Well, it has been for a while now.
But now that all the St. Paddy’s Day shenanigans are done with, you’re probably being bombarded with March Madness/Bracketology/Million-Dollar Bracket Challenge stuff all across your Facebook, Twitter and even your watercooler.
(By the way if you didn’t join in on the BDB bracket challenge, shame on you.)
But lost in all of the typical March Madness is the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. Yes, ANOTHER college sport is playing for the title on ice, not on the court. This year, the inaugural tournament is being held right where hockey shines brightest: St. Paul, Minnesota.
It’s the first year for the tournament, as the CCHA discontinued operations at the end of last season. The Big Ten tournament features notable conference teams Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Minnesota and Wisconsin joined from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), while Penn State joined after leaving NCAA Division I.
Don’t worry, there’s still a bracket to drive you insane, only not as large as the NCAA basketball bracket. It’s actually much smaller, but sometimes those drive you even more bonkers.
It all kicks off on Thursday, March 20. No. 1 Minnesota and No. 2 Wisconsin received byes to the second round. No. 3 Michigan will face No. 6 Penn State at 3 p.m. EST and later, No. 4 Ohio State will play No. 5 Michigan State at 7 p.m. EST. Both games will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Don’t let the numbers fool you: the Michigan v. Penn State match-up is much closer than the numbers portray. Big Ten Freshman of the Year JT Compher leads Michigan against the Nittany Lions – who’s only two conference wins this year came against the Wolverines. The biggest question for Michigan will be goaltending as both freshman Zach Nagelvoort and sophomore Steve Racine have split time between the pipes for head coach Red Berenson.
On the other side, Ohio State and Michigan State is much more evenly matched. First-year coach of Ohio State, Steve Rohlik, leads the Buckeyes back to his hometown. The Buckeyes offense will be taking on the Spartan defense that blocked the most shots in the Big Ten this season. The winners of that match-up will face the Gophers in their own backyard.