Mike Lantry, 1972
The Home Stretch: Hockey
An intermittent observation on the probable postseason fates of the hockey and basketball teams.
If The Season Ended Today...
Michigan would make it as the last #2 seed in the bracket by virtue of their eighth place PWR ranking despite their recent run of uninspired play. Unlike March Madness, the seeding of the hockey tournament is a mechanical process that can be projected with a high degree of accuracy. Thus USCHO runs mechanically accurate bracketology columns with some regularity. In their latest, Michigan ends up in an ugly place, figuratively and literally:
#16 Alabama-Huntsville vs. #1 Wisconsin
#11 Harvard vs. #8 Michigan
(#11 vs #8? Well, 9 and 10 are both CCHA teams and there can be no intraconference matchups in the first round)
The first round matchup is a good one--ECAC teams have highly insular schedules and are thus always overrated by the PWR rankings--but the prospect of playing #1 Wisconsin in the Cheese State does not appeal. And you're damn skippy that the wildly partisan Green Bay crowd will be rah-rah-rahing for old Harvard in the opening round.
...But Since It Doesn't
Yay. You're good.
Michigan is locked into a #2 or #3 seed at this point unless they suddenly turn into a very crappy or very good team. The teams ahead of them have solid leads in most of the components of the pairwise. Likewise, Michigan leads the three and four seeds by a healthy enough margin that there's little danger of missing the tournament without a wholesale, Kirstie-Alley level collapse.
However, there is an opportunity to move up if Michigan gets right. All six games left in the regular season are against teams that are (and will finish the season) with an RPI of over .5000, which makes them "teams under consideration" in NCAA hockey jargon. One of the components of the PWR is your record against these teams. .500 is considered pretty good; Michigan is 9-9-3 as of this moment. Going 5-1 or--dare I say it--6-0 over the closing stretch against a series of teams all fighting for NCAA berths could vault Michigan up the PWR. Michigan's opponent in their CCHA playoff series would also be a TUC unless two of the four CCHA teams destined for the road in the first round spring upsets.
Michigan's going to be playing ten games against good teams... if head gets removed from ass things could happen. That would require a different team from the one that's muddled its way through this season, but the possibility exists.
So, You're Telling Me...
Michigan is in. Upward or downward mobility from a middle of the pack seed is unlikely.
And You Think...
This team isn't all that good. There is the slight possibility that Johnson and Hunwick have been screwing around all season and will suddenly get serious about that whole defending people thing, but I think that's unlikely. Splitting Johnson and Hunwick may provide a cure if Mitera and Dest can cover for their partner's occasional forays into total insanity... but there are other issues yet.
Michigan does okay against their tough closing slate, finishing 4-2 in the regular season and making it to the CCHA final before bowing out. This nets them a #2 seed.