Thursday, March 26, 2009

NCAA Tourney Preview

The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tourney starts tomorrow, so why not take a look at who’s playing. I know a few Badger fans who are headed to Grand Rapids for the Midwest Regional despite the Badgers being the first team out.

Northeast Regional – Manchester, NH hosted by New Hampshire

Boston U (1) vs Ohio State (4)
North Dakota (2) vs New Hampshire (3)

Boston U has been #1 in the polls most of the season, won the regular season HE title and the HE tourney. North Dakota won the MacNaughton but didn’t look good last weekend in St. Paul. New Hampshire is playing at home, always a bonus after a good HE season. Ohio State is the last at-large to make it; they didn’t even make the final weekend of the CCHA playoffs.

I’m picking a BU vs North Dakota Regional Final w/ BU advancing to the Frozen Four. Looking forward to watching this game (should it come to pass) Sunday night. North Dakota is a good team, but which one will show up? The team that lost twice in the 2nd half of the regular season or the team that lost twice last weekend?

East Regional – Bridgeport, CT hosted by Yale

Michigan (1) vs Air Force (4)
Yale (2) vs Vermont (3)

This is an interesting Regional w/ Michigan heading east. I wasn’t overly impressed w/ Michigan when the visited the KC in November, and playing that easy CCHA schedule shouldn’t impress anyone. They were the runners up to Notre Dame in both the regular season and playoffs. Yale won the ECAC playoffs and appears to be on a roll. The one thing about ECAC teams is their schedule is weak. Vermont started the season well, but faded later on, and did not reach the HE semis. Air Force won the AHA regular season and playoff title. They were the talk of college hockey after a fast start which included a win over Colorado College. After losing to Denver the following night, they've came back to earth.

I’m pulling for Air Force, but Michigan should win. Yale is at home and Vermont is reeling. I actually have Yale winning at home in the Regional Final and making the Frozen Four.

West Regional – Minneapolis, MN hosted by minnesota (will Wangas and tDon be serving mini donuts in street clothes?)

Denver (1) vs Miami (OH) (4)
Duluth (2) vs Princeton (3)

The WCHA Regional if you will. Denver finished second in both the race for the MacNaughton and for the Broadmoor. They have Tyler Bozak back, though I wonder how a guy who hasn’t played for months will adjust. He could have a hat trick or be completely ineffective. Duluth has arguably the hottest team in the country right now, riding the goaltending of Alex Stalock and timely goal scoring. It wasn’t so long ago they choked away two games at home to UAA though. Princeton doesn’t belong in the NCAA tourney. Miami (OH) backs into the NCAA tourney just like Ohio State, just that they actually have a decent team.

Denver and Miami (OH) pits the teacher against the student. Miami’s coach played and coached under Gwoz in the past. Denver didn’t look great last weekend, but they have the talent to win the regional. I’ll pick them to get past Miami. Duluth is hot, and I think riding an impressive five game winning streak, they can take two more games this weekend. I think Duluth punches a ticket to the Frozen Four and have a legitimate reason to raise at banner at the DUMP next season. There is always the “misc wanderings” factor when Stalock is on the ice though. Will he do something stupid that costs his team the game?

Midwest Regional – Grand Rapids, MI hosted by someone

Notre Dame (1) vs Bemidji St (4)
Northeastern (2) vs Cornell (3)

Notre Dame’s Regional to lose this weekend. The won the CCHA regular season and playoff titles (if that impresses you) and were jockeying w/ Boston U most of the season for the top spot in the polls. Northeastern has had a great season for their program. They finished second in HE during the regular season. I think they could be a darkhorse to make the Frozen Four. Cornell is the 3rd ECAC school to make the tourney. Bemidji received what I believe is the last CHA autobid ever. I wouldn’t count this team out. They played tough against several WCHA schools this year included a couple one goal losses to North Dakota.

Notre Dame and Northeastern should make an interesting Regional Final. I’d have to cheer for Northeastern in that contest, but I think Notre Dame makes their second straight Frozen Four. Might be there last for awhile if all their talented recruits keep decommiting and heading to the OHL.

Projected Frozen Four

Boston U vs Yale
Duluth vs Notre Dame

This will be my first Frozen Four in two weeks, I can’t wait! The Final Five was a blast; I expect the same from the Frozen Four just w/ more fan bases to mingle w/. Does American International or Merrimack send huge contigent of fans?

In the end I think Boston U and Duluth win their semi-final games. Boston U wins another National Championship in a close game w/ some great goaltending.

I feel like I’m betraying the WCHA by picking BU, but I wasn’t impressed w/ North Dakota or Denver last weekend, and for how hot Duluth is, I don’t think they quite pull it off. Coming into the playoffs, teams need to be riding high, but anything could happen in single elimination action.

If DU or UND make it to DC, count me as part of your cheering section.