go go go
The WCHA has invited the five schools (Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris, Lake State, Western) that would've been left in the dying CCHA starting in 2013-14.
tl:dr version: BTHC was a subject of discussion during B10 meetings in Indy. May release a statement as soon as Monday about their intentions of going through with it for 2013-2014. WCHA and CCHA also preparing plans for their contractions.
Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State will become the 11th and 12th members of the WCHA.
My initial thought is that this is smart and proactive move by Nebraska and it opens the door for Penn State to join the CCHA. I'm sure this is going to open up more discussion about the possible Big Ten Hockey Conference but I'll let others speculate about that.
The WCHA is to college hockey as the SEC is to college football. This decade, like the SEC, the WCHA has generally been considered the best conference in college hockey. But this season it doesn't actually have the strength to match up with tourney-worthy teams from other conferences.
The WCHA currently has 7 of the top-20 teams in the [irrelevant] USCHO poll and 7 of the teams ranked in the [relevant] Pairwise Rankings, which basically determines who makes the NCAA Tournament. However, in the USCHO poll, only Denver (8) and North Dakota (9) rank in the top 10, while only Denver is in the top 10 of the Pairwise Rankings (t-5 as of 1:21 AM on Saturday, and yes I'm writing this at a ridiculously stupid time of night). One belief held by members of the College Hockey media (rather small, as you might imagine), is that the WCHA is so deep that teams keep knocking each other off, an argument that is backed up by having 9 out of 10 teams in the top 30 of the RPI. While the general consensus is that the WCHA isn't necessarily as strong as years previous, many (and when I say many, I mean many relative to people who follow college hockey) believe that the WCHA is still the strongest conference in the nation, or at least competing for the title with Hockey East.
In my opinion, the idea that the WCHA is the strongest conference in the nation is utter crap. To back it up, I am going to look at the records of WCHA teams in the Pairwise Rankings against out-of-conference opponents in the Pairwise Rankings. To put it simply, I'm going to look at the records of "good" teams in the WCHA against good teams from other conferences.
Denver: 2-2-0 (2-2-0 home) (t5 Pairwise)
Minnesota-Duluth: 1-1-0 (1-1-0 neutral) (t12 Pairwise)
North Dakota: 1-2-0 (1-1-0 home, 0-1-0 road) (t12 Pairwise)
Wisconsin: 1-2-0 (1-2-0 home) (14 Pairwise)
Minnesota: 2-1-1 (2-1-1 home) (15 Pairwise)
Colorado College: 0-0-0 (COWARDS!!!) (t17 Pairwise)
St. Cloud State: 0-1-0 (0-1-0 neutral) (21 Pairwise)
Overall: 7-9-1 (6-6-1 home, 0-1-0 road, 1-2-0 neutral) Win%=0.46875
As a straight record, 7-9-1 against quality opponents isn't bad, but certainly doesn't lend credence to the idea that the WCHA is even close to the best conference in the country this year, especially when you consider that the vast majority of these games were home games.
A fair criticism of the analysis above is that the 7-9-1 record is the result of having 70% of the conference being evaluated against the top teams in every other conference. However, I can refute this critique with two points: a) the only team with a winning record against quality competition is Minnesota (all at home too) and b) the reason that so many teams are up there is that they feasted on highly mediocre competition.
The WCHA combined non-conference record is 41-23-10 (Win%=0.62162). The combined non-conference record of the 7 teams above is 30-16-9 (Win%=0.62727). This means that the combined non-conference records of the top 7 teams are about as good as those of the bottom 3 teams. The reason for this is that the weak bottom 3 teams beat up on the worst teams in the NCAA, and the top 7 teams also racked up a positive winning percentage by beating up on the worst teams in the NCAA. This led to a high overall conference RPI because the RPI does not take individual games into account, but focuses on the overall records of teams. This means that a win over a bad team and a loss to a great team means the same thing as splitting two games against an average team. The result of this system is that the WCHA teams played a number of terrible teams, whose records do not compensate for the disparity of talent in NCAA hockey, while producing a mediocre performance against actual good teams, to give the conference a heightened RPI, putting more teams into the Pairwise Rankings (of which RPI is a component).
In conclusion, the WCHA is not that good and as it's 2:25 AM, I'm going to bed and not getting up until 2.