Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 8

Well, we've made it this far. Welcome to the ECAC Playoffs. This is where things officially get weird.

Before we get to the PairWise Rankings, I want to talk about what RPI (I will dispense with the differentiation until we get into the PWR) needs to do to make the NCAAs from where they are right now - we've had a few people asking how far the Engineers need to go in order to make the tournament. It's not that cut-and-dried. The following are, in my estimation, the best ways for the

1) Win the ECAC championship. This is always the best way into the tournament, and after that it's just a matter of seeding. It is also, however, always best to be in a position to have an at-large bid to the tournament, not only because it is easier, but also because being in position for an at-large means potentially having a better matchup in the NCAA Tournament. If you wouldn't have made it in without the auto-bid, you're going to have a tough road to glory.

2) If the Engineers should make their way through the first two rounds of the ECAC tournament and even just reach Atlantic City, they probably will play in the NCAA Tournament regardless of how they do from there. There's a possibility that two losses in Atlantic City (which would likely be against TUCs) could harm RPI enough to have them on the outside looking in, but if they've survived this long, they can survive two losses, especially since reaching Atlantic City would mean two wins over Cornell, which would either partially alleviate the Cornell TUC problem, or completely alleviate it if that throws them from the TUC ranks.

3) Believe it or not, the third best way, right now? Lose to Colgate in the first round, preferably in three games. This probably gives RPI a 25-30% chance of making the tournament, but it's better than the only other alternative. Why? It's because of the fourth potential scenario.

4) The worst scenario is for RPI to beat Colgate in the first round, but lose to Cornell in the second round. Why? You know why. If Cornell wins a series with RPI, they'll be a TUC for good, and that'll be another two TUC losses tacked on to the Engineers' record. That, right now, is the biggest concern. If they don't play Cornell, they can't lose to Cornell (or any other TUC). Colgate is not a TUC - losses to them do not hurt nearly as much.

We know RPI's fate if they win their first round matchup - they will go to Cornell. Only Colgate has that kind of certainty (they get Union if they beat RPI), and it is this certainty that allows us to better predict the Engineers' potential fate.

I asked a question early Sunday morning on our Twitter feed. If RPI can guarantee themselves an NCAA bid by throwing this weekend's series, do you do it?

OK. Enough of the talk of intentionally losing. Let's get to the PWR.

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

In: Colorado College, Boston University
Out: Wisconsin, Western Michigan

In: Quinnipiac, Air Force
Out: Northern Michigan, Ohio State

So even after just one point against two TUCs, the Engineers are still sitting in 13th place. Why? Well, at this point in the season, there's not frequently loads of movement in the PWR. Up and down one or two spots is fairly common, unless you're in a conference in which you play the same team twice in one weekend and either get swept or get just one point. Ask UMD and Wisconsin about how that goes. It has more impact on COp than getting swept or just one point in the ECAC.

So what does the bracket look like? Well, first, I'll show you the full process, since I've never done that in this space, just so there's no confusion.

First, we assign seeds. PWR 1-4 are the #1 seeds. PWR 5-8 are the #2 seeds. PWR 9-12 are the #3 seeds, and PWR 13-16 are the #4 seeds (and the Atlantic Hockey champion displaces PWR 16). This week, we have Yale, UND, BC, and Michigan as #1 seeds, DU, Union, Merrimack, and UNO as #2 seeds, Notre Dame, Miami, UMD, and UNH as #3 seeds, and Rensselaer, CC, BU, and RIT as #4 seeds.

Now that we have the seeds, we begin placing them, remembering that Yale must be placed in Bridgeport and UNH must be placed in Manchester, since they are the hosts. After that, you try to get as close as you can to having brackets of 1-8-9-16, 2-7-10-15, 3-6-11-14, and 4-5-12-13 as you can without having any intra-conference matchups in the first round. Here's this week's bracket.

1. Yale
2. Nebraska-Omaha
3. Notre Dame
4. RIT

Green Bay
1. North Dakota
2. Merrimack
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Boston University

1. Boston College
2. Union
3. New Hampshire
4. Rensselaer

St. Louis
1. Michigan
2. Denver
3. Miami
4. Colorado College

How does this bracket strike us as far as ticket sales are concerned? It's actually pretty good. Yale and RIT are draws for Bridgeport. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth are draws for Green Bay. BC and UNH are draws for Manchester, and Michigan draws well wherever it is, so they are a big draw for St. Louis. My first bracket had the Engineers and Colorado College swapped (for a more natural bracket), but I decided the NCAA would probably prefer one fewer flight, since they can't swap CC and BU as that would set up a BC/BU and UND/CC scenario in the first round. UNO and Notre Dame in Bridgeport isn't optimal, but it'll have to do.

Now, of course, the all important TUC cliff. Lots to talk about here.

26. Alaska-Anchorage (.5044)
27. RIT (.5036)
28. Cornell (.5023)
29. Robert Morris (.5022)
30. Air Force (.5014)
31. Quinnipiac (.5009)
32. Bemidji State (.5007)
33. Michigan State (.4998)
34. Niagara (.4994)
35. Ohio State (.4985)
36. Northern Michigan (.4943)

I've shortened the cliff a little bit, moving the cutoff to +/- .0050.

We know from prior editions of EB that we want RIT, Niagara, and Bemidji State (and Brown) up past .5000, and that we want Cornell and Michigan State below .5000. We can add Quinnipiac to that list now too, the Engineers' .500 record against the Bobcats is not enough to warrant wanting them around. Niagara is back and almost a TUC. We definitely want to reintroduce them to the mix. We've also got two bad TUCs that are creeping closer to the edge of being out.

