Selection Sunday Simulation!
By Scott Lowe – MYHockeyRankings.com
Mankato Free Press Photo
Welcome to Selection Sunday 2020!
While it’s not the Selection Sunday we hoped to see for NCAA Division men’s and women’s basketball last Sunday and Division I men’s hockey this weekend, it was a lot of fun to put ourselves in the shoes of the selection committee and go through the process while integrating our MYHockey Rankings numbers into the equation to come up with this year’s projected tournament field.
The Women’s Division I field already had been announced and can be found HERE. At the Division III level, both the men’s and women’s fields also had been announced. You can find the men’s bracket HERE and the women’s bracket HERE.
We will simulate one game every other day and post a game recap for the men’s D1 tournament using a combination of fan voting results, our MHR algorithm and other formulas. If it goes well, we will try to do the same for the women’s D1 and men’s and women’s DIII tourneys once the Division I men’s champ has been crowned. So, your input will be very important. We also hope to get some occasional input from some college hockey expert analysts along the way.
All that we ask is that you take this for what it is – a fun exercise, a great way to involve hockey in passing the time during this difficult period in all of our lives and a conversation starter. Debate is great. We expect that you won’t agree with everything you see or read. State your case. Fight for your team. But please be respectful of others at all times. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion.
It’s very easy to block someone and eliminate them from the conversation altogether. Plese don’t be that person.
We invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy our MHR NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championship Selection Sunday. Get ready to join the conversation, back your team and vote for the winners of each game.
Can Minnesota Duluth pull off the three-peat, or will a Denver or North Dakota, the last two champions before UMD, return to the top? What about Cornell, this year’s Cinderella team which suffered only two losses and ended the year ranked first in the USCHO poll? Will this be the year that Minnesota State final breaks through or will a Power Five school like Boston College or Penn State ascend to the throne.
And who will be this year’s American International? Maybe AIC will do it again?
Stay tuned to find out!
With any NCAA Tournament selection process, the first place to start is with the locks – or automatic qualifiers. With no conference tournaments played this year, we will default to the regular-season champions as the 2020 automatic qualifiers. They are listed below with their resumes.
Keep in mind that the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championship consists of six automatic qualifiers who win their conference tournaments plus 10 additional at-large teams selected using various criteria. For our purposes, we considered our MHR rankings, the USCHO national poll, the Pariwise rankings and the RPI – along with our MHR strength-of-schedule ratings – in determining the at-large bids and seeding.
This year’s tournament, as always, was to consist of four regionals with the champion from each region advancing to the Frozen Four at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit April 9 and 11.
This year’s regional sites were going to be:
- Worcester, Mass. – DCU Center – March 27-28
- Loveland, Colo. – Budweiser Events Center – March 27-28
- Albany, N.Y. – Times Union Center – March 28-29
- Allentown, Pa. – PPL Center – March 28-29
For our format, we will attempt to stick to the following schedule (any changes will be announced via Twitter). We will use the day in between games for fan voting:
- Massachusetts Regional Semifinals – March 24 & 26
- Colorado Regional Semifinals – March 28 & 30
- New York Regional Semifinals – April 1 & 3
- Pennsylvania Regional Semifinals – April 5 & 7
- Massachusetts Final – April 9
- Colorado Final – April 11
- New York Final – April 13
- Pennsylvania Final – April 15
- Frozen Four Semifinal #1 – April 17
- Frozen Four Semifinal #2 – April 19
- National Championship Game – April 21
As regular-season conference champions, the six teams below received automatic bids to our MHR NCAA Men’s Hockey Division I Championship simulation tournament:
- #35 MHR
- 97.30 rating; 96.39 SOS
- 21-12-1 overall, 21-6-1 conference
- Best Win: vs. #26 Sacred Heart, 6-2
- Notes: #20 in USCHO poll
Can last year’s Cinderella shock the world again and make another run or will the big guns be ready for the Yellow Jackets this time around? AIC won’t be nervous this year and should be motivated to prove 2019 wasn’t a fluke.
- #8 MHR
- 98.91 rating; 97.94 SOS
- 20-10-4 overall, 12-8-4-1 conference
- Best Wins: vs. #7 Michigan, #12 Ohio State (3), #13 Minnesota (3), #14 Notre Dame
- Notes: #8 USCHO, #7 RPI, #7 Pairwise
It’s a battle every night in the Big Ten, where the Nittany Lions played 16 games against teams ranked in our MHR top 14. Will that have them more prepared, or will they be worn down from the grind?
