Friday, March 13, 2009

Tournament Hopes Still Alive

The Tigers still have a pretty good shot at making the NCAA Tournament if they can play good hockey and win some WCHA tournament games. Unfortunately, that road looks a little tougher at the time of this posting as the Tigers are down 3-1 going into the third period against Duluth. I'll have a quick update of the score when it ends (nothing more since I'm in Moab!). In the meantime, here's Frank Schwab's assessment of the Tigers' postseason chances.

CC hockey team knows what it has to do to make the NCAA Tournament

Unlike college basketball, which will engage in nonstop "in or out?" bubble-team debate until Sunday afternoon, college hockey's postseason berths are easier to figure.

If the power ratings in hockey say you're good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, you're in. That's why coaches pay so much attention this time of year to the U.S. College Hockey Online PairWise rankings. Those rankings mirror the formula used by the NCAA selection committee.

"I like it because there are no opinions, there's no subjectivity," Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. "There's always those thoughts if a guy is sitting around in a cigar smoke-filled room paying back people to get teams in. This takes that out of it. It's very fair."

At the beginning of February, PairWise wasn't a big factor for the plummeting Tigers. Now they're in a tie for 14th after a strong run in February and early March. Depending on how many lower-ranked teams get automatic bids by winning conference tournaments, the top 12 or 13 teams in the PairWise rankings usually get into the NCAA Tournament.

CC has a best-of-three home series in the opening round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs this weekend against Minnesota-Duluth. Two wins in the tough matchup could help the Tigers move up in the PairWise. Duluth is barely behind the Tigers in PairWise, tied for 17th.

"If you don't win, you're done anyway," Owens said. "If you do win, you might as well pick up some value points."

If CC advances, there is a good chance it will participate in the extra game at the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. The Tigers are the fourth seed, and the top three remaining seeds get byes to the semifinals. That could give CC a chance to get an extra win and help its NCAA Tournament standing.

"I think if we can win this series and win two games in St. Paul, we have a decent chance," Owens said.

CC could also get in the NCAA Tournament by winning the Final Five, but that won't be easy. The Tigers have never won the event and if they play in the extra game, that adds some difficulty.

The players understand they can't pay too much attention to what happens to teams like Princeton, Minnesota, Ohio State and St. Lawrence - teams that are directly ahead of or tied with CC in the PairWise. The Tigers hope to win and let the computers figure out the rest.

"I just try to focus on the games," senior forward Eric Walsky said. "All we have control over is winning and those wins are only going to help in the PairWise."