Tuesday, March 23, 2010
THE OTHER MARCH MADNESS*
To give you a break from basketball, here's my NCAA Hockey Tournament preview...
Four New England teams made the tournament, three from Hockey East (BC, UNH, Vermont) and one from ECAC (Yale). BC won the Hockey East tourney, earning a #1 seed and the privilege of playing in Worcester. UNH is a #3 seed and will be playing their games in Albany. Yale is also a #3 seed and will also be in Worcester. Vermont barely squeezed in as a #4 seed and will play all the way out in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Northeast Region (Worcester, MA):
#1 Boston College Eagles vs. #4 Alaska Nanooks
This is BC's 29th NCAA appearance, it's Alaska's 1st. The Nanooks are just happy to be there, while BC will be doing work, trying to get to their 22nd Frozen Four. Both teams are fast, BC is faster and stronger, and will prevail.
#2 North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. #3 Yale Bulldogs
UND won the very tough WCHA tournament title, while Yale finished the season losing 3 of 4 and being eliminated from the ECAC tourney by lowly Brown. But before those 4 subpar games, they ripped off 7 straight wins and won the ECAC regular season title. But I have to go with the experienced Fighting Sioux to win this one.
So it'll be BC/North Dakota in the Northeast Regional Finals. This is a nice non-geographic NCAA rivalry here. I think BC gets a few calls, scores a few PP goals and squeezes by the Sioux to advance to the Frozen Four.
East Region (Albany, NY):
#1 Denver Pioneers vs. #4 RIT Tigers
Denver has been dominant all season before losing in the WCHA semis. RIT is much closer to Albany, but Denver should be used to travelling long distances (the WCHA spreads teams from Alaska to Michigan). RIT won the weak AHA tournament and will be obliterated by Denver.
#2 Cornell Big Red vs. #3 New Hampshire Wildcats
A very good matchup here. Cornell won the ECAC tournament and fell short of the regular season title by only 1 point. UNH won the Hockey East regular season, but were knocked out in the first round of the tourney by Vermont. This will essentially be a home game for Cornell, and the Big Red are a very patient, confident, big team. I think they prevail over the Wildcats.
So it'll be Cornell vs. Denver. I'm going to be biased and say Cornell advances to Detroit.
Midwest Region (Fort Wayne, IN):
#1 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks vs. #4 Alabama-Huntsville Chargers
Miami's been on a mission since their heartbreaking last minute defeat to BU in the NCAA Finals a year ago. They absolutely dominated the CCHA, losing only 2 conference games and winning the regular season title by 20 points. Bama-Huntsville won the CHA tournament, which is as unimpressive as it gets. The CHA is folding after this season and UAH will be an independent next season. This will likely be their last NCAA bid for awhile, and it won't last long. Miami advances, PDQ.
#2 Bemidji State Beavers vs. #3 Michigan Wolverines
A contrast here as BSU dominated the regular season in the CHA, while Michigan finished 7th in their conference. BSU somehow lost in the CHA tourney, while Michigan needed to win the entire CCHA tourney to get here. Big Blue is red hot, winning 8 of their last 9, and it's only a 150 mile drive from Ann Arbor to Fort Wayne. Michigan wins.
So the final will be Miami vs. Michigan. The Wolverines beat Miami in the CCHA semifinals, but I don't see that happening again. Miami moves on to the Frozen Four.
West Region (St. Paul, MN)
#1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #4 Vermont Catamounts
Wisconsin finished 2nd in the mighty WCHA, but watch out for Vermont here. The Catamounts were 8th in Hockey East, so how did they make the NCAA tournament? By beating quality teams. They split a pair of close games with Denver (in Denver) in October, beat BC 2 of 3, beat Yale in November, beat Bama-Huntsville, and shutout UNH twice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Against NCAA tournament teams, they're 7-5-1, so Wisconsin better be ready. But I think they will be, and the Badgers move on.
#2 St. Cloud State Huskies vs. #3 Northern Michigan Wildcats
In a tournament with Badgers, Catamounts, Nanooks, Fighting Sioux, Beavers, and Big Reds, these two teams have the most unoriginal nicknames. St. Cloud State was very close to garnering a #1 seed, and Northern Michigan is a bit of a late-comer to the national scene. The game's in Minnesota, so I'm picking St. Cloud State.
And Wisconsin will beat SCSU.
So my Frozen Four:
But don't be shocked if Michigan sneaks in.
The games start Friday. UNH/Cornell will be at 6:30pm. Vermont/Wisconsin will be at 7:00pm. On Saturday, BC/Alaska will be at 1:30pm.