Monday, March 14, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 10

We've basically become the Bracketology blog lately, and we're OK with that.

With one week to go, the Engineers are not currently in the tournament field, but that could well change. The PairWise, as it exists now:

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

So the Engineers are just outside of the field if the tournament started today. Fortunately, the tournament doesn't start today.

There are only 19 games left to be played. That makes figuring out what we need a whole lot easier, although there are still tens of thousands of permutations of what is possible.

Let's look at the Engineers' comparisons that can still be affected - and the news here is mostly good.

New Hampshire: This is the one comparison that Rensselaer is winning that it could forseeably lose, but it will only happen if UNH wins the Hockey East championship.

Colorado College: This one comes down to a single game - Thursday's play-in game between Alaska-Anchorage. If the Seawolves win, the Engineers win the comparison. If the Tigers win, they will win the comparison. It's that excessively simple. If UAA beats CC, Rensselaer's chances of making the tournament improve dramatically.

Dartmouth: This one's tricky. We're looking for the Big Green to tank - that is, lose twice. That's not easy. Pretty much anything else and Dartmouth wins this one.

Notre Dame: This flipped back to the Irish after Minnesota State dropped out as a TUC, but all is not lost. If ND loses to Miami on Friday and then either loses or ties the consolation game, this flips back to the Engineers.

That's it. Those are the only four comparisons we're really looking at, and we're only winning one of them right now, so that means the Engineers are going to be hard-pressed to fall much farther from where they are right now. The more likely question is, do they stay where they are or do they move up?

These two could also flip, but are not worth worrying about.

Maine: This one could be flipped back to the Engineers, but in order to flip it, New Hampshire and Notre Dame must both be doing well enough to flip/keep their comparisons against Rensselaer in their favor. So winning the Maine comparison would actually just be a small consolation. I did find a sequence which would give the Engineers comparison wins over both UNH and Maine, but it's fairly unrealistic.

Alaska-Anchorage: If the Engineers lose this one - and it would require the Seawolves winning the WCHA championship - there won't be anything else to worry about, because they're going to be out of the tournament. So we want UAA to beat CC, but lose ASAP after that. They're like the new Wisconsin (who could have had the Engineers looking extremely good if they'd held on for the victory last night).

Remember, teams ahead of us in the PWR could also suddenly lose comparisons with other teams, and that can move the Engineers up just as much as winning comparisons. The best part is, basically every worthwhile team behind them (with the exception of Alaska-Anchorage) is out of their tournament.

Fortunately, the Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota comparisons have been flipped to the Engineers, and as far as I can tell both will not flip back. I believe every comparison not listed above will not change from where it is right now - that is, if the Engineers are losing them now, they will be losing them after Saturday, and vice versa.

We have to worry about upsets, too. It's possible that one or two upsets might still allow the Engineers to get in depending on who's doing the upsetting and when, but generally, these are the teams we do NOT want to win their respective league titles.

ECAC: Cornell or Colgate
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: Alaska-Anchorage or Bemidji State

The good news is, the CCHA champion will not be an upset winner. Although WMU could still miss the tournament, they will be in the Top 15 if they win their tournament. Same goes for Dartmouth in the ECAC. This essentially means that #12 PWR is now a 100% safe position, while #13 is almost certainly going to be in no matter what. The Engineers aren't likely to get that high, but it's possible.

As far as I know (and thanks to Tim Vanderpoel, Yuri Koester, Reilly Hamilton, Chris Behrens, Steven Burek, and Rob Tricchinelli for all the assistance on this), RPI can finish as high as #10 in the PWR and as low as #17, though both of those extremes are pretty fanciful. There are some not so fantastic scenarios by which the Engineers could finish as high as #11 or #12. There are a lot of scenarios where they finish #13 through #15.

Notably, the Engineers would make the tournament if 100% of the higher seeds won. They'd also make the tournament if 100% of the lower seeds won. The end result will certainly be something inbetween, but when you're in the tournament on both extreme ends... things are looking good.

Finally, the TUC cliff is pretty much irrelevant, because what you see is what you're going to get with TUCs with only two possible exceptions (again, as far as I know). Cornell could drop out still, and Northeastern could become a TUC. We'd rather neither were TUCs, of course, but there's a catch to the former now, as explained below.

Care to prove me wrong about anything? Please do. Try the PairWise Calculator and come up with new and interesting ways for the Engineers to make or not make the tournament. If you discover anything, please be sure to let me know, along with the combination you used to get there (it will be listed at the bottom of the projected PWR). Shoot me an email at tomyousieve (at) gmail (dot) com.

Anyway, here's the cheering section for Thursday and the Friday games that we know about - I will update on Friday with the WCHA games after we know who is playing.

Minnesota-Duluth over Bemidji State
Alaska-Anchorage over Colorado College

Cornell over Dartmouth
Yale over Colgate
Boston College over Northeastern
Merrimack over New Hampshire
Miami over Notre Dame
Michigan over Western Michigan

If someone wants to prove to me that Bemidji State could potentially fall out of the TUC ranks with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth, I'd love to see it and I'd switch that game to the Beavers if it's possible. We do need them as a TUC but I don't think they can fall out.

Cornell is tricky. If they lose to Dartmouth, we want them to lose the consolation game, too. If Notre Dame loses twice (or ties the consolation), it won't matter unless UNH wins the Hockey East title, because that would be a way of keeping the UNH comparison with the Engineers. After all this time wishing nothing but bad things on Cornell, they can actually help us this week.

Honestly, we don't care what happens in Atlantic Hockey anymore. Niagara is done, and RIT could lose to UConn on Friday without dropping out as a TUC. So they can go ahead and crown their champion, it won't matter to us who that is. They're going to be the #16 seed in the tournament, but we've known since January that #16 PWR was out.

What's it boil down to? Well... if I had to place a wager on the Engineers making the tournament or not making the tournament... my money's on a tournament appearance. Just understand that nothing's decided yet.

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