Everything we said about the uncertainty in picking a men’s NCAA Tournament field in this strange pandemic season yesterday also holds true on the women’s side this year. The only difference is that on the women’s side, they have two fewer weeks to make a decision. The field for this year’s tournament is set to be announced in just 34 days. So I’m here to help with my opinion on who should be in the tournament based on what I’ve seen this year.
The good news, I guess, is that with only 27 teams competing for eight spots and a heavy dose of the usual suspects, things already seem relatively clear in terms of picking a field.
Here’s how I view the potential women’s NCAA Tournament field, with teams broken down into four tiers.
Tier I: Yes
These are the teams that should for sure for sure be in the tournament. I don’t think there’s much to argue with this list. If they’re not in, what are we even doing?
- Ohio State
Wisconsin and Minnesota haven’t done anything that would make anyone reconsider their spot at the top of women’s college hockey. Northeastern split their season-opening series against Boston College and then has crushed everyone else since, allowing just six goals over 11 games. Ohio State doesn’t often get mentioned alongside Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA, but it might be time to start that. They’ve played two series against each of the Badgers and Gophers and split all four series, which I don’t think any other team, outside of maybe Northeastern, would be capable of doing.
Tier II: Probably
These teams, barring a collapse, should be pretty safe to make the tournament.
This is a little tough to judge because these two teams only seem to play against each other. But combine their history, the talent they have on their roster, the fact that they’re winning their other games, and that their records against each other are pretty close, Colgate’s series lead is down to 4-3 after Clarkson’s weekend sweep, and I feel pretty safe in saying both are tournament teams. The national poll doesn’t seem to agree with me, but I’m going to guess some votes were turned in before Clarkson’s Sunday afternoon over Colgate.
Tier III: Fight!
These are the teams that likely still have some work to do
7. One of Boston College or Providence
Boston College has the better record and is 1-1 against Northeastern, whereas Providence is 0-3. Conventional wisdom also says the Eagles are the more talented team. But Providence swept BC early in the season. If I was scheduling Hockey East, I’d throw those two up on the Kumite Board as soon as possible.
8. One of Penn State or Robert Morris
This is the CHA autobid, though looking at how they’ve played so far this year and the talent on their roster, I’d have to say Penn State is pretty close to making an argument for an at-large bid. I don’t think I’d bump out anyone in the current field for them, and I’d probably still favor Minnesota Duluth over them as well. But the Nittany Lions continue to creep closer to being in that conversation.
Tier IV: Just A Bit Outside
9. Minnesota Duluth
The Bulldogs are probably close. They split with Ohio State at home, but also had that road split at Bemidji State where neither team scored a goal in regulation. If they can hold serve against Minnesota State, which may be easier said than done, and then find a way to upset Wisconsin at least once at home, I think the conversation about them vs. Clarkson/BC/etc. becomes very interesting.
I honestly have no idea how good the Bobcats are. They were swept by Colgate, split one series with Clarkson and have blown out really weak opponents in the rest of their games. They’ve got another set of games against both Colgate and Clarkson late in the season, and like UMD, if they can get at least splits in both series, then I think the conversation becomes much trickier.