So that happened.
In probably the worst case scenario, Michigan hockey dropped both games at Penn St, while other things in the conference have basically assured that the B1G will be a ONE BID CONFERENCE. Yes, you read that right-- the conference of multiple national champions Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will get a grand total of 1 team into the NCAA tournament this year. The breakdown:
- Michigan sits tied for 19th in PairWise Ranking (PWR). It would take essentially a 3-4 game win streak to get back into the 14th or higher PWR position, and with the results from this past weekend that's no guarantee since the teams above UM are all still alive in their conference tourneys and wil be playing meaningful opponents meaning their PWR will probably not take a huge hit at this point. BTW- a 4 game win streak means we won the BTT which makes the at-large bid a moot point anyway.
- Minnesota with their split against Ohio St, now sits on the hairy precipice of losing their at-large bid fallback plan (sound familiar?). They are tied for 14th in PWR and need a winning streak to stay up (remember the 16th slot in the tourney this year is already tabbed essentially for the Atlantic Hockey tourney champ, so any at large teams are going to have to finish at least 15th in PWR, more likely 14th or higher to absorb a cinderella tourney champ from another conference). A sweep for Minnesota next week against Penn St and a Semi final win in the BTT might still get them in as an at-large, but they're going to have to hope that 1 and 2 seeds in confernce tourneys win out so that the PWR 13-18 teams don't get a bump from a winning streak in their conference tourneys.
- It's basically cannibalism at this point in the B1G tourney. A cinderella run resulting in a tourney championship from a team not in consideration today (PSU, OSU, MSU, WIscy) will definately knock Michigan out of an at-large run, and possibly/probably Minnesota too (especially if it's two cinderella teams in the final, i.e. Michigan and Minnesota lose in the tourney semis).
- And oh BTW, in case you needed more depressing news, Michigan State is in the drivers seat to hang a banner as B1G Regulart Season champions. As if they needed more motivation for next weekend, MICHIGAN STATE can win the regular season conference title with a sweep against us, no matter what Minnesota does. A split with us and a Minnesota split gives Sparty the title too. Talk about depressing. Now I know how Tottenham fans feel. (apologies for the EPL reference)
Silver linings and bottom lines? A couple:
- Michigan's only viable path to a NCAA bid at this point is likely to win the tourney title. Not out of the realm of possibility at all, but with the consistency (and frankly coaching / testicular fortitude) questions overhanging the team, I wouldn't bet on it.
- We still can salvage some Europa League title like satisfcation next weekend. If we sweep, we win the B1G regular season and hang a banner next year. We would be at worst tied with Minnesota in points and we win the tiebreaker over the Gophers based on more wins in conference. (Insert tiny flag waving here). Maybe that motivation is tangible enough to get an inspired performance for two games in a row??? The way thigns are shaking out, I'd hope for a Michigan sweep and a split by Minnesota with Penn St so that Penn St stays out of our semifinal.
Side thought stream of consciousness: I mentioned it in a comment on the Saturday night open thread, but we may seriously need to think about sacraficing some sort of animal with an Al Montoya jersey on it. Every since he left the season early in 2005, Michigan has not had that 3-4 year recruited goaltender that the 90's - early 2000's powerhouses could rely on. We lucked into Tiny Jesus Shawn Hunwick after whiffing on / getting mugged by John Gibson and our goaltending has not been consistently adequate in going on 10 years... Is this the REAL failure of the contemporary Red Berenson era? Not being able to close the deal on a top flight goaltender?? Is this something that falls on Billy Powers or Josh Blackburn? Will I need a really big bottle of scotch next weekend??