Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 2

We said it at the very outset. Nothing else matters if the Engineers don't win games. Unfortunately, the game they won this week didn't mean much for the NCAA race, since Colgate's RPI is so pitifully bad.

It's just a fact of life in the ECAC as it pertains to the PairWise Rankings. No matter how good a season the league is having - and it's having a very good season - losses hurt more in the ECAC than they do in the WCHA or Hockey East, and it takes more wins to rise in the rankings than it does in the WCHA or Hockey East.

Case in point - the Engineers. Sitting in a #2 seed position two weeks ago, one loss to Clarkson moved them down to a #3 seed. Now, after losing to Cornell (and having a pretty lousy weekend in games they weren't playing in, as well)?

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

Since last week:
In: Dartmouth, Maine
Out: Rensselaer, Western Michigan

In: Bemidji State
Out: Ferris State

Yup. As of right now, Rensselaer would be on the outside looking in - but not by much. An increase of .0002 RPI, and they would be back in business. And with four home games coming up, they've got the potential to be hanging around, especially with two big Saturday matchups against Dartmouth and Yale beckoning.

Rensselaer was actually still in the tournament field as of Sunday morning despite the Cornell loss, but fell out by the most razor-thin of RPI differences after the Brown upset over Yale. Yes, we did say that Brown beating Yale would be a good result, and we've got to stick by that despite this. More on that later. But it does at least go to show exactly how every single game can have an impact on the PWR.

Here's the bracket projection.

1. Yale
2. Wisconsin
3. Maine
4. Nebraska-Omaha

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Notre Dame
3. Dartmouth
4. RIT

St. Louis
1. Denver
2. Boston College
3. Union
4. Merrimack

1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Michigan
3. New Hampshire
4. Boston University

That's a straight up mess. Being forced to jam Yale in Bridgeport and UNH in Manchester, having three WCHA #1 seeds, and having UNO hanging in there as a #4 seed creates a really ugly and somewhat unbalanced bracket. Fortunately, we've still got two months to go, so this logjam's got plenty of time to clear.

Not much to talk about here, so let's go ahead and move on to the comparison analysis.

Western Michigan: Notably, the Engineers win the comparison with the Broncos right now, but still trail them in the PWR. That's in part because of those two WMU wins over Union. Even though the Dutchmen have a solid RPI lead over the Broncos, those two H2H wins give the Broncos the comparison win. WMU also has a quirky comparison win over Boston College due to their odd COp and TUC edges (which likely won't last). The RPI lead for Rensselaer over WMU is razor-thin, and that's the edge right now. The Engineers could use some losses by the Broncos.

Miami: The opportunity to get a definitive edge on the Redhawks fell by the wayside this past weekend when Bowling Green couldn't get the job done, falling to 0-4 against Miami this season and making the COp comparison between Rensselaer and Miami a wash, since both teams were 1.000 against the Falcons. The only way that could change would be for BGSU to face Miami in the playoffs and beat them. So this comparison, down the road, will likely be RPI and TUC records only, which really means that only the RPI comparison is important here, since it's the tie-breaker.

Alaska: The Nanooks went 1.000 against COps with Engineers, beating Union, CC, and BGSU (twice). UAF has clinched this criteria - even if Rensselaer sweeps Union in a playoff series and BGSU sweeps Alaska in a playoff series, the Nanooks will still have a better COp record. That means in order for the Engineers to win this comparison down the road, they must win both RPI and TUC comparisons. Or maybe it would be nice if the Nanooks just weren't a TUC at all, and therefore there'd be no comparision.

Boston University: The Engineers could really use some wins over Harvard and Brown in the next couple of weekends to help out the COp comparison here. A COp win, combined with the H2H win, could really give Rensselaer the edge here. As it is, BU currently has a 2-1 comparison win on RPI and COp, and a better record against TUCs, because the game between the two teams doesn't count for the sake of their TUC comparison.

