The Big Ten Hockey Tournament returns to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN Thursday afternoon. The official bracket from the B1G is below.
Only Michigan will make the NCAA tournament without taking the tournament crown this weekend. Minnesota and Michigan earned first round byes, meaning the Gophers only need to win twice to claim the B1G's auto-bid. Wisconsin and Penn State start things off Thursday afternoon, with the winner taking on Michigan in the early game on Friday. Ohio State and Michigan State finish things up Thursday night with the winner taking on the regular season champion Gophers Friday night. The title game, with the B1G's auto-bid on the line, is Saturday night.
As you all know, I'm a big fan of KRACH. KRACH uses Bradley-Terry ratings of all 60 college hockey programs to assign a number to each school. An average NCAA school receives a rating of 100. If a team is twice as good as an average team, it will rate out at 200. This means a team rated 200 would win twice as often if the teams played enough (200/(200+100)). Using each team's KRACH, we can see how likely it is for each team to advance to the next round, and ultimately win the championship.
Using the each team's KRACH:
We get the following table of expected win percentages (team on left over team on top):
Let's look at Michigan's path to a potential Tournament Championship.
Michigan will face the winner of Penn State and Wisconsin. Michigan will face Penn State 69% of the time and Wisconsin 31%. If you multiply Michigan's expected winning percentage against Penn State by .69 and add it to .31 time their expected winning percentage against Wisconsin, you get (.69*.66)+(.31*.81)=71%. Michigan should make the finals 71% of the time.
You can then find Michigan's expected winning percentage in the championship game by using the same method to determine how often Minnesota, OSU, and MSU make the finals. Minnesota makes it 67% of the time, OSU makes it 22%, and MSU 11%. Michigan's odds of winning the championship game are then: (.67*.62+.22*.74+.11*.82)=67%.
Since Michigan only makes it to the championship game 71% of the time, they are expected to win the whole tournament (.71*.67)=47% of the time.
Running these calculations for all teams gives us the following table showing the odds of winning in each round:
In the two years of the BTHT, no team has won 3 games. That said, a Thursday winner has lost in the championship game each time. If I had to pick one team from Thursday's games to run the table, it would have to be Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can get past Michigan State, they will get Minnesota. The lost all 4 games to Minnesota by 1 goal, 3 of which came in overtime. The Buckeyes also went 2-1-1-1 against Michigan this year, sweeping them 2 weekends ago. Penn State may have an easier path according to KRACH, but they have been absolutely man-handled by Michigan all year, and did not look good against Wisconsin last weekend.
Michigan is the favorite, but I think Minnesota will find a way to win in front of what should be a friendly (and much larger than last year's) crowd. This would give Minnesota two straight Conference Tournament Championships and 5 of the 6 possible B1G trophies through 3 seasons. Winning this tournament would also extend their current 4 year NCAA Tournament appearance streak.