Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 6

The PairWise Rankings are an objective method of determining the NCAA tournament field. It does not care if your stud goaltender is sitting out with a concussion. It doesn't factor in referee screwjobs. All it concerns itself with is wins and losses. Did your team win, and who did they beat? Did your team lose, and who did they lose to?

Once February arrives, it is worse to lose to good teams than it is to lose to bad teams. That's just the plain truth of the PairWise. After the Engineers lost to last-place Colgate on Friday, their PairWise drop was minimal - from 7th to 8th, still a #2 seed. After losing to Cornell? Well, you be the judge.

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

In: Miami
Out: Western Michigan

TUCs
In: St. Cloud State
Out: Michigan State, Ohio State


The plain truth is that almost nothing went right for Rensselaer last weekend - from the aforementioned issues that made competing itself difficult, to the final results, to the results elsewhere in the nation.

How does that effect the bracket? Well, now it looks like this:

Bridgeport
1. Yale
2. Nebraska-Omaha
3. Michigan
4. RIT

Manchester
1. Boston College
2. Union
3. New Hampshire
4. Wisconsin

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Minnesota-Duluth
3. Miami
4. Rensselaer

St. Louis
1. Denver
2. Merrimack
3. Notre Dame
4. Dartmouth


Well, that's annoying, now isn't it? You lose to Colgate and you're still a #2 seed. You lose to Cornell and you're all the way down to a #4 team, which, by definition is a bubble team, playing against one of the top teams in the nation. Remember, in this scenario, we presume that the top teams in each conference is going to win the league championship. But what if it doesn't play out that way?

Say this is the final PairWise after Maine has just won the Hockey East tournament. Whoops. Bye bye Wisconsin. Oh, Minnesota just put together a cinderella run through the WCHA tournament and hoisted the Broadmoor Trophy? Well, make it 16 straight seasons without an NCAA bid for us.

So what's happened? Well, we're still waiting and hoping for Brown and Niagara to pop back up in the TUC ranks. That hasn't happened yet. The loss to Cornell on Saturday also makes them public enemy number one for Rensselaer's NCAA chances. Why? Because they represent 2 TUC losses.

Rensselaer's TUC record is still actually fairly decent. Right now, it's at 7-5-2. That's enough to win a number of comparisons, including those with Notre Dame and New Hampshire (thanks to COp wins as well). But it's also not enough to best some top teams in the PWR. What if we were to drop those two Cornell losses? 7-3-2 is much better. Best case scenario? Brown and Niagara rise up, Cornell drops out. 10-3-2. That's hard to beat. And that is why one cannot simply root for one's own team and hope for the best when it comes to the PairWise.

So now's about the time that we want to look at the TUC cliff.

25. Cornell (.5091)
26. Alaska (.5091)
27. St. Cloud State (.5083)
28. Robert Morris (.5044)
29. Alaska-Anchorage (.5032)
---
30. Bemidji State (.5000)
31. Northern Michigan (.4996)
32. Quinnipiac (.4995)
33. Ohio State (.4928)
34. Lake Superior State (.4978)
35. Brown (.4938)
36. Michigan State (.4928)
37. Clarkson (.4922)
38. Niagara (.4920)


Before you ask... Bemidji State isn't a TUC because their RPI simply rounds up to .5000, but it's still technically under it.

OK, so this doesn't look all that great for the Engineers' immediate prospects. Cornell is looking good where they are - even one loss right now might not knock them down (unless, maybe, it's against Harvard). Brown and Niagara, it seems, are going to need to string some wins together.

Then there's Clarkson and Quinnipiac. We already know that we don't want Clarkson as a TUC even if Rensselaer picks up a victory on Saturday, because they still bring down the overall TUC record. Hopefully, an Engineers win would help keep that from happening anyway. Quinnipiac, as of right now, would do the same, but we're in need of some TUC help, and that could come via the Bobcats if Rensselaer picks up a win on Senior Night in two weeks. In fact, that last home weekend could be very important, since it could potentially create two additional TUC victories. So what do we want to do with Quinnipiac right now? Let's root for them and hope for the best in two weeks.

I'm going to bold this next sentence because it's an important concept: the removal of Cornell as a TUC and/or the return of Brown as a TUC will do more for Rensselaer's NCAA chances than the Engineers themselves can do. And that's why what happens elsewhere is just as important.

