Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 3

We said last week that if the Engineers didn't keep winning, nothing else that happened in the Bracketology would really matter.

Want to see what happens when you win games? This is what happens when you win games.

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

In: None
Out: None

In: Niagara
Out: Robert Morris, Alaska-Anchorage, Ferris State

Now, it's worth mentioning that the Engineers' rise in the PairWise from 15th last week (after the TUC adjustment was made public) to 7th now (technically, tied for 7th with Wisconsin) is not 100% a function of their weekend sweep. It was partially a function of beating Dartmouth and getting a good amount of help from last week's Engineer Cheering Section - especially on Saturday, with BU's victory over UNH, North Dakota's victory over Nebraska-Omaha, and yes, even Niagara's weekend sweep of Sacred Heart (which made them a TUC) coming through big-time.

Here's the projected bracket as it currently stands.

1. Yale
2. Rensselaer
3. Western Michigan
4. Nebraska-Omaha

Green Bay
1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Wisconsin
3. Notre Dame
4. RIT

1. North Dakota
2. Michigan
3. New Hampshire
4. Union

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

But wait, you say. If Rensselaer is the #7 overall seed, shouldn't they be matched up in the same bracket with the #2 overall seed, and therefore be in Green Bay? Normally, yes. But bear in mind that the Engineers and the Badgers are technically tied for 7th in the PWR, as both have 23 comparison wins. There are two ways to break that tie, and both have been used by the committee. The first, as makes sense in a two-way tie, is to look at who wins the comparison between the two teams. That would be Rensselaer (more on that later). The other way is simply to use RPI. That would be Wisconsin. Since both 7th and 8th are in the same "band," that is, both the Engineers and the Badgers are #2 seeds no matter which order you have them in, they're easy to interchange.

Strictly by overall rank if you use the first tie-break method, the Engineers should be in Green Bay with UMD and the Badgers should be in Bridgeport with Yale. But really, does it make sense to send UW from Wisconsin to Connecticut (remember, Michigan Tech is the host in Green Bay, not the Badgers), and the Engineers from New York to Wisconsin? Not really. For the sake of ticket sales and sanity, we can swap the two by breaking the tie using RPI instead of the comparison win - or we can simply swap both the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in both regionals. That's been done before, too.

As with all projected brackets, there's always room for educated guesses. My educated guess leads me to believe that this PWR would produce a bracket like this, but I'd leave some possibility that the Engineers would face Notre Dame instead of Western Michigan.

Now then... the nitty gritty. Rensselaer currently wins all but eight of its comparisons with other TUCs. That's pretty good. Two of them, however, are to teams that are ranked lower in the PairWise. Normally, we should expect to win those. Let's have a look.

Western Michigan: The Broncos have been an odd team this year. A lot of their wins have been against good teams that are now TUCs. Most of their losses have been against non-TUCs. That's brings down their RPI considerably compared to other teams that have a lot of TUC wins. Right now, the COps are Union and SLU, since the Broncos haven't played BGSU yet, and they're 3-0-1 against the Dutchmen and Saints. That's a big deal in this comparison. So what we need right now is for Western Michigan to lose, especially to TUCs. We also can root for TUCs they've been successful against to fall under .5000 RPI, or for non-TUCs they've struggled against to get above .5000 RPI.

Union: This one's more challenging, but ultimately simpler. Union holds a 3-2 comparison edge. Both teams got one win in H2H, so that's a wash. That means it comes down to RPI, TUC, and COp, the latter of which can change wildly since every other ECAC team is a COp. Generally speaking, COp will go to whichever team is ahead of the other in the league standings (a few common non-conference opponents with different results notwithstanding, like UConn). Rensselaer is winning the TUC criteria, Union the RPI and COp, providing the difference. It's pretty simple here. If Union loses and Rensselaer wins (and keeps its "good" TUCs like Niagara and Brown) going forward, this will eventually flip. We just need Union to lose.

Those are the "flippable" comparisons, as most comparisons lost to teams ranked lower in the PWR will tend to be. The other six? Not so much. Rensselaer loses comparisions right now with Yale, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Denver, Boston College, and Michigan, and they lose those comparisons by a combined 18-0 (2-0 to UND since there are no COps until Friday, 4-0 to Yale with the H2H loss).

Therefore, with these teams, the Engineers will need some help to catch them. It's not a priority, which means that if one of those top six teams winning will help stabilize the Engineers in the tournament field, we want that to happen - like Yale at Union on Friday. When it's not, like UMass-Lowell at Boston College on Saturday, we root against them.

Now, let's look at some of the close comparisions Rensselaer is currently winning.

Wisconsin: This one still pivots on the UW/CC matchup in March, but right now is in the Engineers' favor on TUC/COp. We root against the Badgers for now to help lower their RPI as a hedge against that UW/CC series not going CC's way. Notably, every WCHA team save Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage is a TUC right now, so most losses help twice as much going forward. Not this week, though, they play MTU.

Notre Dame: Actually the same as Wisconsin, but with the added benefit that the Engineers have clinched the COp comparision (BGSU/BU). Rensselaer wins TUC/COp, but is close on both RPI and TUC. Same as UW and WMU - we want the Irish to lose, especially to TUCs.

New Hampshire: Not going to repeat myself - same as the last two, UNH needs to keep losing to TUCs because it's TUC/COp for Rensselaer right now.

