There are only two remaining ECAC conference games: Air Force will visit Ohio State and the Buckeyes will travel to Fairfield. That's it. With the league's table as bunched up as it is . . .
|1.||Air Force||3-0||Fairfield, Michigan, Bellarmine||None|
|2.||Ohio State||2-0||Michigan, Bellarmine||None|
|3.||Fairfield||2-1||Michigan, Bellarmine||Air Force|
|4.||Michigan||1-4||Bellarmine||Air Force, Fairfield, Ohio State|
|5.||Bellarmine||0-4||None||Fairfield, Michigan, Ohio State, Air Force|
. . . those two games could significantly impact the structure of the ECAC Tournament. There is a possibility that Air Force could finish its conference campaign with a spotless record, Ohio State could end its year with a 4-0 effort in the league, and -- among other results -- Ohio State, Air Force, and Fairfield could all finish with 3-1 league marks. That's . . . something. The potential for these outcomes to focus, though, is somewhat unclear: The ECAC's final two dates will feature competitively-equal teams throwing hands in pressurized brawls with consequences attached to the results:
|Air Force at Ohio State||Air Force (52.06%)||Ohio State (47.94%)||Ohio State at Fairfield||Fairfield (50.11%)||Ohio State (49.89%)|
Nothing here is guaranteed. These are toss-up games of the first order, matchups without definitive favorites. The ECAC Tournament's seeding is almost entirely contingent upon three teams playing games with, essentially, no discernable favorites (at least right now). Why is this important? It's simple: The opportunity to play Michigan in the first round of the ECAC Tournament provides an advantage to the team that earns the league's top seed1:
|ECAC TOURNAMENT SEED||TEAM||ODDS TO WIN TITLE||ECAC TOURNAMENT SEED||TEAM||ODDS TO WIN TITLE||ECAC TOURNAMENT SEED||TEAM||ODDS TO WIN TITLE|
|1.||Air Force||40.42%||1.||Ohio State||37.28%||1.||Fairfield||37.44%|
|2/3.||Ohio State||27.07%||2/3.||Air Force||30.21%||2/3.||Air Force||30.22%|
There's an advantage to being a one-seed in the ECAC Tournament -- it's not a huge one, mostly because you need to deal with a capable two- or three-seed in the championship -- that is driven from facing Michigan in the tournament's opening game. The ability to avoid two 50-50 games and play in just one is all the motivation necessary to take care of business in the league's homestretch.
1 The only way that Fairfield can earn the league's top seed is if the Stags, Falcons, and Buckeyes finish with identical 3-1 records and Fairfield wins the tiebreaker between the three teams. I honestly have no idea how the Stags stack up in that tiebreaking scenario right now, but I've included the permutation as further illustration of the relative importance of winning the ECAC's top spot in its tournament.