Quinnipiac is the No. 1-ranked hockey team in the nation, yet it seems as if none of the experts are picking the Bobcats to win the national championship.
Over at ESPN this week, for instance, Dave Starman was picking UMass-Lowell and Barry Melrose was picking Wisconsin.
But let's forget what's going to happen in Pittsburgh at the Frozen Four in a couple of weekends.
Cruising the Internet, zoning in on blogs, peering deep into places that heretofore I have reserved for the men's and women's basketball tournaments, I can't find many — really, any — experts picking Quinnipiac to even get into the Frozen Four. Forget about winning it all.
Not only are the Bobcats No. 1 in both polls, they are No. 1 in the PairWise rankings, the metric used to determine the 16 participants in the national tournament. Clearly, they are getting too much respect or no respect, and it makes for a fascinating duality that Rand Pecknold's team faces as it prepares for its East Regional opening game against Canisius, the No. 16 overall seed.
Want a little taste?
"A lot of people, myself included, think [Quinnipiac] might be the worst No. 1 seed in NCAA history," wrote Ryan Lambert of Yahoo! Sports.
Minnesota was the No.1 seed in the West and second overall seed. Lots of folks said the Gophers, who traded No.1 rankings with Quinnipiac during the season, might win it all. Well, they lost Friday in overtime to No. 15 overall seed Yale in Grand Rapids [you should have seen the shock on the faces of the Boston College players, including Wallingford's Pat Mullane, in the media room as they watched the replay of Jesse Root's goal]. Quinnipiac went 3-0 against Yale this season. Really, how bad can Quinnipiac be?
"I think a big part of it is just we're new to this stage compared to a lot of teams in the tournament," said Quinnipiac senior captain Zack Currie, whose program has been Division I for 15 years. "We're excited to be here and we want to prove we're a legit team and we have what it takes to go all the way. I think, more than anything, it's exciting to have doubters."
Adam Wodon, managing editor at College Hockey News, picked Boston College to win the East Regional. Chris Lerch, the Atlantic Hockey columnist for USCHO.com, said that while it's a "trendy" pick to take Canisius, he'll stick with Quinnipiac in the opening game. Over at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Joe "The Lawyer" Van Thomme, who made picks with staffer Roman Augustoviz, took Canisius over Quinnipiac. Joe and Roman agreed that BC would win the region. Over at Sioux Sports.com, a fan site for North Dakota hockey, BC was an overwhelming choice among 290 followers to win the East. The fine people at BC Interruption took time away from poking fun at UConn to poke fun of Quinnipiac and pick BC. All in all on the Web, there was respect for BC's opening-round opponent Union and not much for the Bobcats.
"We can't control what people think on their blogs," Pecknold said. "We had some issues with some of the Western [poll] voters this year [despite a 21-game unbeaten streak]. But in the end it doesn't matter. What we control is on the ice."
"This team doesn't need any gimmicks to get motivated. We haven't used them all year. We don't need bulletin board material."
There's plenty available if he changes his mind. Quinnipiac, in some ways, is the Gonzaga of college hockey. Quinnipiac plays in the ECAC. It's not Hockey East or WCHA. Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference. It's not the Big East or ACC. Both were No. 1 seeds. There are questions about quality victories, yada, yada.
You know all the angst about bubble teams on Selection Sunday in basketball? There's none of that in hockey. The PairWise criteria to pick the 16 are agreed upon before the season and the rest, as they say, is mathematics. Not that there isn't some guessing. Since 2003, for example, PairWise hasn't taken into account how teams close seasons over the final 15 or 20 games.
The actual tournament seedings by the NCAA committee, however, are subjective. Potentially having to play defending national champion BC, a No. 6 overall seed, on Sunday night in Providence for the regional final seems like a mighty tough draw for a No. 1 overall seed.
"Normally, with the No.1 seed, you protect that seed," Pecknold said. "So you get No. 16 in the first round. You should have No. 8 in the second round. I was a little shocked that they didn't do that, but they have their reasons. And we'll all live with it."
Pecknold is on the NCAA committee, but stepped off this year because his team was a No. 1 seed.
"There are great people, really knowledgeable people," he said. "If we didn't have BC, we'd have [No. 8 overall seed] North Dakota. So pick your poison."
"Television has a lot to do with it all, too. People are saying why do we have a 9 p.m. game [the BC-Union game Saturday]? I wasn't involved … To me, with Easter weekend, we really should have all four regionals Friday-Saturday [and no games Sunday]."
Wodon, a national college hockey voice, said he didn't have a problem with the committee's being subjective within a degree with seedings because the PairWise is so inexact.
"For example, if Yale had beaten Quinnipiac in the ECAC consolation game, they would have been sixth; instead they were 15. There was that much of a swing for one stupid consolation game. It's that close. You're splitting hairs."
"The only thing I had a problem with was how heavily they weighted the regionalism with the 'attendance factor.' And I'm not sure how much of a boost they're going to get, anyway."
A number of folks don't think Niagara, which got an at-large bid out of Atlantic Hockey, should be in because the Purple Eagles didn't have enough quality wins out of their league. They're in the same league as UConn. To give some perspective, the Huskies were 32 of 59 teams in the RPI. Canisius was 37th before winning the league title and bumping Western Michigan, 16th in the PairWise, out.
"Do I think Western Michigan is one of the 10 best teams in the country? Yes, but it's the way things fall. A lot of what helped Niagara is Robert Morris. Niagara's record against Robert Morris was excellent, Robert Morris went out and beat us, Miami, and that affects everything. Niagara is in the tournament because of Robert Morris."
"PairWise is a good system. I don't think it's perfect. I don't think there's anything out there that's better, but we always can look at tweaking it."
In the meantime, Pecknold takes great pains to caution that the opening games of the NCAA hockey tournament are so different than NCAA basketball tournament openers
"It's not even close," Pecknold said. "This isn't No. 1 playing No. 64. It's No. 16. This is like UConn, when it had its powerhouses, playing a No. 4 basketball seed, could be Syracuse."
"Plus, goaltending is such a great equalizer. Goaltending in the NHL or Division I hockey is about as influential as it can be. I think it's more than quarterback in the NFL. Are we really the No. 1 team in the country? We are because Eric Hartzell is the best player in the country."
Pecknold also knows a stunning loss to Brown in the ECAC coupled with an even more stunning loss to Canisius would put such a huge dent in Quinnipiac's season of joy.
"Our whole season is on the line," Pecknold said.
You don't need PairWise rankings to realize how wise that remark is.