Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Engineer Bracketlogy: Week 1

Welcome to the first edition of Engineer Bracketology.

First things first. Let's take a look at the PairWise Rankings.

1. Yale*
2. North Dakota*
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Boston College
5. Denver
6. New Hampshire*
7. Michigan
8. Notre Dame*
9. Wisconsin
10. Nebraska-Omaha
11. Rensselaer
12. Merrimack
13. Western Michigan
14. Union
15. Boston University
16. Colorado College
17. Maine
18. Alaska
19. Dartmouth
20. Miami
21. Ferris State
22. Minnesota State
23. Princeton
24. Minnesota
25. Ohio State

Since last week
In: Merrimack, Western Michigan, Union, Boston University
Out: Colorado College, Maine, Alaska, Miami

In: Ferris State, Ohio State
Out: Northern Michigan, Clarkson

We can see the volatility still inherent in the PWR this far out simply by seeing the fluctuation in the field from last week. Fully one-quarter of the field is different from last week. It is not uncommon to see one or two teams move in and out of the field, but four is a lot.

The Engineers, thanks to their loss to Clarkson, moved down from 7th, a low #2 seed, to 11th, a low #3 seed. As it sits right now, they win comparisons with every team below them in the PWR, and lose comparisons to every team above, but they are still in the tournament right now. That could change if they don't keep winning.

Let's have a closer look at some of the closer comparisons - typically, these are comparisons with the teams directly above and below in the PWR.

Nebraska-Omaha: This one could be a tough one to win down the road. Clarkson is a common opponent, and the Mavericks beat the Knights back in October. They're 1-1-0 against Colorado College and will not play the Tigers again. Both teams beat RIT, so that is a wash. Therefore, UNO will win the common opponent criteria in this comparison even if the Engineers beat Clarkson in the second meeting, unless Rensselaer faces the Knights in the playoffs. Further, the Mavericks are an impressive 7-3-0 against TUCs. That can, of course, change depending on who is a TUC, but many of those wins are against very strong teams. We're certainly rooting against UNO for the foreseeable future.

Update: An intrepid anonymous reader points out that the Mavericks lost twice to Quinnipiac, something I missed on my list of common opponents with other teams for some reason. That will definitely make February's two games against Quinnipiac important for the UNO comparison.

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are ranked higher than UNO, but the Engineers are in a much better position. They have clinched the COp criteria with wins over BU and Bowling Green - the Irish have lost to both. Their TUC record is currently under .500. Notre Dame leads this comparison by RPI only, but the Engineers don't have to worry about that if they can earn some more TUC wins and reach 10 games against TUCs.

Wisconsin: The BU victory is coming in handy against the Badgers as well, since the Terriers beat them. The Engineers have the COp criteria in this comparison until the CC/UW series the first weekend of March - a series which will have the Engineers firmly in CC's corner.

This is what the projected bracket looks like. In each regional, #1 plays #4 and #2 plays #3 in the first round. Winners play in the regional finals, the winner of the first listed regional plays the winner of the last listed regional in the Frozen Four, as the winners of the second and third listed regionals also play each other.

1. Yale
2. Notre Dame
3. Wisconsin
4. RIT

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Michigan
3. Nebraska-Omaha
4. Boston University

St. Louis
1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Denver
3. Merrimack
4. Union

1. Boston College
2. New Hampshire
3. Rensselaer
4. Western Michigan

It's a rough guess as to what this PWR would result for the NCAA Tournament. The St. Louis bracket looks particularly awful for the sake of ticket sales, but we're kinda stuck. Yale has to be in Bridgeport, New Hampshire has to be in Manchester (both are hosts), and North Dakota, as the #2 overall seed, gets the closer destination of Green Bay (where UMD would probably draw well) over St. Louis (where they probably wouldn't).

In this scenario, we project the Engineers as the #3 seed in the Northeast Regional, where they would take on the New Hampshire Wildcats, the de facto home team.

What does this exercise do? By itself, not much, not right now, anyway. But as the weeks go by, we will get a better idea of where the Engineers would be likely to end up if they make the NCAA tournament. If I were a betting man, I'd wager on a flight to either the Midwest or West Regional, and for just one reason - there are more open positions out west. Yale and New Hampshire, as hosts, will be placed in their home regionals, and neither team is likely to miss the tournament. That leaves six spots open in the east. St. Louis has no host, and Green Bay is hosted by 3-win Michigan Tech. That means Rensselaer could potentially slide into one of eight different spots in those two regionals.

Here's something worth looking at though... the "TUC cliff." Remember that the top 25 teams in RPI are the teams under consideration. There's no gray area here. You're either a TUC, or you're not, and the PWR can fluctuate depending on who is a TUC. So let's see who's close.

