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Student Section: March Madness is Here Episode #18

The race to the NCAA tourney is upon us. While it sounds cliche', this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Good Morning Student Section! College hockey's version of March Madness is finally here. The race to the NCAA tourney is upon us. While it sounds cliche', this is the most wonderful time of the year.

The NCAA playoffs are very exciting. There’s a finality that you don’t’ have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One bad bounce of the puck, or one bad penalty can end a team’s season. There’s so much on the line and the drama is very intense.

If you're a WCHA and NCHC fan, there's one week in the regular season and then all hell breaks lose.

The Big Ten Hockey Conference has two weeks remaining in regular season. The Big Ten will hold their conference tourney at the Joe Louis Arena.  This season, the Gophers have a 1-2-1 record in the state of Michigan.

WCHA

The Minnesota State Mavericks are three points ahead of the Michigan Tech Huskies. This weekend, the Mavericks travel to Bemidji to take on the Beavers.

If you're a Michigan Tech Hockey fans, you're hoping the Mavericks are swept by the Beavers next weekend. That's a very tall order, unlikely, but possible.

The second place Huskies travel to Northern Michigan to take on the Wild Cats. If I had to guess, I would say that at the end of the weekend, the Mavericks will be the WCHA champion. Make no mistake about it, the Huskies are a good hockey team, but the Mavericks are the best team in the WCHA this season.

Three seasons ago, some predicted that re-alignment would doom the WCHA. That hasn't happened. If the NCAA tournament started today, the WCHA would land three teams in the tourney.

Big Ten Hockey Conference

The University of Michigan is currently first in Big Ten Hockey Conference standing. The Wolverines are three points ahead of the second-place Gophers with four games remaining.

The Wolverines have a favorable schedule, they have two games with Penn State (1-1-0) and Michigan State (2-1-0).

The Gophers schedule shakes out like this. I would suggest, that the Gophers also have a very favorable schedule, too. They have two games with Ohio State (2-0-0) and two with Penn State (1-1-0). T

If the NCAA tournament started today, the Big Ten Hockey Conference would land two teams in the NCAA tourney.

NCHC

Much like the B1G standings, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is also very tight. The University of North Dakota clinched at least a tie for the conference title by sweeping St. Cloud State this past weekend. If UND secures a single point, they will win the title outright.

Like last season, the NCHC's second season has been a war. There has been little difference between first and fifth place. All of the teams in the NCHC are capable of beating any team in the nation. I said last week that the conference trophy should be a meat grinder instead of the Penrose Cup.

If the NCAA tournament started today, the NCHC would land five team in the NCAA tourney.  Three of those teams would be number one seeds.

The University of North Dakota became the second team to win their regular season title. Last weekend, Robert Morris won the Atlantic Hockey Association title.

Predictions

Usually, I am not big on predictions, but what the heck.

Here goes nothing.  I predict that the Minnesota State Mavericks will hold on to win the WCHA by sweeping the Bemidji State Beavers.

In the Big Ten, the Michigan Wolverines will hang on to win the Big Ten Hockey Conference title.

Finally, UND will secure at least a point next weekend against the Miami RedHawks to take the NCHC title outright.

State of Hockey rankings

1. Minnesota State 24-6-3

2. Minnesota-Duluth 19-12-3

3. Minnesota 18-11-3

4. Bemidji State 15-14-5

5. St. Cloud State 15-16-1