Sunday, March 8, 2015

Gopher Hockey: Two Options to Make the NCAA Tournament

With the season winding down and the Gophers faltering left and right, the team has played itself into a position where there are only two paths left to making the NCAA Tournament.

1) Sweep Penn State next weekend and win the semifinal game of the B1G Tournament, but lose in the championship game

2) Win the B1G championship

Both options are still attainable, although this hockey team has shown it can lose to anyone.

The Gophers need 3 more wins to remain on the safe side of the NCAA Tournament bubble and really can't afford more than one loss if they want to grab an at-large bid into the tourney.  This means the only loss they can stomach is the one in the B1G Championship game.

Assuming they sweep Penn State, the Gophers will be at worst the #2 seed heading into the conference tournament, which would net them a first-round bye.  A win in the semifinal game and a loss in the final should be enough to get the Gophers something like the #13 or #14 seed and squeak into the tourney.

Of course, winning the B1G postseason tournament would give Minnesota the conference auto-bid, which is the fail-safe for the team assuming they do not start putting together a run of wins.

It is possible that the team could get into the tournament in another way - splitting next weekend and winning twice in the B1G tournament would put them 3-2 the rest of the way, which just might be enough to eke out one of the last at-large bids to the tournament.  This scenario would probably require so many other things to go Minnesota's way that it's not that realistic.

The Gophers face Penn State next weekend for the last series of the regular season.  Minnesota sits at 33 points in the conference, tied with Michigan and one point behind Michigan State.  The Spartans and Wolverines play a home-and-home series against each other next weekend.  These two series (MN/PSU and UM/MSU) will decide the B1G regular season title as well as the seedings for the post-season tournament.

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