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Defending the Kingdom

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how UNC should get an automatic bid to the big dance for being the reigning champion. They made it in anyway, without a “Reigning Champ Automatic Bid.” Today, the Frozen Four bracket was announced. For those who don’t know, “Frozen Four” is the clever name for the NCAA Hockey championship. One team missing from the bracket: University of Denver, the 2-time defending champions.

At least in the NCAA Basketball, even after the 35+ automatic bids, there are still 31 at large bids left, enough to include every deserving team. If UNC had been #66 this year, the committee would have bumped off one of the other at-large bids to include UNC. Not so in hockey. There is only a 16-team playoff, with 6 automatic bids. That means 10 teams are still at-large, which might seem like a lot, except that the automatic bids come largely from bad conferences. The WCHA and Hockey East are the only big name conferences in hockey, and they only have two automatic bids. Usually, the 10 at-large bids come from these two conferences, which generally have 90% of the top 25 teams in the country. Those extra four automatic bids, given to Bemidji State, Harvard, Holy Cross, and Michigan State (The only automatic bid that is justified), take up four teams that should make the tournament, such as Denver.

Denver is one of the biggest hockey towns in the country, from the Avalanche, to the Pioneers, down to the Littleton Hawks, one of the best club hockey organizations in the country. To keep Denver out of the tournament is ridiculous. Denver finished ranked #11 in the country, ahead of 6 teams that made the tournament. They also finished 2nd in the WCHA, arguably College Hockey’s best conference, ahead of 3 other WCHA teams who made the tournament.

It’s ridiculous to think that a team of this caliber does not even have a chance to play for the championship. Especially when they are defending it. There should be a new rule in all college sports, no matter what happens, no matter where the defending champion finishes in the regular season, they should have a chance to defend their crown. The 35+ automatic bids in basketball, the 6 automatic bids in hockey, and all other automatic bids in any other sport, should all have one more automatic bid added to them, the "Defending the Kingdom" automatic bid. While there will be controversy, as some teams may not be up to caliber as they previously were, examples like this, where a two-time defending champion, ranked #11 in the country, is left out of the hunt, should provide enough support for the "Defending the Kingdom" bid.


Thu 03/23/06, 12:51 am EST

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