Listen, I get that speculation is fun. It’s why people liked INCH Pick ‘Em, why we like mock drafts and handicapping the Oscars. But there comes a time when it gets to be too damn much.
Take Monday morning, for instance. Based on a few tweets I saw, there were people actively searching for a way Robert Morris could earn at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Now it’d be a great story if RMU got into the NCAA Tournament; the Colonials had a darn good season. But according to Jim Dahl of Siouxsports.com—he ran each of the more than 393,000 scenarios that could play out in next weekend’s conference tournaments—Robert Morris has a less than one percent chance of earning an at-large bid. You’ve got a better chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime.
As you can see by Dahl’s handiwork, seven teams are locked into the tournament—Boston College, Miami, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Quinnipiac, and UMass Lowell. Five teams (Yale, Minnesota State, Niagara, St. Cloud State, and Denver) have a bettter than 90 percent chance of getting into the field and Notre Dame has a better than 80 percent chance of earning an at-large bid.
Now you’re talking about a maximum of three bids up for grabs. That number shrinks to two if one of Brown, Colorado College, Michigan, Ohio State, Bentley, Canisius, or Mercyhurst earns an automatic NCAA bid. Looking for a way to get RMU into the tourney seems like an exercise in futility.
The INCH 4×4 represents how we think the NCAA Tournament field will look WHEN THE BRACKET IS ANNOUNCED Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
3. Minnesota State
4. Western Michigan
This is kind of a funky regional, but based on who we think will win the league tournaments, it appears to be how it would shake out. Because ECAC Hockey foes Union and RPI are the last two seeds in our projection, Quinnipiac has to face Western Michigan (the 14th-ranked team in the computer rankings) in the first round.
1. North Dakota
3. New Hampshire
4. Notre Dame
Sending North Dakota all the way out east isn’t optimal, but unless they drop down a line to the No. 2 seed, they’ll end up in Manchester. Besides, NoDak fans probably wouldn’t have many complaints about this draw. We had to put Yale here because New Hampshire can’t play UMass Lowell or Boston College in the first round.
2. UMass Lowell
Of the four projected regionals, this one seems the most wide open. Miami, UMass Lowell, and Union have played well down the stretch, and Denver’s WCHA first-round playoff series loss to Colorado College may be a blessing in disguise; the Pioneers could use a weekend off to let some bumps and bruises heal.
GRAND RAPIDS REGIONAL
2. Boston College
3. St. Cloud State
It’d be a lot better to have Western Michigan in this regional for a variety of reasons, and it still could happen. It depends on how the committee decides to maintain bracket integrity by (staying as close as possible to matching the first overall seed with the no. 16 team, no. 2 vs. no. 15, and so on.) With Quinnipiac the top overall seed and two ECAC Hockey teams at nos. 15 and 16, our hands are sort of tied.
Last two in: Union, Rensselaer
First two out: Wisconsin, Boston University
Stock rising: UMass Lowell
Stock falling: Western Michigan
INCHWriters.com projected auto-bids: Atlantic Hockey-Niagara over UConn; CCHA-Miami over Notre Dame; ECAC Hockey-Quinnipiac over Yale; Hockey East-UMass Lowell over Boston College; WCHA-North Dakota over St. Cloud State.