6A - Thursday, March 13, 2014
The Michigan Daily- michigandailycom
Tournament Watch: College hockey edition
By JEREMY SUMMITT
Daily Sports Editor
The No. 13 Michigan hockey
team finds itself on the bubble
of qualifying for the NCAA
Tournament heading into
the final week of the regular
season. It's been a year of ups
and downs for the Wolverines,
but if the season ended today,
they'd probably sneak their way
into one of the final spots in the
Unlike the NCAA Basketball
Tournament, college hockey has
just 59 teams vying for 16 spots.
Smaller competition ultimately
means fewer teams on the
bubble every year. Instead of 10
teams probablybeing "snubbed"
by the selection committee like
in basketball, there are usually
just four or five teams on the
NCAA hockey bubble in the first
And how is the selection
process different from
basketball? Well, it's more
straightforward and less
The committee uses
something called the Pairwise
Rankings to guide the selection
process for the NCAA hockey
For the week of March 101h
Cornell - (15-8-5 overall)
tournament. There are six
automatic bids coming from
each conference tournament
at the conclusion of the season.
That leaves ,just 10 at-large
spots to complete the rest of
the field, assuming that the
highest-ranked teams win
their respective conference
currently sits at 14th in the
To earn an at-large spot, a
team needs to be ranked 15th or
better in the Pairwise. In 15th
place, a team will likely make
the national tournament only if
there are no surprise champions
in the conference tournaments.
If a team is ranked 10th or better,
it would be considered a lock for
the tournament since only six
automatic bids are handed out.
Eleventh through 16th in the
Pairwise Rankings would be
eliminated if all six conference
championships were from teams
that aren't ranked in the top 16 of
the Pairwise Rankings.
While it's an unlikely
circumstance, it would prove
to be fatal to Michigan's NCAA
Tournament aspirations. The
Wolverines currently sit at 14th
in the most recent Pairwise
Rankings and no doubt have
work to do in the Big Ten
Tournament and when No. 1
Minnesota comes to town this
If the Wolverines win out,
there won't be any worries. But
if they falter early in the Big
Ten Tournament or get swept
by the Gophers this weekend,
they'll need some help from
around the country. So here is
whom fans should be rooting
against for the next two weeks
if Michigan finds itself under
Cornell: Playing against
Clarkson in the quarterfinals
Red Berenson and the Michigan hockey team need at least a split against No.1 Minnesota this weekend to safely qualify for the NCAA Tournament later this month.
of the ECAC Tournament tournament bubble, Michigan the Wolverines in the Pairwise visit No. 7 Quinnipiac in the
and sitting one spot ahead holds the edge over New Rankings. quarterfinals this weekend.
of Michigan in the Pairwise Hampshire with a win and tie Winning this three-game series
Rankings, Cornell could against it early in the season. Minnesota State: In the would pay dividends for Yale
nearly solidify its position It'd be safe for Wolverines fans first round of the WCHA and spell trouble for Michigan if
in the tournament with a to pull for an upset here to give Tournament, Minnesota State it cannot salvage a split against
semifinal birth. On the other their team a little breathing plays Northern Michigan. the Gophers. It'd be wise for
hand, if Cornell is upset and room from Northeastern. The Wolverines can root for Michigan fans to pull for the
the Wolverines have a strong their former CCHA partner favorite in this matchup.
Northeastern - (18-12-4)
showing against Minnesota,
it could put Michigan in
a favorable position come
Northeastern: Sitting in a
tie for 14th place in the Pairwise
Rankings with Michigan are the
Huskies. Northeastern begins
the Hockey East tournament
with a three-game series
against New Hampshire this
weekend. Even though UNH
sits comfortably outside the
Colgate: Before a clash
against St. Lawrence in the
quarterfinals of the ECAC
Tournament, Michigan would
benefit if the Raiders were to
stumble this weekend. Colgate
would move on to play No. 3
Union in the semifinals with a
victory over St. Lawrence, and
a loss to one of the top teams
in the country certainly won't
harm its tournament resume.
