Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Still in Limbo as Final Night Nears

Greetings from the mansion. I won't keep you too long, because Matt Wellens has already done a pretty good job laying out what we know regarding UMD's NCAA seeding.

It isn't much.

With the logjam of NCHC teams -- six -- making the NCAA Tournament, the art of "Bracketology" becomes more difficult this year than in the past. Will the committee break up the NCHC teams that are on the same 2/3 seed line, or will it let those teams play each other, which it's allowed to do?

Will it move teams for the sake of attendance?

(We know Fargo isn't an attendance issue. I'm told South Bend tickets were generally sold to Notre Dame season ticket holders, so even if that means there won't be many butts in the seats there's no need to get Miami and/or Michigan there to sell more seats. But Manchester -- hosted by New Hampshire, which won't make the tournament -- is a problem, and Providence -- hosted by Brown University and not Providence, which might make the tournament -- will likely be an attendance problem if Providence isn't in that regional. So attendance concerns are strictly out east for this bracket, meaning it wouldn't be smart to move qualifying eastern teams to the west half of the bracket.)

I ran a few scenarios Friday night and a few more here now.

I've been open about my desire to have UMD head to Fargo. It's unlikely, but as we enter the final games of the season, it's entirely possible.

Here's one way it happens.

Atlantic Hockey Championship: Mercyhurst def. RIT
Big Ten Championship: Minnesota def. Michigan
ECAC Championship: Colgate def. Harvard
Hockey East Championship: Boston University def. Mass.-Lowell
NCHC Championship: Miami def. St. Cloud State
NCHC Consolation: Denver def. North Dakota
WCHA Championship: Michigan Tech def. Minnesota State

If that happens, the Fargo bracket has No. 1 North Dakota and No. 2 UMD. And then it gets interesting. The NCHC would have five teams -- Miami, Denver, UMD, UNO, and St. Cloud -- ranked between fifth and tenth. In this instance, at least one NCHC matchup is virtually unavoidable, so you might as well keep UMD and SCSU paired together. Miami would play No. 12 Boston College, Denver gets No. 11 Colgate, and UNO is paired with No. 9 Minnesota.

This scenario sends Minnesota State -- in all likelihood -- to South Bend, Boston University to Manchester, and Michigan Tech to Providence as the other No. 1 seeds.

Here is another way to get UMD in Fargo.

So Michigan Tech can lose to Minnesota State and still stay ahead of UMD.

Want UMD to play the Gophers in Fargo in the first round? I saw a way to make that happen on Friday, but haven't been able to duplicate it now.

If you want UMD as a No. 1 regional seed, there's probably north of a 25 percent chance that happens. There are a bunch of ways UMD can end up moving into the top four. The most common of them involve St. Cloud State beating Miami for the NCHC title, while UMass-Lowell knocks off Boston University in Hockey East.

If that happens, it's most likely UMD heads to Providence. There are also scenarios where UMD is No. 2 in a regional and likely heading to Providence. I'd say Rhode Island is the most likely destination for the Bulldogs. As for the most likely first-round opponent, I've probably seen Boston College banded with UMD more often than any in the myriad of scenarios I've run.

Other potential opponents include Colgate, Harvard, Minnesota, and the possibility of an NCHC foe continues to exist.

If Harvard beats Colgate for the ECAC title, the odds increase that the committee will be able to break up the NCHC teams a bit without messing with the bracket. Otherwise, expect some controversy, because it becomes more likely the NCHC will have two teams meeting in the opening round.

Also, the need -- if it's actually a need -- to get Providence into the East Regional in Providence might cause the committee to move away from a true serpentine bracket setup (i.e. 1v16, 2v15, 3v14, etc.) that we're used to seeing.

Depending on Saturday night results, we could have a little more intrigue than usual for the actual bracket announcement.

More Sunday after the 11am selection show on ESPNU.

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