- #6 MHR
- 99.03 rating, 96.99 SOS
- 23-2-4 overall, 18-2-2 conference
- Best Wins: vs. #12 Ohio State, #19 Clarkson (2), #22 Harvard, #31 Quinnipiac
- Notes: #1 USCHO, #3 RPI, #3 Pairwise – ECAC team opponent rankings: 22, 31, 36, 40, 45, 47, 50, 53, 55, 59
It’s hard to call the team that ended the season ranked No. 1 in the USCHO poll a Cinderella, so maybe describing the Big Red as the People’s Choice is more appropriate. Cornell’s fairytale season, which included just two losses overall and a 9-1 record in its final 10 contests, was cut short before the university’s men’s and top-ranked women’s team could try to pull off the rare national-championship daily double. The Big Red are talented, deep and experienced, but does an ECAC schedule that included the nation’s No. 40, 45, 47, 50, 53, 55 and 59 teams according to MHR hurt them? We’ll see.
- #3 MHR
- 99.59 rating, 97.74 SOS
- 24-8-2 overall, 17-6-1 conference
- Best Wins: vs. 14 Notre Dame (2), #11 UMass (2)
- Notes: #5 USCHO, #5 RPI, #6 Pairwise – lost twice to #5 Denver
A college hockey Blue Blood, can BC return to the throne it last occupied in 2012? Our MHR ratings suggest that they have a real shot, but they aren’t quite as well thought of in the USCHO, Pairwise and RPI rankings. The Eagles always bring a roster as talented as any to the dance, so if they are underestimated even a little bit that could be all they need to make a deep run.
- #1 MHR
- 99.99 rating, 98.08 SOS
- 26-5-4 overall, 17-4-3-2 conference
- Best Wins: vs. #5 Denver (3), #4 Minnesota-Duluth, #10 Bemidji State (2), #13 Minnesota (2)
- Notes: #3 USCHO, #1 RPI, #1 Pairwise – lost twice to #5 Denver
Our numbers say that the Hawks are the nation’s best team this year. The Pairwise and RPI ratings concur, but they are third in the subjective USCHO poll. A little bulletin-board material perhaps? That might be all the motivation this talented squad needs to capture its first national title since 2016.
- #2 MHR
- 99.95 rating, 97.54 SOS
- 32-5-2 overall, 18-2-2 conference
- Best Wins: vs. #1 North Dakota (1-0-1), #4 Minnesota-Duluth (2), #10 Bemidji State (3-2)
- Notes: #2 USCHO, #2 RPI, #2 Pairwise – lost twice to #5 Denver
The Mavericks are capable, and they have been capable for quite some time now, but they just haven’t gotten over the hump. Maybe this is the year? A win and a tie against MHR top-ranked North Dakota, two wins over No. 4 Minnesota Duluth and three wins vs. No. 10 Bemidji State indicate that this might be their time.
When it comes to figuring out the top seeds in each region, looking at the various polls – as well as the overall records and strength of schedule for each candidate – the answer is pretty clear cut.
The only outliers that had a strong case for cracking into the top group were Boston College and Denver. BC won the Hockey East regular-season crown and earned a No. 3 MHR ranking with a 24-8-2 overall record and had fourth-best strength of schedule out of the six teams considered for top seeds. Denver also could make an argument at No. 5 in the MHR rankings with a 22-9-6 record and the third-best SOS. But Denver closed its season with a 5-5-1 record in its last 11 games and went 0-6-2 combined against MHR No. 1 North Dakota and No. 4 Minnesota Duluth. The Pioneers did record a pair of early-season wins against Denver.
Based on quality wins and strength of schedule, Cornell could have been the odd-team out as far as earning a top seed as the Big Red fell to sixth in the MHR rankings. But it’s hard to overlook any team that suffered just two losses at the Division I level, and as far as the eye test is concerned, Cornell ended the regular season as the USCHO’s top-ranked team. The Big Red also were third in both the Pairwise and RPI ratings.
North Dakota, as the top-ranked team in every non-subjective rating system, got the nod as the overall No. 1 seed, followed in order by Minnesota State (No. 2 across the board), Cornell and Minnesota Duluth (No. 4 across the board.)
