We are weeks away from the NCAA Tournament, but this week the conference tournaments are underway and many teams are looking to get into the Top 16 of the Pairwise (similar to the Top 16 in the BCS).
Let’s look at a few of the bubble teams that need to make an impact to get one of the final spots in the tournament and a couple of wildcard teams with a chance to win their conference tournament and earn an automatic bid.
First the bubble teams:
1. Boston University – This team played horribly last month, but in recent weeks has made a surge to make it back in the tournament picture. This is not the same Terrier team we saw earlier in the year when they knocked off New Hampshire and rival Boston College in back to back weekends. Those signature wins help their resume for the tournament, but BU will have to do some work this weekend in the Hockey East Tournament in order to gain back some lost ground. Legendary coach Jack Parker announced his retirement earlier this week and hopefully that helps the Terriers to push on and send him out on top.
2. Wisconsin – The WCHA was a race to the finish this year. The top six teams in the conference were separated by four points. The Badgers are surging at the right time winning five out of their last seven contests, including a win over WCHA Regular Season Champion St. Cloud State to end the year. The problem with Wisconsin is that the Badgers do not have many other signature wins.. They are playing their best hockey of the year on this current hot streak, and need to continue this within the conference tournament. A favorable matchup against Minnesota-Duluth starts them off well. However, the only way I see this team making it in the NCAA Tournament is by at least making it to the Finals of this tournament.
— Rachel Welch (@rachelwelch23) March 10, 2013
3. Notre Dame – The Irish finished second in the CCHA this year, but are still considered to be a bubble team by many. I think Notre Dame is in based off of its victories against quality teams like Nebraska-Omaha, Miami (OH), and North Dakota. However, Notre Dame cannot afford a first round exit in the CCHA tournament. The Irish need to take care of business and not choke. They’ll play Bowling Green and a loss to the 9th ranked team in the CCHA would be costly. USCHO currently has them as the 15-seed in the tournament and with big weekends by BU and Wisconsin, ND could see itself on the outside looking in.
Now for the Wild Card Teams that have a chance to play spoiler:
1. Michigan – The last time the University of Michigan was not represented in the NCAA Tournament was 1990. That 22 consecutive playoff appearances streak might end this year. The Wolverines have had a rough year to say the least. Their inconsistency has plagued them, but they have a chance to clinch a berth in the CCHA Tournament. Michigan won its first round matchup and now faces Western Michigan in the round of 8. Michigan is not even close to the Top 16 of the Pairwise, but the Wolverines ultimately do have a talented roster that will surely like to keep the streak alive and go for 23 consecutive appearances.
Look at these beautiful Michigan hockey uniforms. Playing Northern Michigan tonight. twitter.com/Sober_Bob/stat…
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) March 10, 2013
2. Nebraksa-Omaha – Everybody knows my annoyance with this team being broadcasted on NBC SportsNet on what seemed to be every other week on Friday Night Ice. However, they are a talented team. The WCHA is a deep conference and UNO is one of the major reasons. The Mavericks have a high octane offense that can score goals with the class of the nation. It’s highly unlikely they make the NCAAs without winning the WCHA Tournament because of the number of teams they would have to jump in order to do so in the Pairwise. UNO opens with Minnesota State and would follow that up with possible games against North Dakota and Minnesota. It wouldn’t be an easy road, but the Mavericks could do it.
3. UConn – Last week I gave fellow College Spun writer Tim Fontenault grief about UConn being in a crappy conference, but I do have to give credit where credit is due. Since the beginning of February, the Huskies have been one of the hottest teams around. In a very bad AHA, the Huskies have gotten hot at the right time. The Huskies play Robert Morris in the opening round to start and could see top-seeded Niagara in the following round.