Sunday, March 23, 2014

NCAA Tournament: Final Bracket and Predictions

Here is the Final Bracket for the 2014 NCAA tournament:

St. Paul
1 Minnesota vs 16 Robert Morris
8 Notre Dame vs 9 St. Cloud State

2 BC vs 15 Denver
7 UMass-Lowell vs 10 Minnesota State

3 Union vs 13 Vermont
6 Quinnipiac vs 11 Providence

4 Wisconsin vs 14 North Dakota
5 Ferris State vs 12 Colgate

The bracket turned out really nice this year, almost perfect bracket integrity and nearly perfect as far as attendance goes.  Now, some predictions:

St. Paul - Minnesota beats Robert Morris handily in the first game, St. Cloud State beats a hot Notre Dame in a close one, Minnesota edges St. Cloud to advance to the Frozen Four

Worcester - Denver gives BC a tough game but the Eagles prevail, Lowell beats Mankato in front of a home crowd, Lowell beats BC in overtime

Bridgeport - Union handles Vermont, Providence upsets Quinnipiac, Union beats Providence

Cincinnati - Wisconsin over North Dakota, Colgate beats Ferris State in OT, Wisconsin beats Colgate

Frozen Four - Wisconsin beats Minnesota in a low-scoring game, Union beats Lowell.  Union beats Wisconsin to win the national championship.

Thoughts on Minnesota: I know they've struggled lately, but Minnesota has what teams need in the playoffs - defense and goaltending.  The question is whether they've got enough goal scoring to be able to steal wins in tight, defensive games.  I like Minnesota in games where the other team plays a more wide-open, offensive style of hockey, but they've shown that they struggle against teams that play the trap and clog up the middle of the rink (like Wisconsin).  The Gophers have shown that they can beat anybody in the country if they play well, and lose to just about anybody if they don't show up.  They didn't show up on Friday and got beat by a good-enough Ohio State team - a team just as good as any team the Gophers will play in the NCAA tournament.  Will Coach Lucia have the team ready to show up for the regional?  I hope so.

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