Top Four Overall Seeds (Region)
- North Dakota (Pennsylvania)
- Minnesota State (Colorado)
- Cornell (NewYork)
- Minnesota Duluth (Massachusetts)
- #4 MHR
- 99.34 rating, 98.26 SOS
- 22-10-2 overall, 17-5-2 NCHC (2nd)
- Best Wins: vs. #1 North Dakota, #5 Denver (1-0-1)
- Notes: #4 USCHO, #4 RPI, #4 Pairwise – lost twice to Minnesota State, but was 9-1 in last 10
Second Seeds (placed geographically)
Penn State (Pennsylvania)
UMass (New York)
Boston College (Massachusetts)
Three of the four second seeds were clear, with Denver and BC considered as possible top seeds and Penn state having come out on top in the rigorous Big Ten and being a consensus top-eight team according to every system (No. 8 MHR). The fourth No. 2 seed was a little more difficult to discern, however.
Michigan jumped up to No. 7 in the MHR rankings, but could get no higher than 14th in any other ranking system. Clarkson was rated between seven and nine in the USCHO, Pairwise and RPI rankings, but dropped all the way to 19th according to MHR – likely hurt by the ECAC’s overall weakness this year.
Western Michigan suffered a similar fate to Michigan’s, earning the No. 9 MHR ranking but not cracking the top 15 anywhere else. Bemidji State was considered for a two seed at No. 10 MHR, No. 11 USCHO and No. 12 RPI and Pairwise, but that was still not quite good enough.
That left us with only UMass, clearly a notch above the others at 11th according to MHR and between eighth and ninth in the other systems.
- #5 MHR
- 99.28 rating, 98.14 SOS
- 22-9-6 overall, 11-8-5-4 NCHC (3rd)
- Best Wins: vs. #3 Boston College (2), ties vs. #1 North Dakota and #4 Minnesota Duluth
- Notes: #6 USCHO, #6 RPI, #5 Pairwise – 5-5-1 in last 11 and 0-6-2 vs. North Dakota and UMD
- #11 MHR
- 98.82 rating, 97.64 SOS
- 21-11-2 overall, 14-8-2 Hockey East (2nd)
- Best Wins: vs. #3 Boston College, #16 Providence (2)
- Notes: #9 USCHO, #8 RPI, #8 Pairwise – 5-4-1 in last 10 and lost twice to Denver
Now that we’ve unveiled the top two seeds in each region, it’s time to move on and present the rest of the 2020 NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championship field as well as the remaining matchups:
Massachusetts Regional – March 24 & 26 at DCU Center in Worcester
#1 Minnesota Duluth 5, #4 Michigan 3
Perunovich 3 assists, Shepard 27 saves
#2 Boston College 4 #3 Clarkson 3
Finkelstein 3rd-period PPG iwins it for Eagles
BC Goals: Newhook, Hardman, Cotton, Finkelstein
Knight 27 saves
Colorado Regional – March 28 & 30 at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland
#1 Minnesota State vs. #4 Arizona State
#2 Denver vs. #3 Bemidji State
Minnesota State is the consensus pick as the nation’s second-ranked team and takes on an Arizona State team that has given top teams fits the past two years. A Minnesota State-Denver regional final in front of a Pioneer-friendly crowd would be a barn-burner, but Bemidji State will be a very difficult out.
New York Regional – April 1 & 3 at Times Union Center in Albany
#1 Cornell vs. #4 Western Michigan
#2 UMass vs. #3 Ohio State
The Big Red will have to prove themselves right away against MHR’s No. 9 team, while UMass and Ohio State may be the toughest opening-round matchup to call on paper. A Cornell-UMass final would be a tremendous matchup with an unbelievable atmosphere given each school’s proximity to Albany.
Pennsylvania Regional – April 5 & 7 at PPL Center in Allentown
#1 North Dakota vs. #4 American International
#2 Penn State vs. #3 UMass Lowell
North Dakota, the consensus computer pick as the nation’s top team, would appear to be a strong favorite to emerge from this group, but Penn State is battle-tested after winding up on top in the Big Ten and has proven over its short history that it can compete with the best in the land on any given night. And this is a better and more experienced AIC team than the one that shocked St. Cloud last year.
UMass Lowell already knocked off the Nittany Lions, 3-2 in overtime, this year and also has wins over UMD, BC and UMass on its resume. A revenge game for Penn State, this might be the best game to watch of the opening round.
