Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Men's Frozen Four First Round

With all this basketball going on, we needed to give hockey its due.  This year the Men's Frozen Four, or Final Four if you are not familiar with college hockey, will be played from the pool that Crosby built.  It should be another great tournament, last year the tournament was dominated by Boston College.  They were the #1 overall seed and they had little resistance making it all the way to the top.  This year they are back but they are sporting a #2 seed so we have to think that this year, it's anyone tournament.  We did correctly pick BC to win, but the bottom half of our bracket was destroyed when Ferris State made it all the way to the championship game.  We are ready for this year, let's take a look at the first round match-ups:

East Seeds

#1 Quinnipiac vs. #4 Canisius - We picked Quinnipiac.

What we like about the pick: Quinnipiac is the number #1 seed overall and they are playing against the worst team in the tournament according to the seeds.  Quinnipiac is #1 in all the college hockey polls and the RPI.  Their record is 27-7-5 vs Canisius' record of 19-18-5.  Canisius barely made the tournament where as Quinnipiac should be a sure thing.

What makes us nervous: Canisius won their conference tournament, the Atlantic Hockey Association.  They are also riding a 8 game winning streak right now.  Quinnipiac did not win their conference tournament.  They were upset by Brown, and settled for a consolation prize which was beating up on Yale 3-0.  Canisius has the longest active win streak in college hockey and Quinnipiac should not have lost to Brown, hopefully that was just an oversight and will be corrected.

#2 Boston College vs. #3 Union (NY) - We picked Boston College

What we like about the pick: Boston College is the defending champs, to be the champ, you gotta beat the champ.  Boston College still has a solid team even though they might not be as good as last year.  The records between the two school is pretty much a wash at 21-12-5 for Union and 22-11-4 for BC.  There is something about this time of the year that you just expect the Eagles (BC) to be at the Frozen Four.  They play fast and they play within themselves, in their system.  They do not try to do too much, and they are well disciplined.

What makes us nervous: Union made it to the Frozen Four last year before getting beat by the upstart Ferris State team.  The pressure is going to be more on Boston College not to lose in the first round, because no one ever likes to see the champ going down in the first round.  Plus, Union is the ECAC tournament champions after defeating the Brown team that put Quinnipiac out of the conference tourney.  We love this match-up but we had to give the edge to BC.

Midwest Seeds

#1 Notre Dame vs. #4 St. Cloud State - We picked Notre Dame

What we like about the pick: Notre Dame finished #2 in the CCHA in the regular season and won the conference's final tournament in Detroit.  They were 3-1 winners over Michigan in the final, which if you are playing and beating Michigan in their house, you are doing something right.  St. Cloud State was handled by Wisconsin in what most were calling an upset in the WCHA Final Five tourney.  St. Cloud has been up and down the past couple of weeks and just did not give us much confidence.

What makes us nervous: To be honest what makes us nervous is picking Notre Dame in the first place.  Maybe this is overpowered by the failures of the football program to win any big bowl games, but we do not like picking Notre Dame in anything.  St. Cloud #11 in the USA Today Poll, and #15 in college hockey RPI so we would like to think this should be a run of the mill for Notre Dame.

#2 Miami (OH) vs #3 Minn State - Mankato - We picked Minn State

What we like about the pick: Miami (OH) was the CCHA regular season champions, but they were rudely shown the door by Michigan in the conference tourney.  Plus, Minnesota State is from the land of 10,000 lakes where everyone plays hockey.  Last year we picked Miami (OH) to advance and they lost in the first round.  You have to wonder if they are still feeling the effects of making it to the Frozen Four final against Boston College a couple of years back, where they let BC tie it up in the final minute, only to lose in OT.

What makes us nervous: Miami (OH) had a solid year winning the CCHA regular season.  Also, the game is being played in Toledo which is much closer to Oxford then it is to Mankato.  The Redhawks have many scoring options and decent goal-tending.  Finally, they have a really good coach that has brought this program out of questions and into multiple Frozen Fours.

Northeast Seeds

#1 Mass-Lowell vs. #4 Wisconsin - We picked Mass-Lowell

What we like about the pick: Mass-Lowell burned us last year, when they upset Miami (OH) in the first round of the tournament.  They are in a similar place back in the tourney with a first round game in their back yard, this time in Manchester, NH.  The team has a better record than last year, and it earned them the #3 seed overall. The Riverhawks were this year's Hockey East Champions.

What makes us nervous: There are not that many teams in the Frozen Four tourney that are as hot as Wisconsin.  They just won the WCHA Final Five, and they seem to be able to win anywhere.  Wisconsin might be the best #4 in the tourney.  We are banking on the travel, and the Northeast will get to them so that the Riverhawks can beat the Badgers in this opening round game.

#2 New Hampshire vs. #3 Denver - We picked New Hampshire

What we like about the pick: New Hampshire gets to basically play their first round games at home, who would not love that?  You get to sleep in your own bed and not some hotel, that might be infested with bed bugs.  That has to be a huge plus.  Not only that but Denver has to travel half way across the country just to get to the hotel that might or might not have bed bugs.  We are getting itchy just thinking about it.

What makes us nervous: We have seen first hand how good Denver can be, when Columbus (OH) hosted the Frozen Four, it was Denver that won the whole thing.  Plus, sometimes playing at home can be harmful with fans patting you on the back or making more pressure then there really is.  Sometimes that's difficult for college students to deal with.

West Seeds

#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Yale - We picked Minnesota

What we like about the pick: Minnesota spent parts of the year ranked #1 in the polls.  They are still right behind Quinnipiac at #2 and Yale is hovering around #14 or #15, plus they (MN) are still getting first place votes.  The game is in Grand Rapids, Michigan so its not a total advantage for Minnesota but it's still closer then for Yale.  Finally, and we said this before, it's Minnesota, and it's Yale, we are talking hockey, not presidents, not standardized tests.

What makes us nervous: This is still a tourney and anything can happen. Minnesota could have one of those games where pucks bounce off the posts instead of going into the net.  One breakaway here, or one penalty there, and Yale scores; the Gophers might start feeling the pressure.  The other thing is their arch rival North Dakota is one game away if they both win, so they might catch a case of looking forward too soon.

#2 North Dakota vs #3 Niagara - We picked North Dakota

What we like about the pick: North Dakota has a solid team, they always do.  They play well and they do not take funny business from anyone.  They are ranked higher in most polls than Niagara.  Plus, it's Niagara, isn't that a waterfall, I didn't know they actually had a college.  Finally, Blackhawks legendary goalie and alum of North Dakota, Ed Belfour, would never let Niagara beat his boys.

What makes us nervous: The same thing that makes us nervous about Minnesota makes us nervous about North Dakota and that's looking ahead.  Sometimes it's hard to focus when you are supposed to win and you have your rival waiting for you in the second round.  Plus, look at what Florida Gulf Coast has been able to do in the Men's basketball tournament.  Anything is possible, when you believe.

The games start on Friday @ 2 pm with Minnesota vs. Yale.  The games can be seen on ESPNU, and the WatchESPN app.  The games usually do not get aired on ESPN2 until the Frozen Four Semifinals.  The tourney is kinda funny because the teams that win on Friday will play their second round games on Saturday while the first round is still going on.  We will get you updated though on what is happening with the Final Four and who is moving on, don't worry.  If your basketball bracket has bombed there is still time to fill out a Frozen Four bracket!