21. Minnesota State
22. Princeton
23. Ferris State
24. Minnesota
25. Ohio State
26. Clarkson
27. St. Cloud State
28. Bemidji State
29. Northern Michigan
30. Robert Morris

These are, for the most part, the teams that are likely to become TUCs or cease to be TUCs in the next week's games. Looking around, there's not much to be concerned with here. The Engineers have yet to play Princeton, so it's not known whether we want them as a TUC or not. For the time being, we'd probably prefer them to be a TUC - they represent two potential TUC victories down the road (assuming the Engineers can get the job done, of course).

Lurking just under the TUC cliff is Clarkson. They fell out of the TUC ranks after being swept by Duluth, returned after beating the Engineers, and then fell out again after losing to Union. How do we feel about them? Well, right now, we don't want them. The Engineers are now 0-1 against Clarkson, and that has the potential to negatively impact their TUC record down the road.

There are a number of potentially good TUCs just outside this area - Brown at 31, Quinnipiac at 32, Niagara at 35, and RIT at 37. Generally, the farther down a team gets, the less likely they are to eventually become a TUC, but these four teams do represent 3 wins and 3 potential wins. So we're rooting for these teams especially.

Later in the season, as we begin to know which comparisons are important, the other teams that are TUCs will also become important. For instance, UNO has four important wins over Minnesota and Minnesota State. If those teams dropped out of the TUC ranks, they'd lose 4 TUC wins. That would be good for the Engineers as things stand now. You start to see how every game ultimately matters.

Finally, we take a look at the results we'd like to see in the next seven days. Usually, it's a matter of the teams on the Rensselaer schedule winning, teams near the Engineers in the PWR losing, and a variety of other items on the agenda, especially teams between 20th and 35th or so in the RPI - the TUC cliff.

Engineer Cheering Section
Dartmouth over UConn
Bentley over American International

Boston University over Merrimack

Rensselaer over Cornell
Colgate over Union
Northeastern over Vermont
Providence over Maine
RIT over Bentley
UConn over Robert Morris
Niagara over American International
Minnesota-Duluth over Wisconsin
Bemidji State over Nebraska-Omaha
Alaska over Notre Dame
Bowling Green over Miami
Ferris State over Michigan
Ohio State over Western Michigan
Alabama-Huntsville over Merrimack
St. Lawrence over Michigan Tech

Rensselaer over Colgate
Cornell over Union
Brown over Yale
RIT over Bentley
UConn over Robert Morris
Niagara over American International
Northeastern over Vermont
Alaska over Notre Dame
Bowling Green over Miami
Ferris State over Michigan
Ohio State over Western Michigan
Bemidji State over Nebraska-Omaha
Minnesota-Duluth over Wisconsin
Alabama-Huntsville over Merrimack
St. Lawrence over Michigan Tech
Dartmouth over New Hampshire
Boston University over Harvard

Brown over Yale
Quinnipiac over Canisius

Quinnipiac over Canisius

Note - not all of these games are of the utmost importance. They are simply a reflection of results that would be of a net benefit to the Engineers.

Tonight's Dartmouth/UConn game is interesting. Both are on the Rensselaer schedule. A Dartmouth loss would help the Engineers in the COp criteria, but given that they are in the same league, they will have a minimum of 20 other games against common opponents, rendering this one somewhat insignificant. We fall back on the guideline of rooting for ECAC teams in non-conference games. So why, then, do we take BU over Harvard? The Crimson's RPI is so low that they'll never be a TUC, but we want BU to stay a TUC, and losing to Harvard could put them on the brink. In this case, which is rare, the Engineers prefer an ECAC loss out of conference.

Saturday's game at Colgate is a trap game much like the Alabama-Huntsville games were. The Chargers still sit last in RPI, but Colgate is now next-to-last. A win over the Raiders is likely to be taken out of the Engineers' RPI calculation like the UAH wins were, but a loss or tie would still count and have serious repercussions in the PWR. Paired with Cornell's wins last week improving the Big Red's RPI significantly, it makes the Colgate game a more dangerous proposition for the Engineers. A loss to Cornell would hurt, but a loss to Colgate would hurt far more. At the same time, a win over Cornell would improve Rensselaer's position in the PWR (slightly), while a win over Colgate would do nothing at all on its own.


  1. Tom - a question on the UNO comparison breakdown. Quinnipiac swept them in both games played over the break, and RPI has yet to play Quinny. Will a sweep in these games help our comparison, nullifying the Clarkson effect?

  2. Excellent point. I had taken it upon myself to jot down the Engineers' common opponents with potential TUCs and had somehow neglected to have Quinnipiac on my list. You are absolutely correct that QU will eventually be a common opponent with UNO - and that RPI's games with the Bobcats could turn that around.

    Good pickup. I always knew RPI fans were fast learners! :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.