The TUC cliff:

21. Minnesota
22. Colorado College
23. Minnesota State
24. Bemidji State
25. Ohio State
26. Brown
27. Alaska-Anchorage
28. Ferris State
29. Clarkson
30. Robert Morris

Not much to see here either, other than Brown sitting at 26th, right on the edge. That's due in large part to their victory over Yale, which is why we wanted them to beat Yale at least once, despite the game's immediate effect of moving Rensselaer out of the NCAA field. At this point in time, we definitely want to see Brown as a TUC. If the Engineers can pick up a win next Friday at home over the Bears, they become huge, huge Bears fans for the rest of the season - and remember the ramifications for the BU comparison, too. Excuse me, I need to swish some mouthwash.

Also of note, a few WCHA teams that are currently TUCs near the edge, especially Colorado College. That 0-1-1 record that the Engineers have against the Tigers could be a hindrance down the line. We're projecting that Rensselaer will eventually have 10 games against TUCs regardless of whether or not CC is one of them even just among ECAC teams (Yale x2, Dartmouth x2, Princeton x2, Union x3, plus one other potential like Brown or Clarkson) but they've also got that win over BU in the back pocket, too. So they don't need CC, which means it would probably be best if CC weren't a TUC.

The other two teams to keep an eye on are Minnesota and Minnesota State. Nebraska-Omaha, which looks like it could be a key comparison, is helped by having both of those teams as TUCs.

Engineer Cheering Section
Boston University over Merrimack


Harvard over Northeastern


Rensselaer over Harvard
Yale over Clarkson
Cornell over Colgate
Dartmouth over Union
Brown over St. Lawrence
Providence over New Hampshire
UMass-Lowell over Merrimack
Boston College ties Boston University

UConn over Air Force
Bentley over Mercyhurst
RIT over Holy Cross
Niagara over Sacred Heart
Ohio State over Notre Dame
Michigan over Alaska
Michigan State over Miami
Lake Superior State over Western Michigan
Wisconsin over Minnesota State
North Dakota over Nebraska-Omaha
Alabama-Huntsville over Colorado College

Rensselaer over Dartmouth
Brown over Clarkson
Cornell over Colgate
Harvard over Union
St. Lawrence over Yale
Boston University over New Hampshire
Northeastern over Maine
UMass-Lowell over Boston College
UConn over Air Force
Bentley over Mercyhurst
RIT over Holy Cross
Niagara over Sacred Heart
Michigan State over Miami
Ohio State over Notre Dame
Lake Superior State over Western Michigan
Michigan over Alaska
Wisconsin over Minnesota State
North Dakota over Nebraska-Omaha
Alabama-Huntsville over Colorado College

BU/Merrimack: Aren't the Engineers right behind the Terriers in the PWR right now? Yes. But they're also right behind Merrimack, too. There isn't really a "right answer," here, so we go with BU as a past opponent, partially because that'll help the COp with Merrimack.

Harvard/Northeastern: Another tricky "league opponent vs. non-league opponent" matchup. This one is actually probably pretty irrelevant given how bad both teams are, but since we play Harvard twice it's a good idea to get them at least as strong as they possibly can get.

Cornell/Colgate series: This one's hard to figure because neither of these teams are TUCs or are likely to become TUCs. The win over Colgate was meaningless, but there's often some credence in the idea that you want your losses to have been against good teams. These games are not overly important, but there's a slight edge to Cornell in them.

Dartmouth/Union: Tough call, especially given that the Engineers play the Big Green the next night. Both are teams Rensselaer should be looking to reel in on the PWR board. Either way this goes down, the Engineers are likely to pick up a COp edge against the loser, but if the 'Tute beats Dartmouth on Saturday, that's another H2H win and that makes the comparison a lot better there. So take Dartmouth here, as long as Rensselaer can get the job done on Saturday.

BC/BU: Rooting for a tie? Sure, why not. Remember, we do want BU to do well enough to stay a TUC, but we also want to catch them in the PWR. A tie would likely work to help both of those in the long run.

UAH/CC series: This is actually the most interesting series of the weekend from Rensselaer's perspective. If UAH can work anything on the weekend, i.e. not being swept, it'll help the Engineers considerably. Even one tie would put CC's place as a TUC in danger (and possibly drop out RPI's 0-1-1 record against them) and simultaneously give the Engineers a COp edge over the Tigers, since UAH and Yale are the only common opponents this season (and both have one loss to the Bulldogs).

BU/UNH: Ah, more BU. This one has a double purpose - BU as a TUC, and hopefully, dropping New Hampshire a bit more.

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