Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 4

Last week, we predicted that the Engineers might be reaching a local peak or plateau in the PairWise Rankings. In fact, in the immediate aftermath of Rensselaer's 5-2 victory over the number one PWR team, there was some question as to whether they would nevertheless drop in the PWR. They didn't drop - but it was only by the slimmest of margins. Yet another lesson in why every game is important coming up, but first, the PairWise:

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

In: Boston University
Out: Nebraska-Omaha

In: Alaska-Anchorage, Robert Morris, Ferris State
Out: Clarkson, Bemidji State

So the Engineers are up to 6th. That's their highest position yet. As we're about to see, that's pretty tenuous. We'll get to the why in a little bit but first, the projected bracket.

1. Yale
2. Rensselaer
3. Merrimack
4. RIT

1. Denver
2. New Hampshire
3. Western Michigan
4. Boston University

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan
4. Dartmouth

St. Louis
1. Minnesota-Duluth
2. Boston College
3. Union
4. Notre Dame

Rensselaer's first round opponent in this scenario is the only one that has even less recent experience in the NCAA Tournament than the Engineers. Union's the only team outside of Atlantic Hockey with no NCAA Tournament experience, but the Engineers can't play them in the first round.

There was a bit of fudging that went on, especially with Yale and UNH normally needing to go into the same bracket, which can't happen since they're both hosts. Denver has to fly no matter where they go, which we've seen in the past result in their positioning out east - last year in Albany despite being the #1 overall seed. We can do the same thing this year in order to at least have a little bit of integrity, switching UNH and Wisconsin from what would have been the natural bracket. In a situation like this, I could once again see the committee switching Rensselaer and Wisconsin yet again to keep the Badgers in Green Bay and keep the Engineers in the east, even though that would wreak havoc with bracket integrity, even flipping Merrimack and Michigan as well. Then again, the committee did throw bracket integrity out the window to some extent last season... so that's what I'm going with here. Green Bay would be the other potential location for the Engineers under this PWR.

I could see another potential change by swapping UND and Dartmouth to St. Louis, and UMD/Notre Dame to Green Bay for ticket sales purposes, but since this is Engineer Bracketology and it's only February 1, I'm not going to get wrapped up in it.

OK, now before we get to comparisons, I want to go over the "TUC Cliff" first. Hopefully, not literally (get it? over the... never mind), but this week we see even more the importance of watching the TUC Cliff, which we've defined as .5000 RPI, +/- .0100.

24. Ohio State (.5078)
25. St. Cloud State (.5074)
26. Michigan State (.5041)
27. Northern Michigan (.5041)
28. Ferris State (.5036)
29. Alaska-Anchorage (.5025)
30. Robert Morris (.5023)
31. Quinnipiac (.5009)
32. Brown (.5009)
33. Niagara (.5005)
34. Clarkson (.4991)
35. Bemidji State (.4989)
36. RIT (.4960)
37. Cornell (.4934)

See those three teams right around the cliff... or even better given the Engineers' opponent on Friday, four teams? All are relevant to Rensselaer.

The Engineers picked up two TUC wins last weekend with wins over Brown and Yale. They also lost a TUC loss when Clarkson ceased to be a TUC. That makes their TUC record 8-3-2, second best in the PairWise behind Yale (9-3-0). Rensselaer wins every TUC criteria comparison right now except against the Bulldogs. That is huge. But look at the cliff. Three of those eight wins are right there on the edge, literally teetering, in Brown and Niagara. One loss by either next week by either and they go off. Meanwhile, there's that potential TUC loss against Clarkson and now another one against Cornell that are lurking right below the cliff. If they get some wins, those could factor back in.

Rensselaer visits Quinnipiac on Friday, and a win over the Bobcats would almost certainly knock QU out of the TUC ranks. Unavoidable for now, but if the Engineers win, we'd want the Q to get back up into those ranks again. RIT continues to lurk underneath the cliff, and that's another potential TUC win.

