On Sunday, 16 teams will find themselves in the NCAA tournament, which means that for 42 the season will officially be over.
Some of those 16 are obvious without using any mathematical skill or PairWise predictor tools, and so are some of the 42. It’s the ones in between that are interesting — and among those, the question is what they have to do to get in.
Here’s a quick take on who falls into each category as the conference championships loom.
In (one team): Bemidji State
CHA champion BSU secured the first bid of 2009 last weekend, beating Robert Morris 3-2 in overtime to claim the tournament title.
Locks (eight teams): Boston University, Notre Dame, Michigan, Denver, North Dakota, Northeastern, Vermont, New Hampshire
The details: All of these teams are in the top nine of the PairWise Rankings, and the two lowest on the list (UVM and UNH) are done for now. Obviously no one on those teams is happy about that, but the consolation is that it’s impossible to lose between now and Sunday.
There may be a way to get one or more of these teams out, but it would require pretty much every tournament to produce upset champions, and even then I don’t see it.
Almost there (one team): Yale
The details: It is possible for Yale to miss the NCAAs, but it requires first that the Bulldogs lose twice this weekend. Once that’s done, multiple underdogs have to hit the jackpot, and even then Yale can still make it depending on exactly who the upset champions are and what the bubble teams do.
Basically, though, Yale can make plans for the NCAA regionals under all likely circumstances.
The high bubble (four teams): Cornell, Princeton, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth
These are the teams that have at least a 50-50 chance, in my estimation, of making the NCAAs assuming “normal” things happen — perhaps one underdog champion, a couple of bubble teams doing well and most favorites winning.
Barring a rash of upsets, Cornell and Princeton each make the NCAAs with one win this weekend. Of course, they start by playing each other, so one of them will almost certainly be in, while the other will need to recover in the third-place game.
Two losses spells trouble for either team, though the situation isn’t hopeless as long as the favorites win out. Cornell holds the head-to-head comparison against Princeton right now, but that turns if the Tigers beat the Big Red Friday.
The situations for Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth are a little more complicated because of the WCHA play-in game. Both teams can make it even with a Thursday loss, though that again requires the favorites to win elsewhere.
A win Thursday and losses the next two days is only the tiniest bit better for either the Gophers or the Bulldogs since that means an 0-1 weekend for the other one. Two wins this weekend and either team is all set unless multiple — probably three or four — upset champions are crowned.
The low bubble (five teams): Miami, St. Lawrence, Ohio State, Boston College, Wisconsin
These are the rest of the bubble teams — those which can make the NCAAs without winning their conference tournaments.
Miami and OSU will wait out the weekend after losing in the CCHA quarterfinals. Miami is in the tournament at the moment as the No. 14 team in the PWR, but that assumes no bids for Cinderella champs. So the RedHawks are rooting for the favorites, plain and simple, and can make it under a number of plausible situations even if other bubble teams do all right.
Ohio State has the same cheering interest, but the Buckeyes’ chances are much slimmer. OSU basically needs every team with which it is competing for a bid to lose as much as possible, especially Minnesota, UMD and SLU.
St. Lawrence, Boston College and Wisconsin still control their fates, and none needs to win its conference tournament to make the field of 16. None, however, will make it without at least one win, and that’s harder for BC because Hockey East has no third-place game.
One win likely gets St. Lawrence into the field of 16 as long as the favorites win elsewhere, but Wisconsin needs a lot of breaks even with a win. The Badgers are one of the most interesting teams this weekend thanks to the occasional strangeness of the PairWise, and I’ll have more to say about them later.
For the Eagles, it’s a little simpler: lose to BU and it’s over. Win Friday and it could still be for nothing unless the other bubble teams lose. The only sure route is to win the Hockey East tournament, but that’s not absolutely necessary.
Must win their tournaments (seven teams): Massachusetts-Lowell, Air Force, Northern Michigan, Alaska, RIT, Mercyhurst, Bentley
Nothing more to say here. These teams all have too much ground to make up. I have a nagging feeling that somewhere there could be a wild, unforeseen scenario that gets UML in without winning Hockey East, but I can’t find it.
Done for 2008-09 (32 teams): Everyone else