Brian at MGoBlog was less than thrilled yesterday when the NCAA released their tournament brackets, so much so that he encouraged fans not to go:
Let me take this opportunity to urge anyone considering going: don’t.
Brian also takes issue with the lack of a regional closer to CCHA territory:
You’ll notice that the CCHA is the only conference not to have a region, you know, within hundreds of miles of it. A couple years ago there were regionals in Wisconsin and Colorado. The CCHA is the only conference to get so regularly screwed.
Sorry, but the CCHA screwed itself. The CCHA submitted the bid to host the West Regional in St. Louis. They wanted to hold it there and they won the bid. What the hell was the CCHA thinking, I don’t know, but it’s their own fault. For that matter I don’t know what the hell the NCAA was thinking awarding them the regional in St. Louis, either. They have a hard enough time selling tickets when the regional is held locally in Grand Rapids or last year in Fort Wayne they couldn’t even sell out the Midwest Regional in their own backyard that featured Michigan and Miami. Hosting a regional in St. Louis? Prepare for an empty building, I suspect, unless a massive amount of St. Louis Blues fans come out in support of Red.
As for suggesting fans not to attend, that’s unnecessary. Did anybody think our basketball team stood a chance of making it all the way to the championship game? I doubt it, but that didn’t stop them from going to the games to root them on. I will never suggest to fans to NOT go support our team. They’re definitely going to need it. Our road to the championship is going to be tough, but that’s the way it goes. I know the mindset is always “what’s the easiest route to the championship?” Not one I particularly care for, but it’s definitely the prevailing one amongst most fans. And when we don’t get that favorable bracket, the next prevailing thought of late seems to be we’re screwed.
“The way we played (on Friday night), we don’t want to be like that,” senior Carl Hagelin said. “This is Michigan and everyone including ourselves expects more.”
Back in the 90s and early 2000s I didn’t care what seed we were and who was in our bracket. My mindset was always we are fully capable of defeating whoever was in our regional and making it back to the Frozen Four. As Hagelin said above, this is Michigan and my expectations are always high.
But over the past handful of years, save 2008’s Porter-led team, it seems like no matter what regional we draw and how high a seed we are, we look at ourselves as the underdogs. There’s definitely been a shift in mentality. The “death bracket” against North Dakota two years in a row, for example. No one gave us a snowball’s chance. Yes, we lost both times, but I think it’s the mentality of “Oh well, there’s always next year” before the game is even played that really irks me. Rah, team, rah…
Don’t get me wrong, a favorable bracket is always welcome but it’s never a guarantee of victory. Did anyone give Holy Cross a chance against Minnesota? Who would have thought Michigan State would have won the national title a few years ago? Or that in 2009 two #4 seeds (Miami and Bemidji State) and a #3 seed (Vermont) would all advance to the Frozen Four? Heck, even in 2008 we had a gimme right to the finals and choked against Notre Dame at the Frozen Four semifinals. There’s a reason games are won and lost on the ice and not on paper.
The prevailing thought right now is Michigan will have to get past Boston College and North Dakota to make the NCAA championship game, but in my opinion BC is not a lock against Colorado College and North Dakota faces a potential WCHA championship rematch against Denver, which went to double-overtime this past weekend before the Fighting Sioux won. Think the Pioneers have revenge on their minds?
But lets worry about Friday first. Michigan will have its hands full with old CCHA foe Nebraska-Omaha. The two teams split at Yost Ice Arena back in October with UNO winning Friday and Michigan winning Saturday. The Wolverines this past weekend at the CCHA tournament resembled that October team a bit, too, playing like crap Friday then rebounding Saturday. This time, however, there is no second chance, there’s no more wake up calls.
UNO is probably chomping at the bit much like Western Michigan was this past weekend. They know they can beat us. They did beat us. Only this time there’s more at stake and that’s what’s motivating them—the chance to send Michigan home from the NCAA tourney. The Wolverines will need to bring their ‘A’ game or go home. I hope they’re ready.
I imagine Red Berenson is going to be extra motivated getting to coach back in his old stomping grounds of St. Louis, where he was both a player and coach for the Blues and in 1981 named the NHL Coach of the Year. Just a few weeks ago he was honored by the Blues organization as they celebrated their great players to wear the #7. Scooter Vaughan also gets a mini-homecoming as he came to Michigan out of the St. Louis NAHL team.
If we defeat Nebraska-Omaha Friday, the Wolverines will face either Boston College or Colorado College Saturday. Don’t discount the Tigers. It’s not like the Eagles are facing Michigan Tech. Colorado College isn’t some pushover #4 seed. They split their season series 2-2 with No. 5 ranked Denver, including destroying the Pioneers 9-2 in one game. They also split a series with No. 1 ranked North Dakota before losing to the Fighting Sioux, 4-3, in the WCHA tournament. They are definitely capable of holding their own against top ranked opponents.
That said, Boston College is definitely the team to beat in the West Regional. They are 22-2-1 in their past 25 games. They are the defending national champions and brought back the majority of their championship team. They have great depth, speed, talent, boast six 10+ goal scorers (including one with 20 goals and one with 30 goals), and a goalie who has never lost an NCAA tournament game (John Muse, 8-0 record, 1.95 GAA in NCAA play).
But if my busted NCAA hockey and basketball brackets have taught me anything over the years, it’s that it doesn’t matter what seed you are and what big name team you face, anything can happen and a lot of times it does. So positive thoughts to the Wolverines and good luck, boys, in St. Louis. Go Blue!