Pairwise . . . Fair wise? The countdown to the Frozen Four!

As we hit the end of February, it is normally at this time that we start to look forward to the annual guessing game of who will be the guests of the NCAA on the road to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh April 8-10. So, it is now the time of the year that the Pairwise rankings start to get scrutinized.

And as of this writing (February 18, 2021), the number one seeds would be Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota State and…and…wait, what??? Canisius? What the…? American International, a two seed? Robert Morris a three? What the hell? When did Atlantic Hockey become the NCHC? 

Hold on a second, that’s right, it was said at the beginning of the season that the selection committee said that the Pairwise was not going to be used to decide the field this year. Okay…at least I can deal with a smokey room, etc. to decide the final 16. 

This week we got our first look or first idea of how they will decide the tournament field. Record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, record vs. common opponents, quality wins & home/away weighting.

Now, I know you’re saying, isn’t that the same as the Pairwise? And you would be correct. This is a whole lot like the Pairwise. It is the conundrum that the six men (one coach from each conference) have in choosing the field of 16 for this crazy 2021 NCAA Tournament. 

I can tell you, without a doubt in my mind, that the loudest voice in the room will be Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. Yes, I could be wrong, but in this crazy year of crazy years, it is not inconceivable that this could be one of the rare years that Atlantic Hockey could get two teams in the tournament. Heck, I’ve seen grumblings that the league could get three. I think that is getting out of hand, but could they get two? Why not? The ECAC which usually gets three or four, is likely to only get two because there are only four teams in that league that are playing. And it is very likely that two if not three of those four teams could finish under 500. Especially if Quinnipiac wins the automatic bid, it is conceivable that they only get one. Then what?

We do know that the teams that we mentioned earlier, as well as Army, who is arguably the hottest team in the country, are hoping that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments.

Then there is the WCHA. It is just about a given that Minnesota State will be one of the last 16, but after that? Probably Bowling Green, then the questions? Michigan Tech, Bemidji State & Lake Superior State are all in that “Top 16” of the actual Pairwise. Maybe Soderquist’s won’t be the loudest voice in the room. Maybe it will be Lake Superior’s Damon Whitten. Maybe those will be the schools that will fill the void from the ECAC. 

I am hoping that someone will sneak an active recording device in the room so we can hear what happens. I am not betting on it, but one can dream.

NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton has said several times that “history” should play some part in the final decisions, that would make an interesting test case of the DU Pioneers. As of this writing, the Pioneers are three games under 500. What happens if they do not sweep rival CC in their last four games? What if they don’t win the conference tournament? What if they do finish 500, but they do so because they have five wins over a CC team, which might not have, at that point not won since New Years Day? Would that have been a season worthy of a tournament bid? Denver would be the very definition of does history count. This will be the first season that they will not have won 20 games since the 2001-02 season. 

My guess? I think Denver needs to run the table to get in. 

In the end, I do think that Atlantic will get a second team in this year. Especially since it would look like the ECAC will only get one team in the final 16, based on the “eye” test. The NCHC will likely get four…WHCA three, Hockey East three & the Big 10 three.

Let the arguments begin.

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