Pickin’ the Big Ten Tournament: March 16-18

Hey! We made it! It’s the Big Ten Tournament! Yippee!

I don’t completely understand why, but the Big Ten regular season schedule felt like a slough to me this year. I enjoy the nonconference play in the first half because I enjoy the sheer amount of inter-league play we get to see in the Big Ten. And I really enjoy the start of B1G hockey in late November and early December. Maybe it’s watching the same six teams beat up on each other for nine straight weeks in the second half that sometimes seems like such a drag. Whatever the reason, the arrival of the Big Ten tournament brings a bit of relief this season.

Additionally, I’m also a real fan of conference championship tournaments. My anticipation of this weekend of play — all across Division I hockey — nearly rivals my anticipation of the Frozen Four. In that regard, especially, I’m delighted to be heading to Joe Louis Arena in a few hours to cover the Big Ten Tournament.

Before I head out, though, here’s a look at where Drew Claussen and I landed at the end of the regular season with our picks and our Big Ten Tournament predictions.

Last week

Drew: 2-3-1 (.417)
Paula: 2-3-1 (.417)

Final regular season

Drew: 82-50-15 (.609)
Paula: 82-50-15 (.609)

It’s a draw and we both finished above .500. Given the way the season went, I’d call that a win all the way around.

The field

I actually called someone from the Big Ten for clarification of the seeding this morning because I could not wrap my head around it; the tournament does not re-seed after the quarterfinal round. So there’s that.

This is the last-ever college hockey to be played in Detroit’s historic Joe Louis Arena. The Big Ten Network is carrying every game.

Thursday quarterfinals
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No 3 Ohio State, 4:30 p.m.
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 4 Penn State, 8:00 p.m.

Friday semifinals
Michigan State/Ohio State vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, 4:30 p.m.
Michigan/Penn State vs. No. 1 Minnesota, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday
Championship game, semifinal winners, 8:00 p.m.

Our predictions

Drew

I’m not going to get very in depth on the games, but here’s my prediction. I do not recommend taking it to Vegas. I say Ohio State takes down Michigan State and Michigan upsets Penn State on Thursday. On Friday I’ll take the Buckeyes over Wisconsin and Minnesota over Michigan. In a close game, I’ll take Minnesota over Ohio State on Saturday.

Another question will be how many people actually show up to watch these games. Having the two closest schools as the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds is not a good sign for attendance. If both Michigan schools do bow out on Thursday night it could be a very quiet weekend in Detroit.

Paula

I am in complete agreement with Drew in how this will play out — and we didn’t consult each other in advance.

The Spartans (3-14-3-1 B1G) and Buckeyes (11-8-1-1) have played each other four times since Feb. 17, with Ohio State taking that series 3-1-0. Each team saw some road success last weekend, so each team enters this tournament with confidence. Ohio State swept Wisconsin, while Michigan State followed a loss to Minnesota with a tie and shootout extra point. The Buckeyes have the offensive edge, so I’m going with them Thursday.

The Wolverines (6-12-2-2) swept the Nittany Lions (10-9-1-0) at home last weekend. Michigan has also earned four of its total Big Ten wins in the last three weeks and has done so against Penn State, Minnesota and Ohio State — having shut out both the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes. One of two things will happen in Thursday’s game: Either the Wolverines will continue to roll because they’ve finally found their team late in the season, or the Nittany Lions will have learned from their mistakes last weekend and will solve Michigan. I don’t know why, but I am betting on the former.

As for the semifinal games, I think the Buckeyes enter this tournament fairly hot, 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. That’s why I have them over Wisconsin. I’ve got Minnesota going all the way, though, because they’re the best, most consistent team in the field.

I think all of these games will be close — all 3-2 or 2-1 games — unless either team in the Michigan-Penn State game routs the other. My pick for the championship: Minnesota 4, Ohio 2 with an empty-net goal.

Twitter me

I will be tweeting (@paulacweston) from Joe Louis Arena for the entire tournament. Join me for what will undoubtedly be a great tourney and an emotional goodbye to JLA.

25 COMMENTS

  1. The above scenario is a ‘snow-in-July’ one, most would agree. The CCHA, WCHA, and Hockey East outcomes ALL have to occur the way they’re drawn up; not just one or two of them. It falls under the ‘mathematically possible’ category, not the ‘realistically possible’ one.

  2. Realistically, ND and UNH are in. Mathematically, they can be eliminated.

    Between the 11 teams that are in and the AHA Champ, there are 12 spots taken. Cornell, Colgate, UAA, BSU and Northeastern all need autobids. Seven teams are eligible; three are playing and four are waiting. CC, Dartmouth and Western Michigan can play their way in or out. RPI, BU, Maine and UNO are waiting to see if they get an invite.

      • There are actually several scenarios in which Maine gets in. To help you find one, I’ll give you these hints:

        ECAC
        1. Title matchup MUST BE Yale vs. Cornell. It’s not impossible for Maine to get in with a Cornell title, but it is much, much easier if Yale wins it all. (Likely)

        HE
        2. Northeastern MUST BEAT BC and then MUST LOSE the title game. (Hard to say. Northeastern is playing for their lives and is playing damn good hockey, but BC is BC.)

        WCHA
        3. Bemidji State can win their next game, but MUST NOT ADVANCE to the title game. (Probable.)
        4. Alaska-Anchorage MUST BEAT Colorado College, and while the can advance to the title game they MUST NOT win it. (They aren’t a danger for the title, but I worry about how they match up against CC.)

        CCHA
        5. Western Michigan must lose BOTH their semifinal AND the consolation game. Not even a tie. (Possible. Easier for them to lose the first game than the second, though.)

        AH
        Have fun kids, Maine doesn’t care who does what here.

        Maine has a good chance to be in at #15 for five Hockey East teams in the NCAA tournament (I haven’t found a way to make Maine #15 without also making BU #14.)

        It is possible for Maine to rank as high as #13 (it’s actually not nearly as tall an order as it would be to knock out UNH, but is still really specific).

  3. NU is very dangerous lately, there’s no doubt about it, but, to give some perspective, thier record over their past 10 games is a modest 4-4-2, admitting that the opposiion in all of them has been the HE iron. Still, BC over their last 10 is 8-1-1, with the loss and tie (plus their BP win) coming at NU’s hands. Still, it’s a little bold to pick NU over BC this Fri. night.

  4. I still have no idea why they’re on the bubble. No way the committee would deny a host team even if they were not in the top 16. Plus they are top ten in the polls

    • There’s no reason it couldn’t be both, but in truth it’s just the latter.

      I figured this out in 10 minutes. There’s nothing really arcane or time-consuming about the pairwise predictor; A caveman could do it.

  5. Could be a quiet weekend for attendance? C’mon….we all know it will be quiet no matter who is playing when.

  6. Could the Tom Anastos countdown finally be occurring? Great person, and has a genuine love for MSU – just a terrible ice hockey coach.

  7. Another ridiculously packed game at the joe…..call the fire marshal….need to get some people out so they aren’t over the max allowed…..

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