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NCAA hockey bracketology: Wildcats chances for NCAA tourney bid improve

March 15, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

The good news for the Northern Michigan University hockey team last weekend: Michigan swept Notre Dame in the CCHA quarterfinals and Maine took out Merrimack in three games in a first-round Hockey East series.

The bad news for the Wildcats: Cornell swept Dartmouth in a first-round ECAC series and Western Michigan demolished Lake Superior State in two games.

Despite the Wildcats only getting 50 percent of what they needed last week, they are still alive in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth.

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The Wildcats may not be out of their coma, but they are off life support.

Northern remains 16th in the latest PairWise rankings and - according to Jim Dahl at - there's a 51.8 percent chance NMU remains No. 16 as the last team left out of the tournament.

The Wildcats do have a 32.9 percent chance of climbing to No. 15 in the PairWise and being the last team to make the field, pending any upsets in the conference tournaments this weekend.

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NMU can climb as high as 14 - a 10.2 percent chance - and could even finish 13 if a perfect storm emerges.

The forecast only calls for 1.3 percent chance of that happening, however.

So how does Northern get into the NCAA tournament this weekend?

Here are the simplest of scenarios. Only one of the following needs to happen for NMU's season to rise from the grave.

A) Western Michigan loses to Miami on Friday in the CCHA semifinals and loses to either Bowling Green State or Michigan in the CCHA third-place game. In this scenario, the Falcons can not win the CCHA title.

B) Western loses to Miami on Friday in the CCHA semifinals and ties BGSU in the CCHA third-place game. A WMU tie on Saturday against Michigan would do NMU no good.

C) Cornell loses to Harvard and Colgate in the ECAC tournament in Atlantic City this weekend. Union must win the ECAC title.

Along with Union winning the ECAC title, and Michigan or Miami winning the Mason Cup, Wildcat fans should also root for Denver, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth or Minnesota to win the WCHA tournament and for Maine, Boston College or Boston University to win the Hockey East title.

Northern can afford one upset in the league tournaments if Western and Cornell both go 0-2 this weekend, which as the odds show, is unlikely.

To play around and make your own predictions, you can check out two tools online. has a "PairWise Predicator" at and College Hockey News has "You Are The Committee" at

Using's PairWise rankings this week, here's how my bracket looks heading into the final weekend before selection Sunday, plus a quick explanation of the moves I made.

For a complete analysis of how I came up with this week's bracket, plus an alternate bracket, visit the Inside 1401 Sports blog at

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.) - 1. Boston College vs. 15. Western Michigan; 6. Union vs 10. Maine.

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.) - 4. Miami vs. 13. Cornell; 5. Boston University vs. 12. Denver.

West Regional (St. Paul) - 3. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 14. Michigan State; 8. Minnesota vs. 9 UMass-Lowell

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wis.) - 2. Michigan vs. 16. Air Force; 7. Ferris State vs. 11. North Dakota.

Notes: Minnesota is placed in St. Paul because it is the host. ... To break an intraconference matchup between the CCHA's Michigan and Western Michigan, the No. 15 Broncos were flipped with No. 16 Air Force. ... To boost attendance, No. 6 Union and No. 7. Ferris State were swapped.

Editor's Note: Mining Journal Sports Editor Matt Wellens will have two more bracketology analysis online at on Saturday morning following the conference semifinals and Sunday morning following the conference finals. The NCAA tournament field will be announced at noon on Sunday and posted online at shortly after.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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