Monday, March 7, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 9

This may be the final edition of Engineer Bracketology. It depends on what happens in next week's games.

We said last week that a 3-game loss to Colgate was probably the third best scenario for making the NCAA Tournament after the regular season ended. That's still true - what took place this past weekend still leaves the Engineers alive for the NCAAs, but given everything that happened elsewhere, our estimation of odds, however low they were, seem to have been a bit optimistic.

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

In: Dartmouth, Western Michigan
Out: Boston University, Rensselaer

We're going to dispense with the bracket this week since it doesn't include the Engineers.

Generally speaking, it is still better to lose to non-TUCs than to lose to TUCs down the stretch, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to make a habit of it the way the Engineers did. The three losses to Colgate put a serious beating to Rensselaer's RPI, and that is now why they are currently sitting out of the tournament.

17th is two places below the tournament field, and now, Rensselaer has no more games remaining to improve their own lot. But remember, the PairWise doesn't just take into account your own games. This isn't over, although it's looking less likely.

Here's where the hope lies. The Engineers are technically tied with BU for 16th. Both have 14 comparison wins. They trail Western Michigan and Colorado College, who are tied for 14th with 15 comparison wins.

So what are we looking for? We're looking to flip comparisons back in Rensselaer's favor, and keep current comparison wins in their favor as well. With no more games to be played, that can only be done by other teams losing.

There are three things we can do here:
1) We need there to be no upsets in the conference tournaments. That is, we need to be sure that the teams that win the four tournaments other than Atlantic Hockey (which sends only its champion) that would have been in the tournament regardless. Thus, we would like to see the following teams as champions:
ECAC: Either Yale or Union
Hockey East: Boston College or Merrimack
CCHA: Michigan or Miami
WCHA: North Dakota, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha, or Minnesota-Duluth.

This involves rooting for the favored teams, incidentally. We can potentially add Dartmouth to the mix for the ECAC, and New Hampshire for Hockey East, but there are overriding reasons why we want both of the teams from the Granite State to lose. We also have a vested interest in Notre Dame not winning. More on that later.

We want the #15 PWR team to be in the tournament. That's the easiest place for the Engineers to get to. To do that, we need the teams above to be the champs.

2) Rooting against teams just ahead and just behind the Engineers in the PairWise Rankings. This keeps them from being overtaken and allows for the possibility of retaking a better position as other teams with games left to play fall. This makes our biggest enemies Western Michigan, Colorado College, Boston University, Maine, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State.

3) Continuing to watch the TUC Cliff.

27. RIT (.5039)
28. Minnesota State (.5024)
29. Cornell (.5023)
30. Air Force (.5022)
31. Robert Morris (.4988)
32. Bemidji State (.4973)
33. Niagara (.4962)
34. Lake Superior State (.4943)

The possibility for TUC changes continues, although it is now far more slight. Niagara's loss to Canisius on Saturday hurt the Engineers because it ended the Purple Eagles' season without them as a TUC. The only teams right now that aren't TUCs that could potentially become TUCs are Bemidji State and Lake Superior State. We know we want Bemidji and RIT as TUCs. We know we don't want Cornell. What about Minnesota State and Lake State? Yes to the first, no to the second. I'll explain more.

Here are the comparisons that we are winning that are worth mentioning:
Notre Dame: We've got a bit of a problem when it comes to the Fighting Irish. The Engineers currently win this comparison on TUC/COp, and it's hinging on TUC since RPI is firmly with Notre Dame and COp is firmly with Rensselaer. Since Lake State is not a TUC, Notre Dame can win these games without impacting this comparison (and actually help us out a little bit at the same time). Basically, as long as the Irish lose to a TUC in Detroit, the Engineers will win this comparison. Minnesota State being a TUC is keeping this a Rensselaer win (Notre Dame lost to the Mavericks), so we want Mankato to stay up there. If they fall out, this flips to Notre Dame with no really good way of flipping it back. And of course, if we can drop Cornell, that helps big-time, too.

New Hampshire: Another TUC/COp win for the Engineers. This one seems like it could be a little easier for Rensselaer to hold onto, but we do need the Wildcats to lose as their earliest convenience. Dropping Cornell still has a two-way effect of helping Rensselaer's TUC record and hurting UNH's. In fact, dropping Cornell would guarantee this for the Engineers.

