Friday, March 11, 2011

A Gopher Fan's "Who to Root For" Guide for College Hockey's Conference Playoffs

According to the Pairwise prognosticators at Gopher Puck Live, a Gopher sweep in this weekend's playoff series would go a long way towards an NCAA tournament at-large bid. If the Gophers win this series in two games, there's a good chance that they would not need any wins in the Final Five in order to make the big dance. However, if Alaska-Anchorage takes even one game in the series, the Gophers would need to make the Final Five and would likely need to advance to the Championship Game in order to advance to the NCAAs. If the Gophers sweep UAA this weekend and win Thursday evening in the Final Five, they are all but guaranteed a spot in the tourney.

With the Pairwise Rankings in mind, there are certain results that will help the Gopher cause towards making the NCAA tournament. Below is a guide to who to root for in the other big games / series this weekend in the WCHA, as well as a select few series with Pairwise implications around the country. If you're a Gopher fan, use this guide as you watch the results from around the nation:


UND vs MTU - Gopher fans should root for MTU, but I would be shocked if North Dakota isn't playing on Friday evening in St. Paul next weekend.

DU vs MSU-M - this is a HUGE series for the Gophers. Minnesota fans should be rooting for a DU sweep of Mankato. If the Pioneers sweep the Mavericks, MSU would be knocked out as a "Team Under Consideration" in the Pairwise rankings (all teams with an RPI of .500 or over). Since the Gophers went 0-2 against Mankato this year, that would raise Minnesota's TUC winning percentage and (as that is an important aspect in the Pairwise) would help the Gophers turn a couple comparisons in their quest to get into the top 15 in the PWR rankings.

UNO vs BSU - Gopher fans should root for as many Bemidji State wins as possible in this series. If Bemidji wins the series, they could return to the ranks of the Teams Under Consideration. Since Minnesota went 1-0-1 against Bemidji this season, adding that win and tie into the Gophers' TUC record would be helpful in the Pairwise.

UMD vs SCSU - The comparison between UMD and the Gophers is still in play, but the only way Minnesota turns that comparison is if UMD loses in their first round series. Gopher fans should root for a St. Cloud upset of UMD.

CC vs UW - This one is somewhat of a toss-up. Minnesota currently holds the comparison with both CC and UW, but CC is ahead of the Gophers and UW is significantly behind. From that perspective, a Wisconsin series win looks to be the best thing for Minnesota, but CC winning the series in three games probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either.

Other Conferences

Merrimack vs Maine - Gopher fans want Merrimack to win the series, but Maine winning in three games would not be a terrible result. A Maine loss would help the Gophers turn the RPI and the comparison.

Ferris St vs Western Michigan - A Ferris State victory in this series would be big for the same reasons as the Merrimack / Maine series above. The only reason Western Michigan holds the comparison over the Gophers is the RPI, so any Western Michigan loss helps the Gophers climb back in that category.

Harvard vs Dartmouth - Gopher fans are rooting for Harvard (I know, difficult). Harvard is not very good this season so this may not be likely, but Harvard winning even one game would help the Gophers come back in the RPI category.

Vermont vs UNH - Vermont also is not very good this season, but if they can take out UNH in one or two games in this series it should help the Gophers.

Northeastern vs BU - this one is strange. The best result for the Gophers here is a Northeastern series victory, but in three games. The Boston U / Minnesota comparison is very close, and if Northeastern takes out BU Minnesota should leapfrog them in the Pairwise. However, if Northeastern sweeps BU, Northeastern will become a Team Under Consideration, and this would bolster UNH's TUC record in their comparison against the Gophers. This is a Thursday-Saturday series, and Northeastern already won the Thursday game. Minnesota fans should be rooting for a BU win Friday and a Northeastern win Saturday, with the next best result being a Northeastern win on Friday and the worst result being BU winning the next two games and advancing.

I hope this guide helps you as you scan the box scores from around the country. As always, though, the most important thing that Minnesota can do is win its own games. If Minnesota wins its next two games it's pretty likely that the Gophers are in the tourney. Take care of business, and let everything else fall into place. Go Gophers!

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