Against my better judgment, I decided to make some picks for this year’s tournament. So welcome to the first
last annual Picking the NCAA Tournament post.
Here’s the thing about making picks for the NCAA Tournament, and a reason why every ounce of me says, “Don’t do it, Chris. You want to look dumb in front of all these nice people?”– Anything can happen. Single elimination leaves such little margin for error. This is the tournament where a 16 can and sometimes will beat a No. 1. This is where all conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window.
So why do it? Well, because it’s fun… and it doesn’t take nearly as much time as filling out a basketball bracket. If I pick against your team, it’s not because I don’t like them, it’s because I’m making a (somewhat) educated guess. So please hold all criticism until my bracket is officially busted, if you will.
Coming up after the jump, my picks for the entire tournament with some brief explanations, a bunch of helpful resources for this weekend and who to follow on Twitter this week.
Union vs. Michigan State — Friday, 3 p.m. EDT
The Dutchmen come in with their fair share of skeptics, but the staunch defense and terrific goaltending of Troy Grosenick could shut down one of the weaker offensive attacks in the tournament. This will be a tight game, but I like the Dutchmen getting out of the first round for the first time in program history.
Miami vs. UMass-Lowell — Friday, 6:30 p.m.
The RedHawks have underachieved a little bit this year, but with a healthy hockey team and some elite offensive players, it could be a tough task for Lowell. Miami has a lot of tournament experience on its roster, while Lowell has none. This is a highly intriguing first-round match-up.
Frozen Four Pick: Miami
Miami is the most seasoned tournament team in this region. Good goaltending from Connor Knapp (and if need be, Cody Reichard) will go a long way in helping Miami make it to Tampa.
Ferris State vs. Denver — Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Denver has been battling injury in the late goings of the season, so it is still unclear if they’ll have a full or at least mostly full boat for the regional. That said, many of the guys that are healthy are still pretty darn good, including leading scorer Drew Shore. Ferris State has stingy D and goaltending, but they’ll be up against a very strong attack from the Pioneers.
Michigan vs. Cornell — Friday, 9 p.m.
This game could end up being a goaltending duel between Cornell’s Andy Iles and Michigan’s Hobey-hopeful Shawn Hunwick. Either way, this is a very intriguing first-round match up, as Michigan can get the job done with speed and Cornell plays a very in-your-face style game. Michigan was agonizingly close to the title last year. Look for that to fuel the Wolverines.
Frozen Four Pick: Denver
I’m going a bit out on a limb due to the injury concerns, but I think Denver’s offensive leaders will help them get past Michigan. This is more on gut than anything else. Denver is another team that underachieved during the year, but starts the season anew in the tournament.
North Dakota vs. Western Michigan — Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Pick: Western Michigan
This is my lone 1-4 upset. As I mentioned in the West preview, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something highly intriguing about Western Michigan and new head coach Andy Murray. This team has been on a bit of a giant-killing streak of late, and I like the Broncos’ chances of keeping it going against a North Dakota team that’s been up against it with injuries all year. The Sioux have been excellent these last few weeks, but I’m beginning to wonder if they have enough left in the tank. It’s tough to pick against North Dakota, but I think Western is going to shock some people.
Minnesota vs. Boston University — Saturday, March 24
The way BU has dealt with the adversity of some teammates’ poor decisions off the ice has been pretty remarkable. They’ve continually fought through it, but Saturday, they run into a very talented Minnesota club that is basically playing on home ice in St. Paul. The depth throughout Minnesota’s lineup is tough to match. I’m picking against experience here, as BU has a lot of tourney experience, and this Minnesota team has none. I just think the increased depth wins out in this one, but it should be among the best games of the weekend.
Frozen Four Pick: Western Michigan
It just feels like there’s a little magic in this Western Michigan team. Having the confidence of winning the CCHA playoff title and (if the prediction holds) knocking out UND should help. WMU doesn’t have the skill level of Minnesota, but they’ll have a well-prepared coach and a strong game plan. The Broncos continue the dream run to Tampa.
Boston College vs. Air Force – Saturday, 4 p.m.
Pick: Boston College
We’ve seen some upsets over the years, so I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for Air Force to beat Boston College, but the Eagles are rolling right now. Riding a 15-game winning streak into the tournament, BC looks nearly unbeatable. This team scores a lot of goals and can overwhelm opponents early and often. As much as I love the scrappy group from Air Force, I don’t seen anything but an Eagles win.
