Zwiller: Big 10 Hockey Playoffs
Thomas Zwiller | Wednesday, February 9, 2022
The Notre Dame hockey season is almost over, if you can believe it. The Fighting Irish have just three opponents left in the regular season: at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, and home against Michigan.
The Wisconsin series will take place Thursday and Friday. Notre Dame will travel to Lansing Feb. 18 and 19 and close out the season at CFIA a week later.
After that, the B10 tournament first-round goes from March 4 to 6 (the tournament is a best of three). The second round (single elimination) will take place March 12, and the championship game is March 19.
Notre Dame has a lot at stake in the upcoming weeks and the B10 tournament. They still have some time to make up some ground against Minnesota; however, it is relatively unlikely. If Notre Dame wanted to catch up, they would have needed to have swept Minnesota. A loss and an OT win have likely put the third seed out of reach for Notre Dame.
As for the B10 tournament itself, the tournament’s winner gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
I feel that Notre Dame will make the tournament regardless, but it would likely be as a third or fourth seed. A tournament win would likely increase their seeding, helping them make it to the Frozen Four.
When I researched for the Penn State Preview, I came across PlayoffStatus.com, a website with probabilities for pretty much any sport. Currently, they have data for the NFL, NHL, NCAA Basketball and Hockey, UEFA and the World Cup. So, my goal is to predict the rest of the season for Notre Dame and see what their chances are to make it to the B10 Championship.
The B10 Table
The best way to find Notre Dame’s path moving forward is by seeing what the most likely B10 bracket would look like.
Currently, the leader of the B10 conference is Ohio State, sitting atop the conference with 42 points. However, the Buckeyes winning the tournament’s only bye is far from a certainty.
In second and third are Michigan and Minnesota, with 39 and 37 points, respectively. Both teams will have their chance to knock off the Buckeyes: the Golden Gophers on Feb. 11 and 12 and the Wolverines on Feb. 18 and 19.
Because of how the individual teams’ scheduling goes, Ohio State has played 20 conference games, whereas Michigan and Minnesota have only played 18. So, while Ohio State still is ahead by points, Michigan can catch up.
Michigan plays Michigan State twice, as mentioned Ohio State and Notre Dame. MSU should be a sweep; Michigan can split with Notre Dame and Ohio State. Advantage Wolverines.
Minnesota arguably has the easier slate with games against Ohio State and then PSU and Wisconsin. They split against Ohio State, swept PSU and split Wisconsin.
That results in Ohio State getting six points for a total of 48 points (they split their remaining games). Michigan would split with Notre Dame and OSU and should at least get three against MSU, if not six. That totals at 51.
Minnesota would likely sweep Penn State, split with Ohio State and Wisconsin, which would net them 12 points. That gets them past Ohio State with 49 points. That feels like too much, so let’s say they pick up one another loss and sit at 46.
That ends with the table having Michigan in first (and with the bye), Ohio State in second, and Minnesota in third.
At 32 points, Notre Dame has locked up fourth; the next closest team is at 17 points.
Wisconsin and Penn State knotted at 17 points, giving Wisconsin the slight edge to finish fifth.
That leaves MSU in seventh, with 14 points.
Projecting the Playoffs
That bracket results in Ohio State finishing in second and taking on Michigan State at Columbus.
Next, Minnesota takes on Penn State in Minneapolis. That leaves Notre Dame to host Wisconsin at CFIA.
This is where PlayoffStatus.com comes in.
Ohio State currently has a 90% chance of making it to the semi-finals, and they only have a 21% chance of going three games in the first round. So, I feel confident in saying that Ohio State sweeps Michigan State.
Minnesota has an 85% chance of making the semifinals and has a low probability of going three games in the first round (27%). So, Minnesota should likely sweep Penn State too.
Notre Dame, who has an 84% chance of making the semifinals, should advance past Wisconsin; of the three host teams, Notre Dame has the highest probability of going three games at 32%.
So, that leaves Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota and Notre Dame in contention for the title.
Currently, Michigan has a 63% chance of advancing to the Championship Game, Ohio State 49%, Minnesota 40% and Notre Dame 37%.
Based on each team’s probability, Michigan and Ohio State should advance and would face off in Ann Arbor for the championship game.
Michigan currently has a 38% chance of winning the B10 Championship, and Ohio State sits at 24%.
So, rather unsurprisingly, No. 4 Michigan wins the B10 and gets an auto-bid into the NCAA Championship, locking up a very likely No. 1 seed.
Under these conditions, I would assume Notre Dame makes it into the tournament. They are ranked 11th, meaning they have some margin for error (the tournament only has 16 teams instead of the 64 teams that participate in March Madness). If they do as well as I project them to do, I could see them making it into the top 10, but they would likely end up as a three seed.
However, is it that crazy that Notre Dame makes it to and wins the B10 Championship? Not really, if you think about it. The semis and finals are a single-game elimination, so it is certainly not impossible.
While 18% is not the best chance of winning the title, in 100 simulations, they would win about one-fifth of the time.
So, my official prediction for the tournament is Michigan. However, I think Notre Dame can make some noise in the B10 tournament. Go Irish!
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.