Bottom line? We need to be HUGE Brown and Niagara fans for the rest of the season, especially Brown since they're two wins by themselves. We can throw in RIT as well. There aren't many games not including the Engineers that we need to be more interested in. Regardless of whether the Engineers beat Cornell and Clarkson in the return games coming up, we still want them to not be TUCs, as Rensselaer doesn't need the extra TUC games (we'll have plenty) and with a TUC record over .500, the potential for adding even a win and a loss will drag down the winning percentage. Root against Clarkson and Cornell? I know, I'm not telling you anything you wouldn't have been doing anyway.

OK, onto the comparisons. The Engineers are currently winning comparisons with every team below them in the PWR (now including Western Michigan and Union) and lose to teams ahead of them. It's still a tough row to hoe for Rensselaer to rise much further, but we can still root for losses from above. That's about all there is when you look at those five comparison losses - and a big part of it stems from that opening weekend in Colorado Springs and the 0-1-1 COp record it brings against the WCHA teams that comprise three of those five comparisons.

Yale: Despite H2H now being a wash, the Bulldogs still win this one 4-1. They'd have to start losing more frequently for this to become a comparison in play, that's really about it, since COp relies so heavily on their ECAC record.

Denver: Another reason to root for CC this week - a sweep by the Tigers over the Pioneers would make the COp a wash, as CC are the only common opponent. Unfortunately, that's all it can do. If CC had picked up one more point against Denver in their last weekend series, Rensselaer could have had a shot at flipping this comparison this week. This one is still pretty tough to flip right now unless a CC sweep helps drop Denver's RPI into striking distance for the Engineers.

Minnesota-Duluth: Clarkson is the only COp with the Bulldogs right now, and they beat Clarkson twice against Rensselaer's loss. Once they play CC, Rensselaer just adds in 0-1-1 to that criteria. The Engineers' TUC lead, as we just saw, is precarious.

North Dakota: The Engineers were actually winning this comparison for about an hour on Saturday night after beating Yale, but it was only because the UND-CC game wasn't over yet. CC's win on Friday opened the door to this comparison being interesting, but UND closed the door with a win on Saturday. They will win the COp criteria unless they get swept by CC in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, in which case it becomes a wash (unlikely). Rensselaer leads in TUC now, but again, that is precarious. UND's got a big RPI lead. This one will be tough.

The bottom line on these four teams? We can't do anything with them, really, unless they lose.

The fifth is just about the same, with a few wrinkles.

Boston College: The Eagles and Engineers are both unbeaten against their common opponents - Colgate, Northeastern, and Boston University - but Rensselaer's tie with Northeastern against BC's unbeaten AND untied record (5-0-0) with those teams gives BC the nod and right now, the comparison win given Rensselaer's TUC edge. The good news? BC still has to play NU at least twice more (Feb 18/19), and has another game with BU at the Beanpot, while Rensselaer just has one game against Colgate. The bad news? BC could potentially play Harvard in the Beanpot, which would add a COp loss for the Engineers if that happens. So what do we want to happen here? We want BC to lose to BU in the first round of the Beanpot, and then at the very least play NU in the consolation round (or in the championship round, if need be). Even BC playing Harvard (unless they lose, which is unlikely) would likely spell doom for this comparison. That makes the Beanpot intriguing indeed, since the Engineers played three of those teams this year and are trying to win a comparison with the fourth.

Now, quickly, a look at some of the comparisons the Engineers are winning. Similar comparisons are grouped.

Wisconsin and New Hampshire: The Engineers are winning these comparisons on TUC/COp, which works if you can get to the end of the season like that, but RPI is always the trump since it's a tiebreaker, and comparisons in which the losing team wins the RPI criteria are usually at least somewhat in doubt. These teams need to lose to drop their RPI below that of the Engineers. Wins by the Engineers are of big help here, too.

Michigan and Union: Rensselaer has taken an RPI lead against both of these teams, thus flipping the comparisons in their favor. Don't ask how it happened with Union, since the Dutchmen and the Engineers beat the same teams last week, probably just the way other games shook out. They are still close, however, and need to be shored up a bit. So we root for these teams to lose as well.