Minnesota Duluth vs. Maine — Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Pick: Minnesota Duluth
The defending champs are still smarting from an overtime loss to Denver in the WCHA semifinals, but this is a team capable of making a run. Maine may be without Spencer Abbott, whose status is still up in the air. He has yet to be cleared to play according to Joe Meloni from College Hockey News. If he’s unable to go, it makes a tough game tougher for Maine. I like the defending champs getting out of Round 1 and into a real tough tilt against BC.
Frozen Four Pick: Boston College
It’s really tough to pick against BC right now. They might face a little adversity in this tournament, but when it comes down to it, they’re the best team in the country with a lot of tournament experience. I think BC goes to Tampa and probably all the way to the title.
Frozen Four Teams: Boston College vs. Western Michigan … Miami vs. Denver
Championship Picks: Boston College vs. Miami
Winner: Boston College
After bashing me in the comments, feel free to leave your own Frozen Four picks.
Now that I’ve potentially made a fool of myself, here’s a look at some helpful links to keep you up-to-date on the tournament happenings.
USCHO — With a small army of writers, USCHO is a great resource for all things college hockey. From excellent features, smart analysis, and your standard game recaps, this is a great site for any college hockey fan.
Follow on Twitter: USCHO, Todd Milewski, Brian Halverson, Paula Weston, Joe Paisley, Ed Trefzger
College Hockey News — With a really solid bunch of reporters who will be on-site keeping us all up-to-date, College Hockey News has been breaking a lot of stories and providing excellent analysis down the stretch.
Follow on Twitter: College Hockey News (Adam Wodon), Joe Meloni, Scott McLaughlin, Dan Myers, Jimmy Connelly, Brian Sullivan
Inside College Hockey — A site that lives up to its name, the writers and reporters for INCH are college hockey lifers and well connected. There’s a lot of smart analysis and well-informed previews and reviews. Always a good source for the hard-core college hockey nut.
Follow on Twitter: INCH, Jess Myers, Joe Gladziszewski
College Hockey, Inc. — The marketing arm of college hockey does a really fantastic job providing wonderful resources for hard-core fans, but also the casual fan. The site has already turned out a bunch of fantastic content leading up to the tournament and one can expect great coverage throughout the weekend.
Follow on Twitter: College Hockey, Inc., Nate Ewell
College Hockey Stats — When you’re looking for the straight dope, College Hockey Stats has you covered. Every roster, every box score, every statistic. It’s no frills, just stats and it’s awesome.
Western College Hockey Blog — Chris Dilks brings his own style not often found in college hockey coverage. He can be pretty snarky at times, adding a bit of entertainment and humor to his coverage. Dilks also is very opinionated, so it’s always interesting to hear his take on things.
Follow on Twitter: Chris Dilks
Other great college hockey follows for the weekend…
Dave Starman — Providing color commentary for the West Regional for ESPN, Starman is one of the best in the biz. He’s always tweeting pre- and post-game thoughts, providing little appetizers and dessert for those tuning in.
John Buccigross — You’re probably already following him, but ESPN’s best friend to hockey will be calling games from the East Regional with Barry Melrose. Buccigross often tweets about college hockey, but one would expect he’ll do so more than usual this weekend.
Bruce Ciskie — The radio voice of the UMD Bulldogs doesn’t simply tweet about the team he calls games for. He knows the ins and outs, and has been around the college game long enough to provide sharp, smart commentary. He also has some great takes on The Ciskie Blog.
Ryan Lambert — Puck Daddy’s resident rapscallion had a nice preview over at the Yahoo! Sports site about the tournament. Among the more NHL-focused bloggers, Lambert has a real passion for the college game. He’ll be watching this tournament with a little more interest as a UMass-Lowell alum. Expect some college hockey snark all weekend.
Joe Yerdon — He might cover the NHL primarily for NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk, but Yerdon is a college hockey die-hard. He’s worked in some NCAA coverage at the blog for NBC Sports Network’s Friday Night Ice. He’ll be heading to the Northeast Regional, so expect some college-centered tweets from the only RPI fan I know.
Matthew Semisch — This Omaha-based writer is covering college hockey for NCAA.com.
Some Hockey Beat Writers to follow, too:
Brad Elliot Schlossman — North Dakota
Ken Schott — Union
David Drew — WMU
Mike Chambers — DU
Brian Gomez — Air Force
Roman Augustoviz — Minnesota
Kevin Pates — UMD
Matt Slovin — Michigan (student reporter)
BOSHockey Blog — BU (student reporters)
BC Interruption — BC (SBNation Blog)
Please leave your own suggestions in the comments as well.
We’re all set for the most exciting few weeks of hockey. The action begins today at 3 p.m. and goes right through Sunday night. This should be a lot of fun. Enjoy the games, everyone!