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# 2 North Dakota vs. #3 Michigan

Let me be perfectly up front here. There is absolutely no logical reason to pick Michigan in this game.

North Dakota has too much going in their favor. They just won the WCHA Final Five. They're playing on their home ice. They should get leading scorer Drew Stafford back from a knee injury. Jordan Parise is stopping pucks like he did at the beginning of the season. The Sioux's large freshmen class in starting to mature and play great hockey.

Michigan seems to be at the other end of the spectrum right now. Their goaltending has been shaky at best. The team has looked lethargic and played disappointing hockey this the first couple months of the season, and they're heading into a hostile environment.

With all that said, I'm going out on a limb and taking Michigan. Yes, it's probably stupid, but when a team does something 15 years in a row, it's hard to bet against them. In fact, in school history, only one time has Michigan made the NCAA tournament and not won at least one game; that game being the 1994 de facto national championship game overtime heartbreaker against Lake Superior.

I don't think many people deny that Michigan has the talent to win this game. But they've failed to put that talent together this season. The one exception to that rule is the first line of Brandon Kaleniecki, Andrew Ebbett, and Chad Kolarik. That line has played extremely well for Michigan down the stretch, and should give Michigan at least a chance to win this game. The rest will be determined by how the supporting cast plays.

Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick are the best defensive duo in the country when they are playing well, but were repeatedly victimized throughout the regular season due to defensive lapses. If they keep the Sioux forwards in front of them, they could provided enough protection for senior goalie Noah Ruden to be successful.

Junior forward T.J. Hensick is another question mark going into this game. He has undeniable talent, but has looked pretty lifeless for large stretches this season. Michigan will need him to make Michigan's second line a viable scoring threat to win the game.

For North Dakota, this game will largely be decided by the play of their freshmen. Freshmen T.J. Oshie has emerged has a great player. Another freshmen Jonathan Toews is still young and developing, but can make things happen when he's on the ice. The freshmen defenseman for the Sioux are just as good. Joining junior Matt Smaby on the point are freshmen Brian Lee, Taylor Chorney, Joe Finley, and Zach Jones. Jones especially has emerged as a solid defender.

All season long, the general consensus about Michigan was that if they could ever get things going on the right track, they could be a very good team. Will they be able to pull things together in time for the NCAA tournament? Probably not, but it's always hard to pick against Michigan in March and April.