With MIAC postseasons nearly here, sports editor Ross Schreck navigated through the winter playoff seasons for men’s and women’s basketball and hockey.
Basketball playoff procedure
Basketball playoffs consist of the top six teams from the regular season standings battling it out for the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The top two teams from the regular season standings receive first-round byes, and the top team has home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The quarterfinals begin Feb. 19 for the women and Feb. 20 for the men as the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed while the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed.
The winners of those games move to the semifinals, played Feb. 21 for the women and Feb. 22 for the men. The lowest remaining seed travels to the No. 1 seed and the second-lowest remaining seed visits the No. 2 seed.
The semifinal winners meet in the conference championship game at the top remaining seed’s home court. The women’s championship is Feb. 23 while the men’s is Feb. 24.
The winners earn the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. For some teams, winning the tournament is its only chance of making into the “dance.” Others can lose and still earn an at-large berth.
The St. Thomas men’s basketball team holds both the No. 1 ranking in the country and the No. 1 seed for the upcoming MIAC playoffs. The Tommies’ opponent is to be determined.
Although the playoffs present a “win or go home” scenario, point guard Erik Tengwall said he tries “not to worry” about that aspect of the game.
“The biggest key to success in games like these are to mentally prepare how you would for any other game,” Tengwall said. “As long as we can maintain the same focus and trust which we’ve shown throughout the regular season, I really think we can do big things in the MIAC playoffs and also on the national level.”
The St. Thomas women’s basketball team has clinched a berth for the MIAC playoffs, but its seed and opponent has yet to be determined. The Tommies still could be as high as the No. 1 seed or as low the No. 4 seed.
Hockey playoff procedure
The MIAC men’s and women’s hockey playoffs consist of the top five teams from the regular season standings duking it out for the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III hockey tournament. The top three seeds receive first-round byes and the top team receives home-ice advantage throughout the postseason. The first round sends the No. 5 seed to visit the No. 4 seed Feb. 22 for the men and Feb. 26 for the women.
The semifinals are a bit quirky. The winner of the No. 5 vs. No. 4 matchup then travels to the No. 1 seed the very next day (Feb. 23) in the men’s draw and two days later (Feb. 28) in the women’s tournament. The other semifinal sends the No. 3 seed to the No. 2 seed on the same day for each tournament.
The winners of the semifinal matchups meet in the championship held at the top remaining seed left in the tournament. Both the men’s and women’s championships are March 2.
The winner of the tournament earns the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If a team does not win its respective tournament, the likelihood of receiving an at-large berth to the tournament is difficult, but not impossible.
The St. Thomas men’s hockey team currently is tied for second (17 points) in the conference standings with a crucial two-game series against Augsburg beginning this Thursday and Friday. The Tommies are within shouting distance of conference leader St. Olaf (18 points).
Coach Jeff Boeser said it would be “awesome” to get home-ice advantage for the conference tournament, but the team must focus on this weekend to clinch its playoff berth.
“We have to take it one period at a time,” Boeser said. “It’s a six period weekend where we need to win each period and put the puck in the back of the net.”
The St. Thomas women’s hockey team is tied for second in the MIAC (19 points) with Concordia-Moorhead. The team comes out of conference play Wednesday, hosting fifth-ranked Wisconsin-River Falls before battling Augsburg Friday and Saturday. The highest seed St. Thomas can obtain is second, as Gustavus clinched the No. 1 seed for the MIAC playoffs and is the second-ranked team in the nation.
Goaltender Alise Riedel, whose goals against average (1.79) ranks fifth best in the MIAC, said the team knows how critical the playoffs are.
“We need to be able to put together 60 minutes of hard working, fast paced Tommie hockey,” Riedel said. “No matter where we play, all of us know our jobs and share the goal of winning a national championship and will not let skating on a different sheet of ice stop us from that.”
Ross Schreck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.