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Sunday, March 23, 2008

UM, MSU both off to NCAA tourney

Compiled by MiCHO Staff

Defending national champion Michigan State and CCHA champion Michigan, also the top-ranked team in the country, are off to the NCAA Tournament and their seeds were announced this morning on ESPN2.

Michigan State, a No. 3 seed, has drawn No. 2 seed Colorado College in the first round. Colorado College is hosting the West Regional at the Colorado Springs World Arena on Friday and Saturday, with No. 1 New Hampshire and No. 4 Notre Dame rounding out the field. Play begins on Friday when UNH and Notre Dame face off at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Spartans and host Tigers at 10 p.m. Winners advance to Saturday’s regional final, which will be played at 10 p.m.

The Spartans enter the NCAA Tournament - their third straight selection to the field and 26th overall - with a 24-11-5 overall record and finished third in the CCHA regular season behind Michigan and Miami. In the league’s postseason tournament, the Spartans fell to Northern Michigan in the best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series at Munn Arena and missed out on the league’s championship weekend for the first time in 17 seasons.

Friday will serve as the 80th meeting of Michigan State and Colorado College. MSU trails the all-time series 33-45-1. CC holds a 26-13-0 edge all-time in Colorado Springs. This will be the third NCAA Tournament meeting of the schools. The Spartans won 4-3 in the 1999 quarterfinals in Madison, Wis., and the Tigers took a 2-0 decision when the teams met in the 2002 quarterfinals in Ann Arbor. Colorado College won the McNaughton Cup as the regular-season WCHA champion, but finished fourth in its conference tournament with losses to Denver and North Dakota. The Tigers are currently 28-11-1.

Michigan earned the top overall seed in the tournament and will face the Niagara Purple Eagles -- the automatic qualifier from the CHA --in the opening round of the East Regional.

The Wolverines (31-5-4) will take on fourth-seeded Niagara (22-10-4) on Friday at the Union Center in Albany, N.Y. The contest is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. The winner of the Michigan-Niagara match-up will advance to play the winner of the No. 2 seed Clarkson and the No. 3 seed St. Cloud State game. The East Regional championship contest will take place Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET.

The Maize and Blue will be competing in its NCAA-best 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament. Michigan is appearing in its 31st NCAA Tournament overall, which is second-most in the nation. U-M is 44-23 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, leading the nation with nine national titles (1948, '51, '52, '53, '55, '56, '64, '96 and '98).

"Michigan obviously has so much more history with nine national championships," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. "I feel we have a legitimate shot of knocking them off. They are a very special team, being ranked at No. 1 for more weeks than any other team, and with 12 NHL picks. This is the time we look back on our history and our school spirit to prepare."

The contest marks the first time the Wolverines will face off against Niagara in the NCAA Tournament. The teams have met on four occasions overall, with U-M holding a 3-1 advantage over the Purple Eagles. Each recorded a win in a two-game set (Oct. 16-17, 1998) -- Michigan winning the first game 6-5 in overtime and Niagara pulling out the 2-1 win in the second game of the series. Michigan also won 3-0 (Oct. 11, 2002) and 6-2 (Nov. 1, 2003).

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