Unfortunately, Cornell doesn't play this week, so their RPI won't change a great deal. And therein lies the rub. If the Engineers beat Colgate this week, they are the ones that will have to do the dirty work to kick Cornell out of the TUC ranks. In this sense, beating the Big Red would have a huge direct impact on the Engineers' own destiny in the PWR, something you don't get to control very frequently. A pair of wins, especially a sweep, could be enough to put the Big Red down and out and put them away for good. A pair of losses and they'll be a TUC for good, with no way for the Engineers to improve on their TUC record - and it'll flip the comparison with Cornell to boot if it's a sweep. That's why, if it happens, a quarterfinal series at Cornell will make or break the Engineers' NCAA dreams.

So which comparisons are we scoping out this week? Well, say hello to an old friend, as the Colorado College Tigers have injected themselves back into the national discussion.

CC: The Tigers are relevant again thanks to their three point weekend against Duluth. This is currently a 3-1 comparison win for the Engineers, with CC's 1 being their victory in the first game of the season. That means RPI, which is relatively close, could flip this whole comparison in CC's direction if CC moves ahead of the Engineers in that criteria, since that would make it 2-2 with RPI as the tiebreaker. Worth watching.

Wisconsin: Right now, this is less of a problem since the Badgers tanked last week against St. Cloud, but the Engineers could pretty much wrap this comparison up if CC sweeps UW this week. Of course, that creates potential problems with the CC comparison.

BU: This one is uncomfortably close. Right now it's 3-1 Engineers on TUC/COp/H2H. The H2H point isn't going anywhere, and the COp point almost certainly isn't, even if BU sweeps Northeastern this weekend. It's that TUC that's very close. Let's drop QU/Cornell here.

UNH: 2-1 win for UNH right now on RPI/TUC. The Engineers are practically assured of a COp win, and TUC is close. Here's a "let's drop QU/Cornell" comparison.

Notre Dame: Still a 2-1 Rensselaer win on TUC/COp. TUC is too close, another argument for dropping Cornell and QU.

Maine: This is a potential trouble spot now. The Black Bears are ahead of the Engineers in RPI by the slightest of margins, and that is what is causing this one to be 2-1 Maine. Rensselaer leads in TUC, so it's not like dropping QU or Cornell is going to help win this one. This is all about flipping RPI.

Dartmouth: This one flipped back to the Engineers on RPI. Rensselaer leads this one 3-2 on RPI/H2H. Dartmouth will be a TUC regardless, which is good because that's two TUC wins. Best case scenario for the Engineers now is to keep winning to bolster RPI and for Dartmouth to shuffle off ASAP to hurt theirs. Whoever Dartmouth plays in the quarterfinal, we're almost certainly rooting against the Big Green.

WMU: Looking better for Rensselaer, but RPI is still close and this one is still flippable. Engineers need wins, and we want WMU to lose ASAP in the CCHA tournament.

Whew. That's a lot, and the Engineers are winning all of these except for UNH and Maine. What does that mean? Well, it means there's not much room for error. It'll be hard for the Engineers to flip comparisons into their favor going forward - going on offense - it's more about keeping the comparisons they already have in their favor - playing defense. Of course, if the broken record comes true and Cornell and Quinnipiac take a hike, that may open up some room to move up the ranks. If not, there's really nowhere to go.

With that in mind, here's this week's cheering section. Since three of the five conferences are starting playoffs this week, I've broken out the playoffs from the regular daily listings. The ECAC and CCHA series listed are best of three, the Atlantic Hockey listings are one-game play-ins taking place on Saturday.

Engineer Cheering Section
ECAC Playoffs
Rensselaer over Colgate
Brown over Quinnipiac

CCHA Playoffs
Alaska over Michigan State
Bowling Green over Northern Michigan

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs
Niagara over Canisius
Bentley over Sacred Heart

Northeastern over Boston University
Boston College over New Hampshire
Providence over Merrimack
UMass over Maine
Colorado College over Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth over Nebraska-Omaha
Bemidji State over Minnesota
Denver over St. Cloud State

Northeastern over Boston University
Boston College over New Hampshire
Providence over Merrimack
UMass over Maine
Colorado College over Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth over Nebraska-Omaha
Bemidji State over Minnesota
Denver over St. Cloud State

Niagara/Canisius: This one has a lot riding on it for the Engineers. A Niagara win will make them a TUC. A Niagara loss ends their season and with it any chance of them becoming a TUC.

RPI/Gate: You didn't think we were actually suggesting we throw this one, did you? While that does work better than losing to Cornell would, it's time to go for the gusto and expect to win going forward. Two weeks to defend your position in the PWR without any opportunity to help yourself is not a recipe for success. Go for the sweep and then get ready to face Cornell head-on.

CC/UW: This one's the tough one of the week. A CC sweep pretty much secures the Engineers' comparison with UW, but it could put their comparison with the Tigers in danger. If Rensselaer sweeps Colgate, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Let's hope for the best.

BU/NU: Not really worried about the COp issue here, more just hurting BU's RPI.

Brown/QU: Just like last week, a double benefit in rooting for Brown. If the Bears win this series, QU will be out as a TUC and probably for good. It'll also move Brown closer to being a TUC, which we know we want. That's still a longshot (they'd probably have to reach Atlantic City), but every journey starts with a single step.

UMD/UNO: Interesting one here. UMD is closer to the Engineers in the PWR, but the UNO comparison is more flippable. Since it looks like St. Cloud is going to be a TUC to stay, let's do what we can to help the Mavericks get more TUC losses, and losing to the Bulldogs will help.

1 comment:

  1. "You didn't think we were actually suggesting we throw this one, did you? While that does work better than losing to Cornell would, it's time to go for the gusto and expect to win going forward."

    Thank you for saying this...I was beginning to think the Engineers' fans were losing their heads a bit.


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