By Peter Langella
no love lost between Hobart and Manhattanville, as the two have
combined for 216 penalty minutes in their last four games
Photo: Kevin Colton
The week leading up Valentine's Day always makes me look toward the NCAA Tournament. I try to take in any and all rankings, and I try to figure out which teams, if any, seem to be locks forthe dance. Even more fun, however, is making predictions about how all the minutia will shake out when the last games of the conference tournaments are played in less than a month.
I'm not trying to turn this into my own version of Bracketology (because I know others will do that far better than I can), but I will say that I think there are five teams on the men's side that have an inside track to get into the tournament: Norwich, Trinity, Oswego, Stevens Point, and Hobart.
The first four are pretty easy to pick and are probably widely agreed upon. The fifth, Hobart, is a much more contentious choice.
I personally think that the ECAC West champion deserves to be in the tournament every year, and I think the selection committee agrees with me. So, keeping this mind, if Hobart wins out – or even if they lose another regular season game but go on to win their conference tournament – they'll get into the NCAA's.
Please hear me out. Their inclusion wouldn't be nearly as big of a stretch as some people think.
A lot of teams will lose more games. I think that Norwich, Oswego, Stevens Point and Trinity will all win their conference tournaments. It just feels like that type of year. That means Amherst, Plattsburgh, River Falls, and Eau Claire will have at least one more loss, and UMass-Boston and Babson will have at least two more (Norwich will beat them in Boston this weekend). When everyone else has five or six losses, Hobart's six – or even seven – losses as a conference champion will look great.
Will Hobart get in if Norwich, Trinity, and Oswego all lose in their respective conference tournaments? No. Of course not. But if all or even most of the favorites win and Hobart finishes strong, they'll be invited as one of the Pool C at-large selections.
The other main reason for my belief in Hobart's candidacy is the weight the selection committee traditionally places on strength-of-schedule. Hobart is in the top five in that category and will likely stay there throughout the season. Trinity and Amherst from the strong NESCAC are also ranked in the top five in that category, but no other Pool C contender is currently in the top ten.
Hobart still needs to take care of business. They still need to win four or five more games, specifically the last one that really counts, the ECAC West Championship. But if they do (and I really think they will), they're going to give that committee an awful lot to think about, no matter what they're ranked and no matter who thinks team x or team y had a better season.
Peter Langella played at Trinity College and Norwich University and has also coached at Williams. He is now a writer and librarian in central Vermont.