Thursday, March 26, 2015

Annual NCAA Preview

New Way of Seeding NCAA Still Provides 16 Teams: Our Picks

After years of modest and not so modest boasting, the prognosticators of the NCAA field have been bested, or at least incorrect.  The Committee used creativity to create an NCAA bracket that had many with puzzled looks on their faces.

Nonetheless, the field has been set and now we get to sit back and enjoy the games.

As the annual tradition goes, Andy Fiskness and Andrew Craig make their picks and anyone filling out brackets should be aware that our track record is not very good.  A grain of salt should be taken.

Picks by @afiskness.  The final 16 teams have been announced and set for action.  The Bulldogs join in the fun after taking last weekend off. Hopefully the time off will help them focus.  Five other NCHC teams are set to play as well, including eight former WCHA teams.  This is showing that the tide might be turning back to the western teams for college hockey dominance.

NCHC Related Picks
Minnesota Twin Cities vs Minnesota Duluth: This is of course the fifth time they have played this season, each in a different arena.  Iafallo's return will give the Bulldogs much needed spark.  I think this game is a when you play them type of game and the Gophers are hot now.  I expect to see the Gophers come out like the third period of the North Star cup and end the UMD season.

Saint Cloud State vs Michigan Tech:  This is a great matchup.  The Huskies from Saint Cloud have found a stride and the Huskies from Houghton know how to score goals.  Tech feasted on their conference scoring 16 goals in a weekend against the Chargers and 15 against the Seawolves.  They also scored big in bunches in their wins against Big Ten opponents, Wisconsin and Michigan.  Saint Cloud's defense will be too much and they will get the win.

Quinnipiac vs North Dakota: If this game wasn't in Fargo this would be a Bobcat win, but I have to pick the suddenly struggling North Dakota Mens hockey team to win.

Boston College vs Denver: The Eagles are rested after watching the Hockey East Finals from their couches and the Pioneers are coming off a NCHC consolation championship.  I like the Pioneers to advance.  

Providence vs Miami: The Redhawks should be able to roll even with a short bench.

Havard vs Nebraska Omaha: The Crimson are coming off an ECAC championship and the Mavericks are rested after not making it to Minneapolis last weekend.  This game could be a coin toss after not knowing what Mavericks team will show up.  I will go with Mavericks win.   

@afiskness' Frozen Four:
Omaha, Miami, Boston University and North Dakota

Picks by Craig (@CollegeHockeyHH).  There is a marked change in the "balance of power" in college hockey this year towards the West.  This is evident in the entrants to the tourney and the non-conference results from the season.  That is not to say that an eastern team will not win it all, but looking at the probability simply from numbers the West has an advantage.

Looking at the draw, there is not clear-cut winners out of any region except for the West Region where I am confident North Dakota will prevail.

West Region:
Again this is the only seemingly easy one to pick.  Saint Cloud is on a roll, but the environment will be hostile just as the former name of the UND squad was.  And I am not even convinced SCSU will make it to Saturday.  At the end of a late day on Saturday, North Dakota will pull off a win over Michigan Tech.

Midwest Region:
I want to call this the weakest of the four regions, but maybe least competitive is a better describer?  Omaha is an enigma right now and they very well could come out of nowhere (Omaha, NE) and take the region, but they may also have a problem with Harvard in the first round.  In the end it will be Omaha advancing to face Mankato with the red Mavs of Omaha defying the odds and making the Frozen Four.

Northeast Region:
In what was expected to be the regional of the Boston teams (BU and BC), the bracket makers went away from bracket integrity and moved BC to the East Regional.  What is left is an interesting and most unexpected, meeting of intra-state rivals Minnesota Twin Cities and Minnesota Duluth.  Much has been made of the Bulldogs and Gophers upcoming fifth meeting in a fifth arena with UMD holding a 3-1 lead.  Even in their loss, the game was tilted in favor of UMD.  The Bulldogs will win the fifth meeting and take not he Terriers of BU Saturday with BU moving on.

East Regional:
The East arguably has the toughest region with Miami, Denver, and BC together.  Throw in Providence with the games in Providence, RI and it is top to bottom strong.  Keeping it short, Miami will lose to Providence fueling the fires of unrest among the college hockey faithful of Oxford, OH who are crying foul from the start moving Providence home for no reason other than attendance at the root.  Moving on, DU - BC game will also be regional winner and in this case it will be the team from the West, Denver.

@CollegeHockeyHH 's Frozen Four:
Omaha, Denver, Boston University and North Dakota

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