Now, let's examine some comparisons. We need to flip as many of these as possible to stay in a good position.

Dartmouth: It doesn't appear that Rensselaer is going to be able to catch the Big Green in COp unless something drastic happens. Fortunately, those two H2H wins mean we only need to flip one out of RPI/TUC/COp to win this comparison, and right now it's close on RPI - very close. Problem is, Dartmouth plays Cornell this week. We do want Cornell out as a TUC, but a Dartmouth win helps them in both RPI and TUC. Hmm. Remember, we're still thinking long-term. Dartmouth's win would push Cornell closer to that cliff. If Cornell exits the TUC ranks, this comparison flips to Rensselaer on TUC.

Miami: Since the only COp is Bowling Green and Miami won all four games against the Falcons, this one is RPI/TUC only, and as we know that means it's RPI only due to the tiebreak. It's close. Engineers win, Miami loses. That simple.

Michigan: 3-0 for Michigan right now, but RPI/TUC are close and have to be flipped back. Michigan, Cornell, and Alaska (Wolverines 3-0-1 against Nanooks) lose, Rensselaer and Brown win. Also simple.

Nebraska-Omaha: Here's a case where there's an otherwise uninteresting TUC that's really providing some juice for someone else. In this case, UNO has a 3-0-1 record against St. Cloud State, which became a TUC this week. Throw in the TUC problems Rensselaer is having, and there's the crux of the problem here. We have to root against SCSU. Otherwise, RPI is fairly close too, so we also root against the Mavericks - not that we haven't already been doing that.

The other comparisons that Rensselaer is losing are not close to flipping right now due to an RPI gap - seven in all. But these four flipping to the Engineers would put them right back into a comfortable position.

So here's what we're looking for this week.

Engineer Cheering Section
Tonight
St. Lawrence over Clarkson

Thursday
Niagara over Canisius

Friday
Rensselaer over St. Lawrence
Union over Clarkson
Colgate over Dartmouth
Harvard over Cornell
Brown over Princeton
Quinnipiac over Yale
UMass over Merrimack
Northeastern over Boston College
Providence over Boston University
Vermont over New Hampshire
Ferris State over Notre Dame
Bowling Green over Northern Michigan
Western Michigan ties Michigan
North Dakota over St. Cloud State
Alaska-Anchorage over Nebraska-Omaha
Minnesota over Wisconsin
Colorado College over Bemidji State

Saturday
Rensselaer over Clarkson
St. Lawrence over Union
Brown over Quinnipiac
Dartmouth over Cornell
Providence over Boston University
UMass over Merrimack
Vermont over New Hampshire
Northeastern over Boston College
Niagara over Canisius
RIT over Robert Morris
Ferris State over Notre Dame
Bowling Green over Northern Michigan
Michigan ties Western Michigan
North Dakota over St. Cloud State
Alaska-Anchorage over Nebraska-Omaha
Minnesota over Wisconsin
Colorado College over Bemidji State

Sunday
Princeton over Yale


WMU/Michigan series: A tricky one, this. Michigan is one of those flippable comparisons, but we don't want the WMU comparison to flip back in the Broncos' favor, either, since we know from prior editions of EB the last thing we want is WMU getting more TUC wins. Michigan State dropping out as a TUC is keeping that one in Rensselaer's favor. So here's what we want - a split, or two ties, with the Engineers sweeping in the North Country, and it should help both situations out a touch.

NU/BC series: This isn't as important as it was last week, but just in case the Engineers can get back where they were (and that's not impossible - you can rise in the PWR just as fast as you can fall), that COp with BC hinges on NU winning one of these games. They almost pulled it off last night, losing in overtime in the Beanpot final, 7-6.

PC/BU series: Wait, you say. We're supposed to root for BU, they're one of our non-conference opponents. Well, not this week. They're a little too close for comfort in the PWR, we don't want them to potentially displace the Engineers. Plus, we aren't worried about any COp comparison with the Friars, and we've got more important things to worry about than BU's residual RPI impact. Take Providence.

Brown/Quinnipiac: We do want Quinnipiac to be in position to be a TUC at the end of the year, but as I've said over and over and over again, we really want Brown to be a TUC at the end of the year. That trumps here - QU will have other chances to pick up wins against teams we aren't in desperate need with.

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