NCAA tournament possibilities

This article describes what teams might make the NCAA hockey tournament based on the data in the College Hockey Tournament Possibilities table:
College Hockey Tournament Possibilities

Because of a new conference tournament schedule this year, there are only 15 games remaining and thus only 49,152 possible outcomes remaining (the NCHC consolation game can end in a tie). That’s a dramatic simplification from past years, and there are thus few surprises in the possible outcomes.

16 teams make the tournament. The winner of each conference tournament is selected with what I sometimes call an “autobid”, then the remaining slots are filled in order of final PWR rank. Thus, teams that don’t make the tournament with an autobid but end up in “bubble” PWR ranks of 12-15 want conference tournaments won by high ranking teams so there are still slots available for them to get selected at-large. Teams that can’t finish in the top 16 of PWR can only be selected for the NCAA tournament by winning their conference tournaments and getting an autobid.


9 teams are guaranteed to make the NCAA tournament regardless of outcome next weekend.

#1 St Cloud St
#2 Notre Dame
#3 Cornell
#4 Ohio St
#5 Denver
#6 Mankato (idle)
#7 Northeastern
#9 Providence
#10 Michigan (idle)

A lock with a win

Minnesota-Duluth and Clarkson both stand a good chance to make the NCAA tournament regardless of outcome (in 89% of scenarios in which they go 0-2 for Duluth and 73% of scenarios in which they lose for Clarkson), but can lock up at-large bids with a single win. If either should lose, they just need enough of the teams above to advance to leave at-large spots available for them.

#8 Duluth
#11 Clarkson

At-large possible

Much like Duluth and Clarkson, these teams hoping for an at-large bid want conference tournaments to be won by teams that have already locked up a bid (above). If a team that wouldn’t otherwise make the tournament wins a conference tournament and gains an autobid, that would leave one fewer at-large slot for these teams.

Penn State is quite likely to advance, in 98% of remaining scenarios. Minnesota faces a more perilous 76% of scenarios remaining that allow the Gophers to advance.

Of course, the 3 teams that are still playing have varying amounts of control over their own destinies:

  • North Dakota gets selected in 14% of scenarios in which they’re winless, 25% of scenarios in which they win 1, and can get an autobid.
  • Boston College faces less favorable 3% and 9% chances with zero or one wins.
  • Boston University can’t make it without a win, and even with 1 win faces a tiny chance of being selected at-large (under 1% of scenarios in which they win just 1 game).

#12 Penn St (idle)
#13 Minnesota (idle)
#14 North Dakota
#15 Boston College
#18 Boston University

Need to win the conference tournament

#17 Northern Michigan
#20 Mercyhurst
#22 Princeton
#24 Michigan Tech
#26 Harvard
#30 Air Force
#34 Canisius
#43 Robert Morris

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