Western Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha: These comparisons are relatively safe right now, but not if Brown and Niagara cease to be TUCs. Then they're either going to flip or come very close to flipping. Also, we should generally root for these teams' "good TUCs" to fall out, like Michigan State for WMU, for instance. That's not always possible, as you'll see shortly.

So here it is for this week, the Engineer Cheering Section. Remember, the big teams we're rooting for are Brown, Niagara, and RIT, and we're specifically rooting against Clarkson and Cornell.

Engineer Cheering Section
Brown over Harvard

Canisius over Robert Morris

Rensselaer over Quinnipiac
Brown over Dartmouth
Princeton over Union
Harvard over Yale
Cornell over Clarkson
Northeastern over Merrimack
UMass over Boston College
Boston University over UMass-Lowell
Maine over New Hampshire
RIT over Air Force
Niagara over Mercyhurst
UConn over Army
Bentley over Sacred Heart
Ferris State over Alaska
Bowling Green over Western Michigan
Lake Superior State over Northern Michigan
Miami over Michigan
Ohio State over Michigan State
Minnesota over Minnesota-Duluth
Alaska-Anchorage over Michigan Tech
Minnesota State over Bemidji State
St. Cloud State over Nebraska-Omaha
Colorado College over Denver

Rensselaer over Princeton
Colgate over Clarkson
Dartmouth over Yale
St. Lawrence over Cornell
Quinnipiac over Union
Maine over New Hampshire
UMass over Merrimack
RIT over Air Force
UConn over Army
Bentley over Sacred Heart
Canisius over Robert Morris
Niagara over Mercyhurst
Miami over Michigan
Ferris State over Alaska
Ohio State over Michigan State
Bowling Green over Western Michigan
Lake Superior State over Northern Michigan
Minnesota State over Bemidji State
Colorado College over Denver
Minnesota over Minnesota-Duluth
Alaska-Anchorage over Michigan Tech
St. Cloud State over Nebraska-Omaha

Harvard over Northeastern
Boston University over Boston College

Clarkson at Cornell: Ugh. Two potential TUC losses here. Root for Cornell, since Clarkson's closer to becoming a TUC, and since Clarkson will probably beat Colgate on Saturday. It's practically a no-win scenario. A tie might work. Might work.

Merrimack at Northeastern: A win by the Huskies would keep the Engineers' comparison with Merrimack safer. A Warrior win might make it a bit troublesome, thanks to the convoluted and close COp criteria (seven different teams, a rarity for non-conference comparisons).

Union at Quinnipiac: This one is partially contingent on what happens on Friday. If the Engineers beat the Bobcats, it's absolutely Quinnipiac. If the Engineers lose to or tie the Bobcats, it's probably still the Bobcats based on the need to ding Union's RPI, but if Union loses on Friday, it might be worthwhile to root for them here in case of a Rensselaer loss or tie on Friday to help eliminate a "bad TUC" in Quinnipiac.

WMU/BGSU: At least a win and a tie by the Falcons could all but cinch up the COp with the Broncos despite the Union and SLU debacles.

SCSU/UNO: St. Cloud is currently a "good TUC" for the Mavericks, but a Husky sweep would turn them into a "bad TUC" (thus, good for the Engineers), not to mention ding UNO's already smarting RPI.

Beanpot: Who we root for in the BU/BC game depends on who wins the Harvard/Northeastern game. Honestly, we'd prefer it if Harvard beats NU and BU beats BC, but the main priority should be BC not playing Harvard in the second round of the Beanpot. If they do meet, it would be best if it happened in the consolation game, because that would mean BC would have at least lost to BU first. The best case scenario? BC loses to BU, then loses to NU. Of course, it'll never happen, but that's what the cheering section is for. Best case scenarios. Second best would be BC losing to NU in the championship. Worst case scenario, BC beats Harvard in the Beanpot championship.

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