Inside Merrimack's NCAA Tournament chances
Merrimack’s NCAA Tournament picture is starting to come into focus.
At this point, the Pairwise almost doesn’t matter.
There are 15 teams who can qualify for at-large bids, and Merrimack is one of them. There is only a 0.7% chance that the Warriors don’t finish in the Top 15, which means at this point, virtually the only thing that can keep the Warriors out of the NCAA Tournament is non-qualifying teams winning enough automatic bids in conference tournaments to move the cut line.
Several of those teams are still alive.
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Merrimack has a 59% chance of making the NCAA Tournament as it currently stands.
If Merrimack wins on Friday night against UMass Lowell, but loses the Hockey East championship game, there is about an 80% probability that the Warriors would make the NCAA Tournament. Even a loss to Lowell in the semifinals would still keep a slim hope alive (about 21% probability).
Don’t pay too much attention to those numbers though, because they could shift dramatically depending on other results around the country. For example, there are scenarios in play where Merrimack loses on Friday night to UMass Lowell, but would still be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday morning.
The biggest thing that helps the Warriors now is that effectively no one can catch them in the Pairwise. Omaha is the only team that looks like it might be able to sneak past Merrimack. Merrimack is No. 14 this morning, and even a loss to Lowell next week should only drop them to No. 15.
Even then, for Omaha to catch Merrimack, I believe it would require the Mavericks to win the NCHC Championship, which would not take away an at-large bid.
What are the Warriors rooting for?
I wouldn’t pay much attention to Omaha. There is a 1% chance they finish as the No. 15 seed, which likely requires them to win the NCHC automatic bid.
Merrimack needs the following teams to get knocked out of conference tournaments to feel more comfortable (and one of them is Lowell):
A few of those teams play today in Game 3s.
Omaha vs. North Dakota will eliminate at least one of those potential teams, and Merrimack can eliminate Lowell with a win on Friday. Minnesota Duluth will play St. Cloud State tonight in a Game 3; Merrimack wants St. Cloud State to win that game.
Keep an eye on these games:
TONIGHT - NCHC QFinals: Minn-Duluth vs. St. Cloud State (Merrimack wants St. Cloud State)
TONIGHT - NCHC QFinals: Omaha vs. North Dakota (Neither team gives Merrimack an advantage in this game. Either way, one potential spoiler team is eliminated, and one stays alive).
HEA Semis: Providence vs. Boston University (Merrimack wants BU)
ECAC Semis: Colgate vs. Quinnipiac (Merrimack wants Quinnipiac)
NCHC Semis: Colorado College vs. Denver (Merrimack wants Denver)
CCHA Finals: Northern Michigan vs. Minnesota State (Merrimack wants Minnesota State)
Obviously, Merrimack helps itself if it beats Lowell. Not only do they get one step closer to an automatic bid, but the Warriors would also knock out a “spoiler” team that could win an automatic bid.
To make this as straightforward as possible … Merrimack wants every team outside of the Top 15 to lose.