The CCHA: Brutal
Good god. That's the current pairwise rankings. Michigan is at #5. There is one other CCHA team (NMU) in the tournament now, and that's just barely, as they sit in a tie for 13th. Northern's RPI is 21, too, so it's likely that their current ranking is anomalously high and they'll fall down unless they get very hot fast. OSU is the second team out in a tie for 15th. State is 18th.
If Michigan wins the CCHA autobid it is definitely possible that it will be the ONLY CCHA team in the tourney. And, given the general weakness of the league, Michigan may have to actually win out to get a #1 seed, though I'm not sure Michigan actually wants one. It's extremely doubful they'll pull into one of the top two spots which would guarantee a matchup against a CHA or MAAC foe and being #3 or #4 with CC ahead of them and Minnesota hosting probably means being sent out east. As a two seed they have a shot at Grand Rapids.
The CCHA's general brutality doesn't look to be changing, either. A ton of high level recruits are entering college hockey this year and exactly none of them are going to CCHA teams not named "Michigan." Miami's new rink may help it and OSU seems to be putting together a consistently good team, but MSU deciding to suck as much during the regular season as they do in the NCAA tournament has turned the CCHA into the ECAC + Michigan. Hell, the ECAC looks to have three in this year's tourney... maybe I shouldn't be digging on them.
Coming into the CCHA next year, Chris Zarb of Ferris State was invited to the World Junior tryout camp this past year and should be one of the top 5 incoming defenseman next year. Tyler Eckford of UAF was also considered to be a huge steal for them. I happen to think Jimmy Spratt will come in next year and fill in quite nicely for Jordan Sigalet when he leaves.
It's not a great year, but it's also not the Sahara desert either for the CCHA.
Northern Michigan is in a bit of trouble this season. Their RPI will get a nice bump this weekend from playing Michigan, but after that, only have two games against TUCs left on their schedule, and they usually find a way to lose some points to Tech and Lake State, which might keep them out of the tournament.