Who can make the NCAA tournament?

This post explains the data in the PWR tournament possibilities page. You can follow along there if you’d like to browse the raw data yourself:

NCAA Tournament Participation Probabilities

Who’s in?

The following 10 teams are guaranteed an invitation to the NCAA tournament on the basis of their PWR.

  • #1 St Cloud State
  • #2 Massachusetts
  • #3 Minnesota St
  • #4 Minnesota-Duluth
  • #5 Quinnipiac
  • #6 Denver
  • #7 Ohio State
  • #8 Northeastern
  • #9 Clarkson
  • #10 Arizona St

Who else can get in?

The winner of each conference tournament can get in:

Atlantic Hockey

  • American International (*)
  • Robert Morris (*)
  • Niagara (*)
  • RIT (*)

Big Ten

  • Notre Dame (*)
  • Penn St (*)

Hockey East

  • Massachusetts (in)
  • Boston College (*)
  • Boston University (*)
  • Northeastern (in)


  • Cornell
  • Brown (*)
  • Harvard
  • Clarkson (in)


  • St Cloud St (in)
  • Colorado College (*)
  • Denver (in)
  • Minnesota Duluth (in)


  • Minnesota St (in)
  • Bowling Green

Those marked with a (*) can only get in if they win their conference tournament. Those marked with (in) will make the tournament regardless of conference outcome. But, what about the rest?

There are 16 spots in the NCAA tournament. 10 participants are already known (see above). The winners of the Atlantic Hockey and Big Ten tournaments are not only guaranteed spots, but are the only teams from those conference tournaments that will get spots, so you can think of those two spots as reserved for one of the 4 AH teams and one of the 2 AH teams, respectively.

That leaves 4 spots total for a combination of the champions of the remaining 4 conferences and the 5 teams that can make it at-large (there is some overlap between those two groups). How many teams are selected at-large depends how many of the 4 remaining slots are taken by teams that aren’t already in by virtue of their PWR. For each of Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC, and WCHA that are won by a team that is already counted as being in, an additional spot is available for a different team to make it at-large.

The following teams can make it at-large:

  • Cornell (64% of scenarios in which they win 0, 97% in which they win 1)
  • Harvard (81% of scenarios in which they win 0, 94% in which they win 1)
  • Bowling Green (29% of scenarios in which they lose)
  • Providence (not playing, 65% of scenarios)
  • Union (not playing, <.1% of scenarios)

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