Rounding It Out
The three seeds definitely were a cut above the four seeds based on both resume and eye test. With AIC being an automatic qualifier and a clear No. 4 seed – and without a doubt the team to match up with overall top-seed North Dakota – there were only three remaining open spots once the No. 3s had been placed. This is where it got tricky.
When looking at the No. 4 seeds there were three teams – Arizona State, Quinnipiac and Maine – that were consistently among the top 16 according to the USCHO, Pairwise and the RPI but were ranked 27th, 31st and 23rd, respectively by MHR. Meanwhile we had Michigan (No. 7) and Western Michigan (No. 9) in the MHR top 10, but either barely in or barely out of the top 16 according to the other systems. Of those two, Michigan had the best resume at No. 14 in both Pairwise and RPI.
Given the closeness of these final five teams competing for three spots, it was necessary to look at other factors such as strength of schedule, strong wins and overall record before awarding the final berths.
Here is a quick comparison:
No. 13 in USCHO, Pairwise and RPI, No. 27 MHR
Big Wins: vs. #5 Denver (win & tie), #19 Clarkson (win & loss), beat Quinnipiac twice
No. 14 in USCHO, No. 16 in Pairwise and RPI, No. 31 MHR
Big Win: vs. #6 Cornell, lost to Arizona State & Clarkson twice, split with Maine
No. 15 in USCHO, Pairwise & RIP, No. 23 MHR
Big Wins: split vs. Quinnipiac, vs. #3 Boston College (2), vs. #16 Providence
No. 16 USCHO, No. 18 Pairwide, No. 17 RPI, No. 9 MHR
Big Wins: vs. #15 Bowling Green (split), vs. #8 Michigan (split), vs. #5 Denver (split), vs. #4 UMD (1-2-1); 8 of 13 losses vs. top-eight teams
No. 17 USCHO, No. 14 Pairwise, No. 14 RPI, No. 7 MHR
Big Wins: #9 W. Michigan (split), No. 7 Penn State (2-1-1), No. 14 Notre Dame (2-2), No. 12 Ohio State (1-3), No. 13 Minnesota (1-1-2)
Once all the resumes were viewed together on paper, Quinnipiac was eliminated first. We just couldn’t justify a third ECAC team in the tournament this year, and the Bobcats had the weakest strength of schedule.
It was hard to question Western Michigan’s resume, with the second-best SOS among the group, and eight of 13 losses coming against top-eight teams. There were wins vs. Nos. 4, 5 and 8. Sold. The Broncos survived the cut.
Michigan’s tremendous strength of schedule certainly stood out. While the Big Ten didn’t have a bunch of top-five teams this year, it seemed like the conference deserved three bids with four teams ranked among the top 18 in all polls. But we were still not quite sold on the Wolverines.
Maine’s resume was very similar to Michigan’s in terms of number of wins and the quality of its conference, but there were not as many big wins, the schedule strength was weaker and Hockey East already had three teams in. Michigan got the nod over Maine, but the Black Bears still had a shot going up against Arizona State for the final spot.
ASU was selected as an independent in 2019, so there’s no reason to think that not playing in a conference should have a negative impact on its resume this year. The Sun Devils played a pretty ambitious schedule, although it wasn’t quite as strong as Maine’s. Their 22-11-3 record was actually better than their 2019 mark and included a win and a tie against No. 5 Denver.
Hockey East got three bids in 2019, should it get four this year? This was really a tough call. We went back to the schedules for each team one more time and compared games vs. all common opponents.
Looking at common opponents, ASU went 6-2 vs. Quinnipiac, Vermont, Nebraska Omaha and Alaska Anchorage, while Maine was 6-1-2. This just couldn’t get any closer.
So, based on precedent (the Sun Devils got in last year with one fewer victory), a better overall record with 22 wins and the fact that three Hockey East teams already were in, our final selection was Arizona State.
We will open the fan voting for the opening first-round matchup, Minnesota Duluth vs. Michigan, tomorrow (March 23) and will post the results and a game recap on Tuesday, March 24. We will follow that schedule with a game recap posted every-other day until we have crowned a champion in April.
We welcome and encourage your voting and discussion about the matchups and results going forward and hope that this helps everyone pass the time and makes it easier to stay inside and help flatten the coronavirus curve.
Enjoy and be safe!