I know what you’re asking, what the heck is a Lindenwood?
Exactly. If you are not from the deep Midwest and familiar with the fertile and gently rolling prairie, and the low hills and broad, shallow valleys that define the area around St Louis – a city built on the bluffs and terraces that rise above the western banks of the mighty Mississip – then yes, you have no idea what a Lindenwood is.
Lindenwood is a relative newcomer to the D1 sports scene in this country, having officially become a member of the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference on July 1st 2022. They compete in 16 sports in the conference, and 30 sports overall at the NCAA Division I level (FCS for football). In other words, they have more D1 sports teams than almost every B1G school.
The school only has 4,808 undergraduate students, over 1,300 of which are student-athletes. Meaning with a one-out-of-every-four students is an athlete ratio, they beat Harvard’s one-out-of-five ratio. So, they’re really into sports at Lindenwood.
The school is located in Saint Charles, MO, just a bit west of St. Louis. They are a short 15-minute drive east on I-70 and I-270 to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. And are only four miles from where the Mississippi flows northward (yes, the Mississippi River flows north!) in a futile effort to send Dincher’s piss back to Quincy (you have to ask Dincher about that!).
All of which is to say, what the heck does this have to do with Penn State sports?!?
Well, the Penn State men’s hockey team has had an OK start to the season. Just OK. They are 6-4-3 overall, 1-2-3 in-conference, and are currently ranked #19 in the only rankings that matter – the PairWise Rankings.
I’m not here to lay down the "defense wins championships" mantra, or talk about the details of the quality of play thus far, I’m here to provide a broad brushstroke, top-level, quick look at what needs to happen for Penn State to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season and have a chance at a natty – kind of the goal for everybody.
As of this writing, here are the PairWise Rankings for every team in the B1G:
- Michigan State (10-3-1) #8
- Wisconsin (9-3-0) #9
- Minnesota (6-4-2) #12
- Notre Dame (7-4-2) #15
- Penn State (6-4-3) #19
- Michigan (6-6-2) #22
- Ohio State (3-5-3) #29
Why are these important? Because this weekend Lindenwood comes to town!! But, after this weekend’s games against Lindenwood in Pegula, the only teams Penn State will play are the other B1G teams – save a January 6, 2024 game against Army. So, how Penn State gets to the postseason is greatly affected by it’s strength-of-schedule, and that’s the rest of the B1G from here on out. And vice-versa for the rest of the B1G teams. It’s primarily an unholy, in-bred, conference war the rest of the way.
As a quick refresher – in D1 men’s NCAA hockey 16 teams make the tournament – out of 64 teams playing the sport. The 16 teams are comprised of the six conference tournament champions plus the next ten highest-ranked teams in the PairWise. Which means if you are ranked #10 or higher you are definitely in. In practice, being ranked #14 or higher gets you in. Conceivably you could be ranked #16 and get in, but you don’t want to take that chance. Stay #14 or better.
The first thing to note about getting to the post-season this year is, and I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating, the B1G teams did not have great out-of-conference records this year. As we’re moving into almost exclusively conference play the highest-ranked team is only #8. Which is still good, but not as helpful to your strength-of-schedule as if the top-ranked team was #1. And if there were also two or three other B1G teams ranked in the top ten.
What that means for Penn State moving forward is they have to play better than .500 hockey in-conference to have a chance. They have to sweep series with teams ranked below them, and no worse than split series with teams above them.
Which is where Lindenwood comes in. At #54 in the Pairwise rankings, and sporting a 3-7-2 record – including a loss and tie against OSU, and two ohmigawd-we-got-blown-out losses to Michigan – these games are not going to help PSU’s strength-of-schedule. But with 3 losses, 3 ties, and only 1 win in their last 7 games, PSU could really use some ohmigawd-we-blew-them-out wins right now to put them in the right mindset for the gauntlet that is B1G conference play.
That’s how Lindenwood can be the cure for what ails ya. Especially since the students will be gone and it will mostly be we townies rockin’ the Peg! Let’s look forward to two blowout wins for the boys in blue this weekend. Go State!