NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.
Do you know how many of the 58 teams in NCAA Division 1 hockey actually make the playoffs every year?
Think real hard about this one and come up with what you think is a reasonable number.
And what did you come up with? Like 40? 36? Something along those lines? That would seem to be pretty rational. But this is the NCAA we're talking about, which is why you were dumb for thinking rationally.
The answer is 56.
You read that right: 56. Meaning only two teams in the entire country, or 3.4 percent, fail to make their conference playoffs. If you're thinking "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," you're right.
Last week in the CCHA, just as an example, Bowling Green, with its five wins from 34 games this season, played 18-14-6 Nebraska-Omaha in the tournament. Rather, Nebraska-Omaha had to be bothered with playing a doormat twice for no real reason. The results were less than shocking: a pair of near-effortless 6-1 wins in which the Mavericks outshot the Falcons 80-43. So easy were these games, in fact, that UNO actually just said, "Screw it," and used all three of its goalies in the elimination game.
You can see how seriously games like this are being taken.
UNO has now won 20 games this season, which is fine, but what does last weekend's pair of massacres prove? That the Mavericks are a good team? That BGSU isn't? This wasn't anything we didn't already know.
The worst part is this happens all across the country. The WCHA will open its playoffs Friday night with (and this is not a joke) Denver, the most convincing title contender in the country, loaded with 13 NHL draft picks and boasting a 25-7-4 record, playing... 5-28-1 Michigan Tech.
Tech is a team the Pioneers just played less than a month ago and won 5-2 and 5-3. Jeez, I wonder how those games this weekend are going to go. Hell, if Denver shouldn't be allowed to advance if it wins by less than six on aggregate.
Doesn't this strike anyone as being outlandishly stupid?
Some teams simply don't deserve to play in the postseason. Give them participant trophies if you want; it would have more dignity behind it than getting smoked 14-3 in two laughable playoff games.
Hockey East is the only conference that has it right. Their novel approach is that the last two teams in the league don't make the playoffs. It's that simple. The league refuses to reward a crap team like Providence, which, by the way, finished the year with twice as many wins as Michigan Tech, and that's the way it should be. Hockey East even refuses to let a half-decent team like Northeastern, at 16-16-2, into the playoffs because maybe next year they'll finish with more than 24 points from 27 games. By the way, that's a record for the highest point total from a team that didn't make the tournament.
It's not that I don't get the motivating factor in this. I do. It, like everything else the into which the NCAA has its stretched its insidious tentacles, comes down to money. But there's no reason whatsoever that Denver should have to play in the postseason against a team that's 23 games under .500.
In which I ask a blogger five questions about the team they follow. This week I got Matt Mackinder, the CCHA editor for Michigan College Hockey, to talk about hockey in the Great Lake State, as well as the CCHA in general.
1. Which Michigan-based team is going to be the next to take a big step forward?
I think Ferris State took major strides this season and may already be the next big Michigan-based team to take that step. The Bulldogs have been a marginal team at best ever since Chris Kunitz(notes) and Mike Brown left several years ago, but Bob Daniels runs a solid program in Big Rapids and it seemed this season that the players all bought into the program and really started to believe. Zach Redmond is as steady a defenseman as you'll find in the CCHA and Cody Chupp is a hometown boy who is also FSU's captain. If there is a weakness, it might be in goal, but I think you'll see Taylor Nelson in net the rest of the way.
2. What can stop Miami?
Not sure any team can stop Miami. Enrico Blasi is a top-notch coach who always gets the best out of his players at the most important times. Maybe last year's OT loss in the NCAA title game to BU was a fluke, but it would not shock me at all to see Miami back in the championship game this year. It would also not shock me if Miami won it this time.
3. What can you tell Colorado Avalanche fans about Mark Olver? Why do you think we haven't heard his name more in Hobey talk?
Mark Olver doesn't get any Hobey talk because he plays for Northern Michigan. Not saying NMU is a sub-par school, but the bigger schools in the CCHA tend to get more attention, as do WCHA schools and the Boston-area schools. Olver is vastly underrated and will definitely play pro hockey one day. At what level, I have no idea, but Olver is a dynamic forward who makes things happen. Then again, nowadays, all a player needs is a look by an NHL team and good things can happen. I've always been a big Mark Olver fan and if he was playing for Michigan or Michigan State, he'd be getting much more press.
4. Is it more exciting that MSU and Michigan are playing a multiple-game series or would you prefer they met in the semis or finals to lend the game more gravity?
I think a three-game series will be three intense games. These guys flat-out do not like each other and the more hockey played between them, the better. When UM and MSU play, there is never a bad game. Now, you put these two teams in the semis or the finals and crank up the intensity ten-fold, but I think you'll also get that over the course of a three-game series. Not sure 60 minutes will be enough for each game either.
5. Putting you on the spot: Who's your favorite to win the CCHA?
I think Miami can go all the way. They are so deep and so talented and so well-coached. It's Miami's time. Still, it would be a heck of a story if Michigan State won the CCHA. They were 10th last year and finished second this year. I believe last season was just a speed bump and this season was where we saw the real Spartans. That being said, Miami gets the auto-bid. I just can't see them losing from here on out.