A win might even be enough
for the No. 16 team to leapfrog
this weekend in order to gain
more separation from the team
sitting in 17th in the Pairwise
Rankings. The good news for
Michigan fans is that Minnesota
State cannot garner another
marquee win to move much
further in the rankings in the
WCHA tournament unless it
knocks off No. 6 Ferris State.
Yale: In yet another ECAC
Tournament battle, the
defending national champions
with Yale for 18th place in the
Pairwise Rankings, it should
be easy for Michigan fans to
pull against the team that
upset the Wolverines in the
2011 National Championship.
Duluth plays Western Michigan
in the first round of the NCHC
Tournament, and if the Broncos
can oust the Bulldogs, Michigan
would surelyfeel less pressurein
its own postseason tournament.
GOING TO INDY FOR THE BIG TEN TOURNEY?
Doubt it. You're probably trapped in your house. Non-conference
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By MAX BULTMAN
Daily Sports Writer
Up to this point, the No. 16
against top competition every
weekend. With the exception
of a road trip in mid April, that's
Ten of the Wolverines' first 22
games were against ranked teams
- an unusually high tally only one
month in. But with the final non-
conference tournament looming,
only one ranked opponent, No. 18
Minnesota, currently remains on
Though the next 30 games
should bring weaker competition,
they will be invaluable measures
of growth for the team.
"Each game we're getting
stronger and looking for things
to get better at," said junior right-
hander Sara Driesenga.
And after going 5-5 against
its ranked opponents to start the
season, Michigan (16-6) has found
plenty to improve on - takeaways
that might not have been so visible
against less-stiff competition.
For Driesenga, it's been
trusting herself on the mound
fully. For freshman right-hander
Megan Betsa, it's been her control
in pressure situations. For the
offense lately, it's been hitting
with runners in scoring position.
To facilitate improvement,
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
decided to run a drill at practice
on Wednesday that the team
hadn't done yet this season.
The drill simulated a high-
pressure situation - bases
loaded, full count - and forced
the pitchers to practice one-pitch
softball while the hitters tried to
score the base runners. Pitchers
cycled in every six outs, and the
offense went down the batting
order. This exercise encapsulates
the isolated problems from the
non-conference season and is
designed to correct them in time
for Big Ten play.
The overarching importance,
though, is to correct them before
for the postseason - when the
Wolverines would once again face
the nation's top teams.
"Whoever we play, it's
just preparation for the end
of the year," Driesenga said.
"We're thinking about June
4. We're thinking about the
Championship. We're thinking
about the World Series."
Being measured against the
best competition in the country
places a microscope on every little
problem, but it's that microscope
that willultimately help Michigan
reach those lofty goals.
Now that the strength of sched-
ule is lightening up, the Wolver-
ines will be compared against
their potential and their play ear-
lier in the season. But they'll have
to solve one major issue first.
"When we played tentative,
things never went our way,"
Hutchins said. "When we swung,
when we went up there and
weren't tentative, things are good.
That's the lesson, and when we
learn it, we'll be good."
The confidence problem is a
solvable one, but it's also one that
can plague a team for prolonged
periods. The next few weekends
will be telling as to how it affects
Michigan will face Louisville
twice this weekend at a
tournament in Kentucky before
beginning play at home on
Tuesday. When it returns, it will
go a month before seeing another
team close to its level.
Each new game will bring new
problems, but the team's steadfast
commitment to playing the best
teams will benefit it down the
road. Senior outfielders Lyndsay
Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield
have provided sparks in trying
times thus far, but they trust their
younger teammates fully.
"They're doing great," Doyle
said. "Whatever their role is on
the team, they're doing their
Harnessing that trust and plac-
ing it on themselves may take
patience. But with two months of
weaker opponents, it should only
be a matter of time.