Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Engineer Bracketology 2.0

OK, so, remember that Bracketology column you read yesterday morning? Forget everything about it. Because everything you know is wrong.

The NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee has tweaked the Pairwise criteria, returning it to a previous state.

The committee has reverted its definition of "Team Under Consideration" back to an earlier one. Now, a TUC is one with a .500 or better RPI.

What does that mean? Well, put simply, it means the committee isn't going to limit itself to 25 TUCs. Instead, it will simply include every team that has an RPI of .5000 or better, which, right now, is 34 teams, more than half of the full complement of teams in the nation. It means the "TUC Cliff" is now more exaggerated - instead of being set at an arbitrary cutoff number, there can be more or less TUCs depending on how many teams are at .5000.

So, with that in mind, this is how the PairWise now looks. The changes listed at the bottom are against what was listed in yesterday's Bracketology, plus the inclusion of last night's Merrimack victory over BU.

1. Yale*
2. North Dakota*
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Denver
5. Michigan*
6. New Hampshire*
7. Boston College
8. Notre Dame
9. Wisconsin
10. Merrimack
11. Western Michigan
12. Dartmouth
13. Union
14. Nebraska-Omaha
15. Rensselaer
16. Miami
17. Maine
18. Boston University
19. Alaska
20. Princeton
21. Colorado College
22. Bemidji State
23. Minnesota
24. Ohio State
25. Ferris State
26. Minnesota State
27. Alaska-Anchorage
28. Brown
29. Clarkson
30. Robert Morris
31. Northern Michigan
32. Quinnipiac
33. Michigan State
34. St. Cloud State

In: Rensselaer, Western Michigan
Out: Boston University, Maine

In: Ferris State, Alaska-Anchorage, Brown, Clarkson, Robert Morris, Northern Michigan, Quinnipiac, Michigan State, St. Cloud State
Out: None

OK, so the Engineers are back in the tournament (barely) for the time being. What effect did this rule change have on the positioning? Why did Maine crash?

Well, the bottom line is, a lot of teams now have 10 games against TUCs under the new system, including Rensselaer for comparisons not involving teams they've played. The Engineers have exactly 10 games against TUCs and have a record of 4-4-2 in those games (0-1-0 against Yale, 1-0-0 against Dartmouth, 1-1-1 against Union, 1-0-0 against BU, 0-1-1 against CC, 1-0-0 against Brown, and 0-1-0 against Clarkson). So in every comparison against teams with 10 games against TUCs that isn't a past opponent, the TUC criteria now counts in the comparison.

The projected bracket:

1. Yale
2. Notre Dame
3. Merrimack
4. Nebraska-Omaha

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Boston College
3. Wisconsin
4. RIT

1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. New Hampshire
3. Western Michigan
4. Rensselaer

St. Louis
1. Denver
2. Michigan
3. Dartmouth
4. Union

How about that for an interesting lineup? A relatively close trip to see a rematch of the infamous 1985 Frozen Four semifinal game.

OK, so how did we arrive here? For the answer, let's look at some suddenly interesting comparisons.

Wisconsin: Even though the Badgers are ranked 9th in the PWR, they lose the comparison to the 15th ranked Engineers... for now. Why? Because right now, the only COps are UAH and BU. Both teams swept the Chargers in two games, but the Badgers lost to BU, while the Engineers won. So until UW plays CC, Rensselaer's 0-1-1 record against the Tigers doesn't factor in yet. That doesn't happen until the first week of March, so we should be ready for that. When that matchup comes down, we'll need the Tigers to pick up at least one win. The flip really happens because of the TUC records - Wisconsin is 6-8-2 against TUCs, and now that the Engineers have 10 games (and a .500 record) against TUCs, they win that criteria and thus the comparison despite losing the RPI criteria.

Western Michigan: The Broncos soared not only into the tournament field with this change, but into a #3 seed (and flipped the comparison with Rensselaer). How? Well, it's all in the TUCs. The Broncos had a decent record against TUCs, but it wasn't counting because a lot of teams didn't have 10 games against TUCs. Now they do, and it's paying off in spades.

Maine: The Engineers lose the comparison with a team not currently in the field. Why? RPI and COp (the Black Bears have 3 wins combined over Northeastern and Cornell). Maine's fall was instead precipitated by their atrocious TUC record - they are losing no less than four comparisons against teams with weaker RPI (Miami, CC, Ohio State and Ferris State) because of it (combined with COp losses to each). And it's putting the Engineers in the NCAA field right now. Sure it doesn't mean anything right now. But that doesn't mean a similar scenario couldn't be beneficial in mid-March.

So what about the TUC cliff? Well, it still exists. It's just defined by teams that are hovering around .5000 in RPI. For now, we'll call it any team plus or minus .0100 from that mark.

27. Alaska-Anchorage (.5100)
28. Ferris State (.5099)
29. Clarkson (.5095)
30. Robert Morris (.5095)
31. St. Cloud State (.5050)
32. Northern Michigan (.5042)
33. Michigan State (.5020)
34. Quinnipiac (.5000)
35. Niagara (.4995)
36. RIT (.4919)

Oh, look at that! Two teams that the Engineers could really use as TUCs, where before they had to vault 10 and 11 other teams to get to that level, now only need to string together a couple of wins and they'll be right there. Niagara and RIT represent two potential TUC wins for Rensselaer, and those could go a long way in pushing them back up the PairWise. Time to get out those purple pom-poms and that orange megaphone! Thanks, NCAA!

And finally, the cheering section. We're not going to completely redo the cheering section, we're just going to make a few changes.

Cornell/Colgate series: Cornell's now within striking distance of becoming a TUC in the next couple of weeks if they keep winning. Given that the Engineers lost to them, that would not be preferable. We're no longer rooting for Cornell, we're rooting for Colgate.

Wisconsin/Minnesota State series: We had been rooting for the Badgers in order to drop the Mavericks out as a TUC to hurt Nebraska-Omaha. With this change, not only are the Mavericks unlikely to drop right away, as a TUC they could continue to harm the Badgers' TUC record and keep that comparison flipped the Engineers' way. We're no longer rooting for Wisconsin, we're rooting for Minnesota State.

BC/BU: We're not really worried about losing BU as a TUC anymore. And while normally we'd be inclined to take the Terriers outright as a former opponent, we also have to consider Rensselaer's comparison with BU, which is close right now. Since the Engineers probably are not going to be in a position to catch BC (i.e. where a BU victory could do them some COp damage), their victory doesn't hurt as much. Instead of a tie, take Boston College.

Everything else basically stays as is.

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