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Women’s Tournament Bracketology: March 6th Edition

NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/NCAA Photos via Getty Imagess via Getty Images Photos via Getty Images via Getty Images

We’re down to two games left in the women’s college hockey regular season. With the WCHA championship between Wisconsin and Ohio State not really playing any sort of role in the likely final tournament field, our potential outcomes are binary, depending on the outcome of the ECAC championship between Colgate and St. Lawrence on Sunday afternoon.

Normally, thanks to the Pairwise Rankings we’d have a rock solid understanding of what the NCAA tournament field would look like. If Colgate wins, X; if St. Lawrence wins, Y. But in this year that has been dominated by uncertainty, there is still a ton of uncertainty surrounding who will make the field.

Northeastern and Robert Morris are locked into the field with automatic bids for winning their respective conferences. Wisconsin and Ohio State are stone locks to make the field regardless of who wins tomorrow’s championship tilt.

That’s the easy half of the field. The other four spots will be filled out by a group of six teams: Boston College, Colgate, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, Penn State, and St. Lawrence.

You could ask 10 different people and get 10 different opinions on how things will shake out. Here’s where I am with each of the six remaining teams, in descending order of confidence on where they’ll end up.

St. Lawrence

If they win tomorrow, they’re in with an automatic bid. If they lose, they’re out of the tournament. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Minnesota

People are still trying to push them out of the field? Apparently?

I’m sure Minnesota would be the first to admit things haven’t gone as well as they’d hoped this season, but come on. Even though this thing is going to be decided by a bunch of people in a room, there are still numbers that are going to be used and they overwhelmingly favor Minnesota. Though the Pairwise can’t tell us how bubble teams in other conferences would have fared if they had to play Wisconsin and Ohio State a total of nine times(Spoiler: They would have done very poorly), it can give us a pretty accurate ranking of play within the WCHA, and the Pairwise still ranks Minnesota ahead of Minnesota Duluth by a considerable margin.

While you can debate the merits of four WCHA teams making the field, I don’t think anyone believes the WCHA should only get two bids this year, and Minnesota has to be the third WCHA team off the list. They’ll get in the tournament.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions suffered an upset loss to Syracuse in the CHA semifinals, leaving their hopes for a first-ever NCAA Tournament in the hands of the tournament committee. The Nittany Lions have a shiny 16-3-2 overall record on the season, but ultimately, playing just in College Hockey America with no real quality wins, they probably don’t have the resume to make the field.

I will say that with Penn State, I think a lot of people make the assumption that this team is only in the NCAA Tournament conversation because of the weak schedule they played this year, whereas I tend to think the opposite is true. Penn State has quietly been filling their roster with American and Canadian U18 national team players, along with some other really talented recruits and they are really legit. Put them in Hockey East or the ECAC where they’d get the opportunity for a couple quality wins, and I think they’d probably be in the tournament.

But the tournament bids should be based on results and resumes, and I don’t think Penn State’s resume is enough to get them in.

Boston College/Colgate/Minnesota Duluth

If we assume that Minnesota is definitely in and Penn State is definitely out, then it comes down to sorting out these three.

Colgate is probably in the best shape of the three since they’re the only one still playing and can control their own destiny by getting a win tomorrow and guaranteeing a spot.

If Colgate wins, then both Boston College and Minnesota Duluth need only to outrank Penn State in the eye of the committee to make the field. I think their quality wins put each ahead of Penn State.

If Colgate loses, then there are going to have to be some really tough decisions to be made. I honestly don’t even know how you’d begin to compare and rank those three teams for the two remaining bids. On Friday, I said the mathematical ranking of: UMD/Colgate/Boston College looked good to me. That’s probably still how I’d rank them. But I’m not sure that’s how it is going to be handled.

In reality, I think it’s so close that if it comes down to it, the committee will likely give the edge to Boston College as a second team from Hockey East, and Colgate as a second team from the ECAC over giving the spot to a fourth WCHA team. Conference affiliation shouldn’t be the deciding factor. There’s no logical reason one league couldn’t have four of the best eight teams. But that’s just my gut feeling on how things will shake out.