With non-conference games winding down for the season, it's safe to say at this point that the ECAC is having an "up" year, if nothing else. There are just a handful of non-conference games left. One of them is RPI-Union at the Times Union Center in Albany, which might as well be a conference game for the impact it'll have on the balance of power between conferences.
Excluding that, we're left with...
UConn at Quinnipiac on January 22
Sacred Heart at Princeton on January 27
Harvard in the Beanpot on February 4/February 11
If QU and PU can't pick up wins in those games I'll be shocked. Harvard has to play Boston College in the first round of the Beanpot, if history holds true they'll lose that game (the Crimson haven't beaten anyone other than Northeastern in the first round since 1998) and then take on Northeastern in the consolation the following week, which is a winnable game for them.
What's that mean? Well, for starters, it means that the ECAC's place in the national discussion is more or less solidifying at this point, since the rest of the schedule contains internecine squabbling. Unless the league leaders all fall off significantly, the league is looking to be in halfway decent shape for three NCAA bids, which is usually considered a pretty good haul. This last happened two years ago, when RPI, Union, and Yale all grabbed bids.
A couple of months ago, there was some giddy shrieking suggesting that the league could nab four or five bids. We scoffed. From the looks of things, that seems to have been a pretty good opportunity to say "told ya."
That's not to say that things didn't start looking like they could turn out like that, but, to be honest, last weekend's non-conference roll pretty much squelched that idea. Union getting swept by Lake Superior State, Cornell getting swept by Denver, Clarkson getting swept by UMass-Lowell, St. Lawrence splitting with RIT, and even RPI's twin defeats at BU and UNH really brought things back down to earth - the only really good result was Yale's 3-3 tie against Boston College, but the rest of it hurt a lot.
If the tournament started today, it would include Quinnipiac, Dartmouth, and Yale. Only the Bobcats are on really solid ground - in fact, they'd be the #2 overall seed if things started today. Just outside would be Colgate, and Cornell and Union are a bit behind the eight-ball right now. Is four possible? Yes. Two is also still a possibility, which would be more of a "normal" season for the ECAC.
Just something to keep in mind going forward.