Boston University: This one's TUC/COp/H2H for the Engineers and they can't lose their COp or H2H points, but it still hinges on TUC because of RPI being the tiebreaker. Fortunately, RPI is fairly close here, so a couple of BU losses would cinch this for the Engineers by hurting the Terriers' RPI and giving BU no more chances to improve their TUC record since they had no games with teams around the TUC cliff.

St. Cloud State: A 2-1 Rensselaer win right now on RPI/TUC. The Engineers will win TUC and lose COp no matter what, so it all depends on RPI which is a slight lead for Rensselaer. Real simple here - SCSU loses in the first round, we don't worry about them anymore.

Alaska: See St. Cloud State. Exact same situation.

Ferris State: We need the Bulldogs to beat Western Michigan, but we don't want them to get any farther than that because A) they'd be a potential upset champion, and B) the comparison is basically the same as SCSU and Alaska, only with a bit of an RPI cushion for the Engineers. Not worth getting worried about right now.

Wisconsin: This one, on the other hand, is cause for concern. The Engineers win this one on TUC/COp, and Wisconsin plays a common opponent in Colorado College in a playoff series this weekend. If Wisconsin sweeps, they flip COp and therefore the comparison (which they would then be guaranteed to win). If they win in three, it stays with the Engineers (and practically locks it). Obviously, we don't want CC, ahead of Rensselaer in the PairWise, to win even though that would lock this one for Rensselaer as well. So we need the Badgers to emerge victorious in three games.

We're not too worried about the other seven comparisons. Those should be in the bag.

Now, the ones we're losing, starting from the bottom.
Minnesota: This one hinges on RPI, with the Gophers taking the lead after the losses to Colgate and their six-game unbeaten streak. This one might be tough, but if we can get rid of the Gophers as soon as possible, this will potentially flip back to the Engineers.

Maine: Essentially the same thing as the Gophers here. It hinges on RPI, and we need Maine to lose.

Colorado College: This one is 2-2 thanks to CC's H2H win, and therefore it too hinges on RPI, which is the Tigers' other point. That is very, very close. Unfortunately, we can't just root for them to get swept because of the Wisconsin concerns, but we still want to lose them ASAP.

Western Michigan: Another one where RPI is the problem, and WMU has a fair lead. This might not be flippable.

Dartmouth: The Big Green now lead 3-2 on RPI/TUC/COp, while the Engineers have the 2 H2H points. RPI could flip if Dartmouth loses their series with Harvard (a similar effect to the Green as Colgate had on the Engineers), and that's all we can hope for here. COp is a lock for Dartmouth, and Cornell dropping won't save Rensselaer here, since that also improves DC's TUC record.

Nebraska-Omaha: An interesting candidate for a flip. Especially if the Mavericks lose to Bemidji State to make the Beavers a TUC, this comparison would flip thanks to TUC if Cornell falls out.

So there it is. It seems that playing defense is going to be easier than flipping comparisons thanks to RPI, but that's where we now stand. All we can do is root for the following teams and hope for the best. We're rooting for sweeps unless otherwise indicated.

Engineer Cheering Section
ECAC Playoffs
Yale over St. Lawrence
Union over Colgate
Quinnipiac over Cornell
Harvard over Dartmouth

Hockey East Playoffs
Northeastern over Boston University
Merrimack over Maine
Vermont over New Hampshire
Boston College over UMass

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs
RIT over American International

CCHA Playoffs
Ferris State over Western Michigan
Miami over Alaska
Notre Dame over Lake Superior State
Michigan over Bowling Green

WCHA Playoffs
Alaska-Anchorage over Minnesota
Minnesota-Duluth over St. Cloud State
Wisconsin over Colorado College (3 games)
Bemidji State over Nebraska-Omaha
North Dakota over Michigan Tech
Denver over Minnesota State (3 games)

Pretty much everything is explained above except for the last one.

DU/MinnSt: We do want the Mavericks as a TUC for the sake of the Notre Dame comparison, but we also want Denver to advance as far into the WCHA tournament as possible. One win by Minnesota State will probably be enough to ensure their TUC survival.

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