What a great weekend for local sports on television. The Wild continued their quest for a Northwest Division title by taking on the Canucks on Friday night and the Flames on Saturday. A split of those two games along with their tie in San Jose gave them three of six points so far on a critical road trip.
Meanwhile, the Gophers--unlike the NIGP on his most recent job review--continued to exceed expectations by reaching the championship game of the WCHA Final Five. They fell to Denver 2-1 on Saturday night, but their two previous Final Five wins over SCSU (Thursday) and Colorado College (Friday) assured them a place in the NCAA tourney. All in all it was a great weekend for hockey. What, is there some basketball tournament going on or something?
The field of sixteen for the NCAA Division One hockey tournament was released on Sunday. It includes a record six teams from the WCHA. Throw in four from the CCHA and you can see how far west the balance of power in college hockey has moved in recent years.
The Gophers will face a tough challenge in their first game having to play Boston College in Worcester, MA (one of JB's favorite cities). But considering where they were at just a few weeks ago, everything is gravy at this point.
Notre Dame's inclusion means we won't have to hear any whining from the NIGP about how unfair the Pairwise Rankings are. Said whining will begin after the Irish lose their first round game to UNH.
According to all the analysis I've read, the selections did reflect the Pairwise Rankings and were pretty predictable. But the one obvious travesty is that the Wisconsin Badgers were invited. Yes, the 15-16-7 Badgers, who finished sixth in the WCHA, fresh of being swept by SCSU in the first round of the WCHA playoffs are in the NCAA tourney.
And even better, they get to play their opening game in MADISON. Some might have a problem with a Gopher fan complaining of unfair home ice advantage given the numerous NCAA Regionals at Mariucci over the years that have featured the Gophers, but at least those Minnesota teams had an above .500 record.
Having the Badgers in the tourney wouldn't be such am egregious affront to all that is good and holy if it was simply a matter of including them instead of one of those overrated Eastern schools. But the team whose bubble they popped was the Minnesota State Mavericks. The same Mavericks who finished fourth in the WCHA and lost a classic three game playoff series--with all the games decided in OT--to the Gophers. They don't get in and the Badgers do? Life is indeed not fair.
Here's how College Hockey News and one of the committee members explains it:
That leaves the final question--which those of us who follow the process know the answer to, but needs to be asked anyway: Why did a sub-.500 Wisconsin make it over Minnesota State. The answer, of course, is because Wisconsin had better Pairwise criteria--when all was said and done--than the Mavericks. But it does look funny to some. And should Wisconsin get in at under .500.
"In all honesty, that's a discussion for the summer and our AHCA coaches meeting," Maturi said. "But the reality is, these are the directions we've been given (to follow the numbers). It's something the college hockey coaches have always wanted. It really takes it out of the hands of the committee as to who makes the field. As a result, there was no extensive discussion about it.
"As challenging it might be to explain how they got there (to those unfamiliar with the process), how hard would it be to explain how they didn't get there when the numbers say they should....And I should mention, (Wisconsin) hosting had absolutely nothing to do with it."
Cough, bulls***, cough.
In the interests of justice, we can only hope that Denver destroys the Badgers in front of their besotted faithful on Saturday. In the meantime, there's plenty of time to work on your brackets. The road to Denver begins on Friday.