? That’s ridiculous.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here