2014 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Regional Preview

Wisconsin takes the top seed, while Ferris State and Colgate meet for the fourth time this season.

The 2014 NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional will be played at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. The regional semifinals will take place Friday March 28th, with the regional final played the following day 6:30pm local time.

Here's a closer look at the four teams that will be competing in Cincinnati for a spot in the 2014 Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

No. 1 Wisconsin

Bid: Automatic (Big Ten Tournament Champions)

Location: Madison, Wis.

Record: 24-10-4 overall, 13-6-1 Big Ten

Past NCAA Championships: 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990, 2006

Head Coach: Mike Eaves (Wisconsin '78)

Captains: Frankie Simonelli

Leading Scorers: Mark Zengerle (10-33-43), Nic Kerdiles (15-22-37), Michael Mersch (22-13-35)

Starting Goaltender: Joel Rumpel (21-5-1, 2.03/.930)

Once again, the Badgers enter the NCAA Tournament on a winning note. Wisconsin, second-place in the regular season, claimed the first-ever Big Ten conference tournament championship Saturday (and second consecutive conference tournament win) with a 5-4 overtime victory over Ohio State. That propelled UW to the final one seed.

Mike Eaves' squad this year is a veteran one with 15 upperclassmen. Led offensively by senior Mark Zengerle (10G-33A), Wisconsin's top-six remains dangerous. The top line of Zengerle, Tyler Barnes (13G-14A) and Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks) (15G-22A) contains three of the Badgers' top four scorers and possesses some of the best chemistry in the nation. Wisconsin's second line is no slouch either.Michael Mersch (Los Angeles Kings) led UW in goals with 22 in 36 games. That includes both in Friday's 2-1 win over Penn State.

Defensively, Wisconsin has Mike Richter Award finalist Joel Rumpel in net. The junior is tied for sixth in the nation with a .930 save percentage and can win games on his own. On the blue line, Jake McCabe (Buffalo Sabres) is one of the better two-way defensemen in the county; leading a team that on average gives up 2.5 goals per game.

Overall, Wisconsin is a team that has had several highs, including being the only team to sweep Minnesota this year, mixed with some lows. While better at Kohl Center than on the road (up until a couple weeks ago it only had two wins on the road), coming off the Big Ten title puts UW into good position. This time around (last year saw the Badgers fall to UMass-Lowell in the first around) Eaves' team wants it to be different.

No. 2 Ferris State

Bid: At-large

Location: Big Rapids, Mich.

Record: 25-10-4 overall, 11-6-3 WCHA

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Bob Daniels (Michigan State '82)

Captains: Scott Czarnowczan

Leading Scorers: Garrett Thompson (16-16-32), Justin Buzzeo (14-18-32), Cory Kane (13-17-30)

Starting Goaltender: C.J. Motte (27-8-3, 2.25/.926)

After starting their season with a pair of splits against ECAC opponents, Ferris State went on an impressive streak of 15 games without a loss that carried into 2014. That stretch moved Ferris State amongst the tops in the country in the national rankings, and Ferris State was able to maintain that status throughout the second half of the year. But despite 28 wins on the season, including a first place finish in the WCHA, Ferris State went just 1-5-0 against Colgate and Minnesota State, the only two NCAA tournament participants on their schedule.

The Bulldogs rely on a very balanced offensive attack backed up by physical, but fundamentally sound defense. As a mark of their balance, the Bulldogs finished 10th nationally in goals per game, despite not having a single scorer average a point per game. Defensively, Ferris State is sixth nationally in fewest goals allowed per game.

In terms of make-up, this Ferris State team is remarkably similar to the to the Ferris State team that made a run to the 2012 Frozen Four. They're led by three upperclassmen in scoring, and have an unheralded, but outstanding senior defenseman in Scott Czarnowczan that really leads their team. They also have a talented, experienced goalie in Hobey Baker finalist CJ Motte in goal.

No. 3 Colgate

Bid: At-large

Location: Hamilton, NY

Record: 20-13-5 overall, 13-6-3 ECAC

Past NCAA Championships: -

Head Coach: Don Vaughan (St. Lawrence '84)

Captains: Spiro Goulakos

Leading Scorers: Tyson Spink (10-23-33), Tylor Spink (14-16-30), Darcy Murphy (19-9-28), Mike Borkowski (8-20-28)

Starting Goaltender: Charlie Finn (16-7-4, 2.40/.916)

Colgate really started to come on after a surprising Mariucci Classic championship right after the New Year. The shootout win over Minnesota and the shut out victory over Ferris State a night late propelled the Bulldogs for a great second half run.

The Spink brothers and Darcy Murphy are the offensive superstars that most people hone in one when discussing Colgate, but Don Vaughan's team also has a strong-skating defensive core, led by junior captain Spiro Goulakos.

Two sophomores, Kevin Lough and Ryan Johnston, are two of the best young defenders in the ECAC and freshmen Jake Kulevich and Brett Corkey have both contributed major minutes this season.

Freshman goaltender Charlie Finn was a terrific goaltender in junior hockey and after adjusting to the college game, he has really been a key figure in the team's second half success.

The Raiders have already beaten Ferris State twice this season so Vaughan's team will have the confidence it can advance.

No. 4 North Dakota

Bid: At-Large

Location: Grand Forks, ND

Record: 23-13-3 overall, 15-9-0 NCHC

Past NCAA Championships: 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (North Dakota '96)

Captains: Dillon Simpson

Leading Scorers: Rocco Grimaldi (14-22-36), Michael Parks (11-17-28), Drake Caggiula (11-12-23), Mark MacMillan (9-14-24), Jordan Schmaltz (6-17-23)

Starting Goaltender: Zane Gothberg (18-9-3, 2.05/.923)

North Dakota snuck into the field as the last team to receive an at-large bid thanks to a little help from UMass-Lowell and Wisconsin on the final day of the conference tournament. Like Yale last season, North Dakota will be hoping to parlay that second life into a big run in the NCAA tournament.

The strength of North Dakota's team lies in their strong, dynamic defensive core. Senior Dillon Simpson and St. Louis Blues first round draft pick Jordan Schmaltz are two excellent puck-movers that log lots of ice on the top pairing, while freshman Paul LaDue has been incredibly solid and poised for a freshman.

Offensively, this isn't quite the Toews/Oshie-led teams of yore for North Dakota. They rely more on traffic in front of the net and rebounds on perimeter shots from their defense to generate offense. Tiny center Rocco Grimaldi never stops working and is a threat every time he touches the puck.

This is not North Dakota's strongest squad ever. Nothing about them particularly stands out statistically, but a team that finished second overall in the NCHC is a scary, scary fourth seed.

Jeff Cox and Nathan Wells contributed to this report.

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