Monday, March 26, 2012

Frozen Four set

The NCAA tournament whittled itself down to the final four this past weekend. It's too bad we'll have to wait 10 days for the Frozen Four to begin. It may be my annual complaint, but there's no reason why there should be nearly two weeks between the regionals and the national-championship weekend.

Anyway, here are your four teams: Minnesota, Boston College, Union, Ferris State.

Interesting field, with two national powers, each with multiple national titles, and two first-timers. I'm sure some folks will think the semifinal between the Gophers and BC will be the true championship, but don't forget that Ferris won the CCHA and spent a few weeks ranked No. 1 in the country. Also, Union has been an under-the-radar top-10 team nearly all year.

Some other thoughts ...

• What a turnaround Minnesota has made. Don Lucia seemed to be on the hot seat lately, missing the NCAA tournament three years in a row. This year, not only did the Gophers win the MacNaughton Cup, but they're back in the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005.

• There isn't much for the NCHC teams to boast about this year (as some associated with the startup league did when the tournament field was announced), as five teams that will be in that conference two seasons from now went 2-5 in the tournament, with none making the final four. One of their wins came in a matchup of two NCHC teams, when North Dakota beat Western Michigan.

• Meanwhile, Ferris State, which knocked out Denver in the first round, of course, is one of the CCHA leftovers that will join the WCHA in 2013-14. It must be pointed out, however, that the Bulldogs were the only member of that future WCHA in the tourney.

• I still don't understand the rationale of the first two rounds of the tournament being either Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday. That Saturday has first-round games that conflict with regional finals. Since TV coverage seems to be lacking (ESPNU once again allowed regular-season college lacrosse to preempt hockey games), why not go to a Saturday-Sunday format and play up the four regional finals in one day?

• And what to do about attendance? Minnesota and North Dakota on Sunday played in front of a crowd of nearly 11,000. Nine days earlier in the Final Five semifinal in the same building (the Xcel Energy Center), they played in front of nearly 17,000. But the other regional finals drew crowds of 3,100 (Green Bay), 4,470 (Worcester) and 5,328 (Bridgeport) and the TV cameras showed plenty of empty seats.

• What did you think of North Dakota's new uniforms? With the NCAA mandate to rid the team of the "hostile and abusive" Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, UND finally unveiled jerseys without the logo. They were sharp, with an old-school flavor. The words North Dakota printed on the front of the sweater with the player's number between the two words. An interlocking ND was displayed on the shoulders. Since UND was the No. 1 seed, the team wore its home whites for both games, so we didn't get to see their road greens — or their blacks (you just know they have a black jersey, too, right?).


Todd said...

With attendance like that, the Verizon Wireless Center could have hosted part of the tournament and looked a lot more full. I am sure it was MSU's, BSU's, UAA's, and MTU's fault that none of the NCHC's teams went to the Final Four. If only we had spent more money on hockey and wrecked our other sports' programs like UND, UNO, and soon-to-be SCSU, they could have magically made it on nane recognition and our cash. Too bad that the new WCHA wasn't already in play - we could have seen a Final Four team visit the building in FSU since the Gophers were not scheduled here anyway this year.

Todd said...

As for attendance - treat it like D2 basketball. The highest seed gets to host the games at whatever building they like. Did reality set in for the NCHC teams that college hockey, although awesome, is not a major sport? Even if we want it to be one, it is only big in certan locations, not national no matter who you remove or invite to your conference. How else do you explain regular season lacrosse usurping the playoffs? Just taking certain teams in and out of conferences is not going to change this. Your best bet? Get more schools to have this as a varsity sport in other parts of the US like lacrosse does, not alienate some and try to kill off schools outside of the area (like Huntsville and the Alaska schools.)