Dartmouth: OK, this one isn't that close anymore, but I want to illustrate why that is. The season sweep completed on Saturday is huge in this comparison. Typically, 3 points in a comparison will get you to a win, and the 2 H2H victories mean the Engineers just need one out of RPI, TUC, and COp. Right now, they have RPI. As long as Rensselaer keeps winning, we want Dartmouth to generally do the same, though dropping an ECAC matchup here or there wouldn't hurt so we can get that COp turned around, too.

Time for the TUC Cliff:

28. Brown (.5094)
29. Niagara (.5074)
30. Bemidji State (.5037)
31. Michigan State (.5026)
32. Quinnipiac (.5011)
33. Alaska-Anchorage (.4994)
34. Robert Morris (.4985)
35. Ferris State (.4979)
36. RIT (.4960)

We see a couple of "good" TUCs for the Engineers near the edge, those being Brown and Niagara. They currently represent 2 important wins (and could hopefully represent 3 after Friday). A win over Brown on Friday would probably drop the Bears a little, but it's unavoidable in the short term - the win is more important. If Rensselaer does beat Brown on Friday, we're going to be huge Brown fans for the rest of the year - especially on Saturday. RIT lingers there as a potential good TUC as well, we just need them to keep winning, their tie against Holy Cross on Saturday was a little disappointing.

* Wisconsin is 2-0 against Bemidji State and has a win over Michigan State. They are 1-1 against Alaska-Anchorage.
* Western Michigan is 2-0 against Michigan State, and 0-1-1 against Ferris State.
* Notre Dame is 2-0 against Michigan State, and haven't played Ferris State yet.

Based on these three main teams with whose TUC records we are concerned, we want Michigan State and Bemidji State NOT to be TUCs, and we want Ferris State and Alaska-Anchorage AS TUCs.

Before we get to the Cheering Section, I'd like to point out that the PWR is a very integrated system. The one thing putting the Engineers into a tie for 7th instead of just being straight 8th, besides their comparison win with Wisconsin, is Merrimack's comparison win over the Badgers. It would be nice going forward if that could stay in position as well, though it probably won't.

It's a big Cheering Section this week. Every game has at least some impact (in some cases, it's microscopic), but all of them with the exception of a handful of Atlantic Hockey games could have a discernable impact. Here they are.

Bentley over UMass-Lowell
Princeton over Sacred Heart

Ferris State over Michigan State

Rensselaer over Brown
Colgate over Harvard
Dartmouth over Cornell
Princeton over St. Lawrence
Quinnipiac over Clarkson
Yale over Union
Boston University over Maine
Northeastern over UMass
Providence over New Hampshire
Vermont over Merrimack
Bentley over Army
UConn over Holy Cross
Niagara over Robert Morris
Bowling Green over Lake Superior State
Ohio State over Alaska
Miami over Notre Dame
Northern Michigan over Western Michigan
Alaska-Anchorage over Minnesota
St. Cloud State over Minnesota State
Michigan Tech over Wisconsin
Colorado College over North Dakota
Alabama-Huntsville over Nebraska-Omaha

Rensselaer over Yale
Princeton over Clarkson
Quinnipiac over St. Lawrence
Brown over Union
Dartmouth over Colgate
Harvard over Cornell
UMass-Lowell over Boston College
Boston University over Maine
Northeastern over UMass
Providence over New Hampshire
Vermont over Merrimack
Bentley over Army
UConn over Holy Cross
RIT over Mercyhurst
Niagara over Robert Morris
Miami over Notre Dame
Bowling Green over Lake Superior State
Ohio State over Alaska
Northern Michigan over Western Michigan
Michigan over Michigan State
Alaska-Anchorage over Minnesota
St. Cloud State over Minnesota State
Michigan Tech over Wisconsin
Colorado College over North Dakota
Alabama-Huntsville over Nebraska-Omaha

Notable explanations:
CC/UND series: A CC sweep could help put North Dakota's comparison with the Engineers up for grabs, given the effect it will have on RPI and COp. As it is, though, only a CC sweep would help because Rensselaer was 0-1-1 against the Tigers. A 3-point week for CC would make it a wash, and 2 or less points clinches the COp for UND unless the Sioux and Tigers meet in the playoffs. Basically, if UND gets a win this weekend, or two ties, the comparision with them will become practically unflippable.

WMU/NMU series: Big one for the Engineers here. WMU already has a loss and a tie to the Wildcats slightly dragging down their TUC record. If the Wildcats can do well in Kalamazoo this weekend with a split or better, it'll drag down the Broncos' TUC record.

Rensselaer/Brown: The Bears (1-0-0) are a common opponent with Yale (2-1-0), Union (1-0-0), UNH (0-0-1), Dartmouth (1-0-0), Boston University (0-1-1), Princeton (1-1-0), Minnesota State (1-0-0), Clarkson (1-0-0) and Quinnipiac (0-0-1).

Rensselaer/Yale: The Bulldogs (0-1-0) are a common opponent with Union (0-1-0), Dartmouth (0-2-0), Princeton (0-1-0), Colorado College (0-1-0), Brown (1-2-0), Clarkson (0-1-0), and Quinnipiac (0-1-0).

Dartmouth and Princeton: Remember, this Cheering Section pertains to PWR implications only. For the sake of the ECAC bye, these teams losing is a good thing. So there's a silver lining to basically any result with these teams right now.

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