When trying to determine its tournament field, The NCAA selects the teams and seeds then (by and large) using a completely objective method known as Pairwise Comparisons. There are many quibbles with this method, but most people like the transparency of it and the avoidance of back-room impropriety. However, that doesn't mean
There were two main ones this year. Wisconsin, with a sub-.500 record, snuck in the tournament over Minnesota State, a team which won the head-to-head matchup this season and finished higher in the WCHA standings. The other was how the NCAA decided to "protect" the top two overall seeds in the tournament -- Miami and Michigan -- and keep them away from home arenas.
In hockey, like many of the non-major college sports, teams that host a regional also get to play in that regional. So, for teams that earn the highest seeds, it would be unfair for them to have to play tougher teams on the road. The controversy this year arose because the committee chose to "protect" the top TWO overall seeds, and protect them through possible second-round matchups instead of just the first. And the result was that New Hampshire (the No. 4 overall seed) was pushed to the West Regional, and away from Worcester, Mass., where it would've brought in loads of fans.
More on that, and a lot else, as we preview the regionals.
It can be argued that this is the easiest regional, and that's probably as it should be for the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Michigan was the only team lined up to be a No. 1 seed entering last weekend, that followed through and won its conference tournament, doing so against Miami, the No. 2 overall seed.
As a result, the Wolverines plays Niagara in the first round. Michigan is a powerhouse from top to bottom, with Hobey Baker Award favorite
Clarkson finished first in the ECAC, but lost in the conference quarterfinals and didn't get a chance to defend its tournament crown. Last year, the Golden Knights were a No. 1 seed, only to lose to No. 4 Massachusetts, 1-0, in double overtime. Clarkson has had many strong teams over the years, but hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1996.
Miami (Ohio) has two of the best players in the country in seniors
In the recent CCHA final four, Miami scored a total of three goals, all by defensemen -- Martinez and Ganzak. It will need to rediscover its offense in order to beat Air Force, a pesky team that took Minnesota well into the third period during the first round of last year's tournament, only to lose late.
"I don't think our experience playing Minnesota is going to help us against Miami," Air Force coach
The other semifinal is intriguing since both Boston College and Minnesota have postseason experience, but struggled at times during the season. BC had many ups and downs, losing two key players to discipline issues early in the season. The Eagles won the Beanpot, then went 1-5-2 down the stretch only to turn things around again in Hockey East playoffs, beating New Hampshire in the semi-finals and Vermont in the championship. The Eagles are peaking at the right time with Hobey finalist
"Any time you get on a big stage and play for a championship, the osmosis stays with you," said BC coach
Minnesota's struggles have been well-chronicled, which really makes its current run amazing. Sure, the Gophers are blessed with a lot of resources at its disposal, and a nice recruiting edge. But relatively speaking, the Gophers were besieged by early departures, and the subsequent season-ending injury to
Wisconsin snuck in the tournament despite being one game under .500, thanks to some serendipitous breaks during the conference championship weekend. As a result, it will be a No. 3 seed in its home regional.
Due to how the draw shook out, this Midwest Regional has three WCHA teams in it, usually taboo. But with six WCHA teams in the tournament, it was hard to avoid. North Dakota is here simply because it was the only regional left over after the other top seeds were placed. Princeton is here because, as the No. 14 overall seed, it matches correctly against the No. 3 overall (North Dakota). Wisconsin is here because it has to be, and there was going to be an all-WCHA first-round game somewhere, so it might as well have been here.
Perhaps it's poetic justice. In a game earlier this season against Denver, Wisconsin lost when a last-second goal was disallowed by the referee. Even after video review evidence showed it to be a good goal, the referee misread the video and disallowed it. The league later apologized to Wisconsin.
Had Wisconsin gotten a point in that game, it wouldn't have been sub-.500 and would easily have been in the tournament. However, you can argue that the Badgers were inspired by the snub. They trounced Denver the next night and went on a roll, only to =lose in the WCHA quarterfinals. After the loss, many on the team thought the season was over.
Denver has had its own struggles, losing top scorer
North Dakota has a bevy of talent and perhaps the best goalie in the country,
Princeton may appear to be a sacrificial lamb here, but the ECAC champs are led by
Thanks to the luck of the draw, New Hampshire was sent to Colorado Springs where a second-round match against Colorado College looms. However it matches up against the home team in a possible second-round game. But first UNH has to get to the regional final.
Its first-round opponent, Notre Dame, struggled down the stretch of this season after a good start and was crippled by the loss of top forward
On the opposite end is defending national champion Michigan State, which faces a tough first-round matchup against Colorado College. The matchup between the Spartans' Hobey finalist
The Spartans have been steady throughout the year, with tournament-tested vets like
"We'll do well if we make it a tight game if we play well defensively," MSU coach
CC is another team that faced adversity this season, losing two players to discipline issues. One of them,