It's playoff time. I know this because early-starting basketball doubleheaders are shortening my afternoon naps, because I'm writing my column on Thursday night and not Wednesday and because there are a lot of brackets out there.
On paper, on TV, on the Internet, it's bracket season. We'll talk about the 68-team one next week, because the focus this week is on a 12-team one: The WCHA playoffs and the road to the Final Five in St. Paul.
Only three or four WCHA teams are in position to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament, but the beauty of it is that anyone is five wins away from the big show.
That goes for Michigan Tech, too. I understand how a certain late-winter blah has set in given that Tech's record since its demolition of then-No. 1 Minnesota Duluth is a disappointing 2-6-2.
Good thing it doesn't matter.
8. Michigan Tech at 5. Colorado College
By this point in the season, there's enough data to confirm just about any hypothesis. I think that's why us sports media types enjoy tournaments so much. The number of plausible outcomes skyrockets.
If there's one thing that this Michigan Tech team has become good at doing, it's defying the most conventional wisdom. No chance at beating No. 1 UMD? Done. Of course, two losses to 11th place Minnesota State and one to last-place Alaska Anchorage confirm the flip side of this argument as well, but given the way Tech got swept by the Tigers, there won't be many placing bets on the Huskies this weekend.
As for my prediction, just copy and paste from last week's web only column. There is a bit of a history of good things happening to the Huskies in Colorado Springs when the chips are down.
The Verdict: Tech in three.
7. Nebraska-Omaha at 6. St. Cloud State
Both teams went to Houghton in February. UNO got one point, SCSU got two, and that one-point difference is why this series is at the National Hockey Center this weekend.
Nebraska Omaha needed one point from four home games at the end of the season and this series is in Omaha. They got zero. As easy as a 6-7 series gets.
The Verdict: SCSU in two.
12. Alaska-Anchorage at 1. Minnesota
Last year, I predicted the Seawolves to upset the Gophers in Minneapolis. That's not going to happen again, and not just because UAA is in last place and Minnesota is in first. Any other opponent, maybe Minnesota sleepwalks through a game and all bets are off in a Game 3. Not UAA. The Gophers are out for revenge, and this one will be quick.
The Verdict: Minnesota in two.
11. Minnesota State at 2. Minnesota Duluth
UMD continues to be stuck in a second-half rut, which sidetracked the Bulldogs' bid for the MacNaughton Cup. Still securely in the NCAA Tournament field, UMD doesn't have to dwell much on its missed opportunity. Minnesota State did end up in 11th thanks to a decent finish (7-8-1 since Jan. 1), but the Mavericks are 0-3-1 this year against UMD and 1-12-1 against the top half of the WCHA this season.
The Verdict: UMD in two.
10. Wisconsin at
These teams met in Madison just a few weeks ago, splitting the points. Given the fact that the Badgers split with regular-season champions Minnesota in Mariucci Arena last weekend, and that they've won three of their last four road games, you'd see why this appears to be a popular upset pick. But if Denver's good enough to be the only team that swept Minnesota this season, they're good enough to be my pick.
The Verdict: DU in three.
9. Bemidji St. at
4. North Dakota
You didn't think I was going to do this column without picking at least one upset, did you? Bemidji gets the advantage of reasonable travel (at 113 miles one-way, it's just a little longer than Houghton to Marquette), has experience, a little momentum after the sweep in Anchorage last weekend and is playing a North Dakota team that is young and banged-up. The Fighting Sioux have the longest active streak (nine years) of reaching the Final Five. Until this year.
The Verdict: BSU in three.
Last week: 7-4-1
For the regular season: 118-82-21 (58.1 percent)
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.