“I don’t think anybody’s gonna touch us.” That statement by a friend of mine from Cornell was a catalyst for me. I was preparing to ignore the forthcoming Frozen Four, because, well, I don’t trust the Maize and Blue to get the job done. They’ve been so close so many years in my Michigan career, but have fallen short each time. I am always hesitant to invest my heart in a hockey team that has a history of near misses.

I came to Michigan on the heels of a national championship in football, and two out of three championships in hockey. I, of course, expected to be dancing naked at the President’s house on South University a half dozen times before I left Ann Arbor. As it happened, I did so just once – and it was due to a bad reaction to a bottle of tequila, not a national championship for the Wolverines.

On one occasion – the one occasion – in my four years that a Michigan team won a national championship (field hockey, 2001) I spent the night at the Daily, trying to figure out the first goddamn thing about field hockey.

A national championship in ice hockey, however, would be a very different story. And my friend’s confidence in The Big Red was enough to fire up my competitive spirit and evaluate the competition for Jed Ortmeyer and Co.

Ohio State, Boston College, Cornell and MSU-Mankato will play in the East Regional, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. That sucks that there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts Center somewhere in the world and I’ve never been there. But if their media hospitality is anything like the Outback Bowl’s, then they will be serving salad and gyros, not donuts. Mmmmm … donuts.

As for the teams, Cornell has indeed looked stellar this season, and will advance out of the regional even though MSU-Mankato – the Mavericks – is possibly the best team from the greater Mankato area. Their goalie, Dave LeNeveu, has been nothing short of awesome all year. The first-round game between Ohio State and Boston College pits two of my least favorite sports programs against each other. I’m making my prediction based on sports karma, which dictates that the Buckeyes’ will not be awarded any more bullshit calls for a while. Advantage: Eagles.

The Northeast Regional is comprised of Harvard, Boston University, St. Cloud State and New Hampshire. The unranked Huskies of St. Cloud will find New Hampshire to be a bit too much. But this region’s other game – between Harvard and B.U. – pits two Beanpot powers against each other in big-time brawl, Boston style (although the game is actually being played in Worcester – “$1.25, sir”). Advantage goes to B.U. They’re going to be celebrating on Commonwealth Avenue – at least until the Terriers have to match up with New Hampshire. B.U. won two previous meetings with Harvard, including the semifinals of the Beanpot. The Crimson can get back to their Nietzsche and nuclear physics and watch the rest of the tournament on the Deuce.

Our regional – the Midwest – might be the fiercest. Wayne State makes a short trip to Ann Arbor to join Colorado College, Maine and our own Maize and Blue. Michigan should be a two seed, but instead ends up playing the Black Bears of Maine, who should be a one seed. It will take all the magic of Yost to propel the Wolverines out of this bracket and onward to Buffalo, N.Y. for the Frozen Four, especially when we match up with Colorado College. The Tigers are arguably the elite team in the country this year, and will have no problem with Wayne State. Forward Peter Sejna and the Tigers may even have enough to win it all.

In the West, No. 1 seed Minnesota hosts North Dakota, CCHA Tournament runner-up Ferris State and Mercyhurst. The Mariucci Center will be rockin’ after the Gophers handle Mercyhurst and face either Ferris State or the Fighting Sioux. Look for Minnesota to advance in its pursuit to put together back-to-back championships.

So will Michigan make champions of us all, or will it yet again find the national competition to be just too much to handle? The 16-team bracket will make matters interesting, and this weekend will no doubt be a memorable one at Yost, and elsewhere.

As for Big Red, well, they’re damn good. But with as much competition as exists in this year’s tournament, somebody is going to touch them.

– David Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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