INCH Writers 4×4: Version 2.0

Welcome to another edition of the INCH 4×4, where you get all of the NCAA Tournament speculation with none of the math. And this time around, I’ve got an axe to grind.

We all know an NCAA computer somewhere in Indianapolis determines the 16 teams most deserving of an invitation to the NCAA Tournament based on concrete data. That’s fine, I guess. Letting the computer cull the field makes the selection committee’s job real simple. As long as they can read a spreadsheet, count to 16, and then divide by four, they’re pretty much in the clear. It certainly keeps the scrutiny to a minimum.

My beef is—and has been for some time—why can’t there be room in the selection process for the human element? There was a time when folks felt the committee was cooking the books behind the scenes, but those days are gone. Give them the opportunity to paint outside the lines, trust what you see. Besides, doesn’t it make sense to give the nod to the surging team over the one limping to the finish line?

Take Dartmouth, 12th in the computer rankings, or Yale, tied for 14th, for example. Any desire to see the Big Green, a pedestrian 5-8-2 since New Year’s Eve, or the Bulldogs, winners of two of their last eight games and owners of a tremendously messed-up goaltending situation, in the tournament?*

* ECAC Hockey fans, if you think I’m picking on your league, I’m not. It just so happens Dartmouth and Yale are two teams in the top 16 whose resumes are most iffy, in my opinion.

Give me St. Lawrence, tied for 17th in the computer rankings, over either of those two clubs. The argument against the Saints, I guess, is they lost twice to Yale and split with Dartmouth, but SLU is 9-3-2 since Jan. 5 and can finish ahead of both the Bulldogs and Big Green in the ECAC Hockey standings. I don’t need a computer to tell me the second-place team in the league standings is better than those below it.

It seems obvious to me that a rational group of people (I’m giving the committee the benefit of the doubt here) should have the ability to deviate from the formula when they can collectively look at Team A and Team B and say, “No question, B is the better team.”

Of course, that ain’t gonna happen this year. It may never happen. But it seems like a good idea.

The INCH 4×4 represents how we think the NCAA Tournament field will look WHEN THE BRACKET IS ANNOUNCED Sunday, March 24 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

MANCHESTER REGIONAL
1. New Hampshire
2. Boston College
3. St. Cloud State
4. Denver
Would you stake anything on a Hockey East team right now? Me neither. That said, one has to think one Hockey East club will end up with a No. 1 seed. I’ll give my tepid endorsement to UNH … for now.

PROVIDENCE REGIONAL
1. Quinnipiac
2. UMass Lowell
3. Niagara
4. Boston University
As you probably could guess based on what I said about Dartmouth and Yale, I’m not big on BU, either. But I like them a lot better than either of those two ECAC Hockey schools, and their last four games (against Vermont and Maine) seem manageable.

TOLEDO REGIONAL
1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Notre Dame
4. Rensselaer
This regional seems like a lot of fun. You know about Miami and North Dakota, and Notre Dame has beaten both of ‘em. Then there’s Rensselaer, which as won nine of its last 11. That’s a pretty solid group.

GRAND RAPIDS REGIONAL
1. Minnesota
2. Minnesota State
3. Western Michigan
4. St. Lawrence
At the start of the month, it looked like Western Michigan could challenge for a No. 1 seed. Then the Broncos forgot how to score. Minnesota State is 17-4-1 since mid-November, but no one talks about them.

Last two in: St. Lawrence, Boston University
First two out:
Dartmouth, Yale
Stock rising:
UMass Lowell
Stock falling:
Western Michigan
INCHWriters.com projected auto-bids:
Atlantic Hockey-Niagara; CCHA-Miami; ECAC Hockey-Quinnipiac; Hockey East-Boston College; WCHA-Minnesota

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3 responses

  1. I don’t take too much stock in Notre Dame beating Miami. They won on an outdoor rink with a score of 2-1. Neither team played that well in Chicago.The RedHawks were 10-1-2 against Notre Dame in their past 13 games prior to the weekend split. They are also, over the Miami program history, 4-1 against Notre Dame on neutral ice, the lone loss coming in Chicago. I think the series will be interesting and fun, but implying Notre Dame beating Miami is significant is a bit of an exaggeration. I enjoyed the rest of this article though.

  2. The point about SLU and RPI looking more dangerous than Yale and Dartmouth at the moment is valid, but you lose me when you make an exception for BU. Yale’s slide is no worse than BU’s over the last 8 games (2-5-1). In fact, those 6 losses you mention include two to #1 Qpac, one @ streaking RPI (who you have in the tourney) and 1 @ a pretty good Union team. The losses @ Brown and Colgate are lousy, but somehow is that somehow worse than BU’s losses to Umass, Northeastern, and Harvard over the same stretch? Furthermore, the Yale goaltending situation isn’t “tremendously messed-up”… their starter is 12-4-2 on the year and was hurt for their 0-5 stretch, but he’s back now with a very winnable home weekend against 2 teams from the bottom third of the ECAC. I admit Yale doesn’t look much like a tourney team right now, but you need to explain why you like BU “A lot better” than Yale for this to look like anything other than standed anti-ECAC bias.

    • I don’t think BU is better than Yale. If Yale’s goaltending is straight, I like them more than BU. That said, I think the schedule breaks nicely for BU over the final two weeks of the regular season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yale end up fifth in ECAC Hockey and have to play Harvard in the first round of the league playoffs — a team way more talented than its record would indicate. One of those 5-6 teams will lose to a lower seed in the first round. Wouldn’t shock me if it’s Harvard being Yale.

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