With conference tournaments underway, the NCAA tournament field is starting to shake out.
As we enter the home stretch of the college hockey season, it's time to start paying closer attention to the Pairwise Rankings, the computer rankings that choose the field for the NCAA tournament.
Here is how the grid stands today. If you're new to the experience, here is a primer on how the Pairwise Rankings, used to the select the NCAA tournament field, work.
-Playoffs started in the CCHA, ECAC, and Atlantic Hockey last weekend, and that had implications on the tournament field. It's pretty rare for teams playing on the first weekend of their conference tournament to be serious NCAA tournament factors, but there were some series that had an effect on the look at the potential NCAA tournament field.
The most significant series was in Fairbanks, where Alaska, who was clinging on to slim bubble hopes, lost a tough three-game series to Michigan State. The loss dropped Alaska down to 22nd in the Pairwise, and with no hope of moving up significantly, you can cross the Nanooks off the list of potential at-large tournament teams.Meanwhile, teams still holding onto at-large hopes like Dartmouth and Robert Morris, won their series and will need more wins next weekend to continue those hopes.
The biggest impact playoff games had last weekend was near the TUC cliff. Northern Michigan lost a pair of games to Michigan which ended their season below the TUC Cliff. The Wildcats were successful in non-conference play, including sweeps over bubble team Wisconsin, and St. Cloud, who is currently fighting for seeding position in the tournament. Most everybody else that was near the TUC Cliff, teams like Brown and Cornell, won to stay on the right side of the cliff.
-Also worth noting with the TUC Cliff: Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, and Merrimack are all right on the good side of the cliff, but are playing road playoff series this weekend. If they lose, they'll most likely end up on the wrong side of the cliff.
-When we last checked in, Wisconsin had pretty much been left for dead after losing a Monday night game to Penn State. But after winning three out of their last four games, all against TUCs, the Badgers are back in the NCAA tournament picture, even briefly sneaking into the last at-large spot temporarily on Saturday night. They'll play at home next weekend in the playoffs against a pretty hot Minnesota-Duluth squad, and it's now like looking like may just one win at the Final Five could enough to get them into the tournament, rather than needing to win all three.
-The Niagara Watch got a little more interesting after the Purple Eagles were swept by Air Force on the last weekend of the Atlantic Hockey regular season. Niagara now sits at 13th in the Pairwise, and 14th in RPI. Getting swept by RIT this weekend more than likely guarantees Atlantic Hockey will only get one bid.