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.
1. New Hampshire
2. Boston College
3. St. Cloud State
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.
2. UMass Lowell
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.
2. North Dakota
3. Notre Dame
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
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