Saturday, March 19, 2011

It All Comes Down to This

We've been saying it since the beginning. We need Cornell to lose.

Guess what? It's true to the very end.

If Yale beats Cornell to win the ECAC championship for the second time in three years, nothing, and I mean nothing else will matter. The Engineers will be playing in the NCAA tournament.

RPI presently has an 83.0507% chance of making the tournament according to Reilly Hamilton's numbers, but that number plummets significantly if Cornell beats Yale - to 22.0463% before any other game is considered, and by that time the other games we will have wanted to go our way will already be over, so we will know if we're in or out - or if we even require a Yale win.

Let's look at the PairWise before we get into the goods.

1. Yale*
2. North Dakota*
3. Boston College*
4. Miami*
5. Merrimack
6. Denver
7. Michigan
8. Union
9. Minnesota-Duluth
10. Notre Dame
11. Western Michigan
12. New Hampshire
13. Nebraska-Omaha
14. Colorado College
15. Rensselaer
22. Cornell
24. RIT*
29. Air Force

Where's the rest of the PairWise, you ask? Truncated to the teams who are still alive for the tournament. Be mindful that Dartmouth and Maine are there, and TUCs, but neither will make the tournament. They're simply making life difficult for the Engineers right now.

The Maine comparison is lost due to Colorado College's loss to North Dakota on Friday. That leaves only two comparisons left to worry about that can be flipped: Notre Dame and Dartmouth.

First off, let's look at upsets. There is only one remaining potential "upset" champion - that is, the teams competing for the WCHA, CCHA, Hockey East, and ECAC championships will all be playing next weekend regardless of what happens with only one exception: Cornell. The Big Red must win in order to play next weekend. Therefore, the 12, 13, and 14 PWR teams at the end of Saturday WILL be in the tournament.

As of right now, the top 12 teams in the PWR are all guaranteed positions in the tournament. If Yale defeats Cornell, it will guarantee a spot for CC, UNO, and RPI, the only bubble teams left.

RIT or Air Force will be the #16 seed, depending on who wins the Atlantic Hockey championship. Cornell will be the #15 seed if they defeat Yale, bouncing one of CC, UNO, or RPI, most likely RPI unless the ECAC and CCHA consolation games go their way.

The Engineers can still finish as high as 12th in the PairWise, and it wouldn't take much to accomplish it. Here's what we need.

Engineer Cheering Section
Colgate over Dartmouth
Michigan over Notre Dame
(a tie is acceptable, in some rare cases preferable)
Yale over Cornell
Western Michigan over Miami
Denver over North Dakota
Merrimack over Boston College
RIT over Air Force

The highlighted games are the most important. The first two are the ECAC and CCHA consolations, and will be the first games of the day.

At this point, I don't really understand why WMU beating Miami is important for RPI's chances at a #3 seed, but that's what the PairWise predictor says, so let's roll with it. It's not highlighted because the goal is simply making the tournament. The first three games are of the utmost importance - especially the ECAC championship if we don't get good results from the ECAC and CCHA consolations.

Notre Dame: The Engineers are now winning this comparison, but if Notre Dame defeats Michigan it will flip back due to TUC. A Michigan win or tie means Rensselaer wins this one.

Dartmouth: The Big Green lose to Colgate, and this one flips back to the Engineers on RPI/H2H. A tie does not get the job done.

If Cornell defeats Yale for the ECAC title, the Engineers almost certainly must win both of these comparisons to reach the NCAA tournament. No other comparison that the Engineers have, whether winning or losing, can be flipped. There is no more TUC cliff - what you see is what you get.

There is one scenario where the Engineers get in despite a Yale win even if Dartmouth wins or ties the consolation. It requires a tie in the CCHA consolation game and a Western Michigan victory over Miami. That flips one of UNO's comparisons and pushes them down into 15th. So we might more accurately be rooting for a tie in the CCHA consolation, but if there's a winner, we certainly want it to be Michigan. There's no scenario where Cornell and Notre Dame winning ends well.

The Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey, and WCHA title games don't really appear to mean much to us, if anything.

With all of that said, this is what the tournament currently looks like.

1. Yale
2. Union
3. Notre Dame
4. RIT

St. Louis
1. North Dakota
2. Michigan
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Rensselaer

1. Boston College
2. Denver
3. New Hampshire
4. Colorado College

Green Bay
1. Miami
2. Merrimack
3. Western Michigan
4. Nebraska-Omaha

Yale will be the #1 overall seed and as hosts, will be placed in Bridgeport. Union is not likely to move much from where they are now, so they are likely to go to Bridgeport too. This means that there is no chance for RPI to end up in Connecticut as a tournament team if they do not reach #12 in the PairWise. They're still exceptionally unlikely to end up in Bridgeport anyway due to Union and bracket integrity. Go ahead and cross Connecticut off your list.

Boston College and North Dakota will be the 2/3 overall seeds in either order. Functionally, this means that Boston College will be in Manchester as the #1 seed there (unless New Hampshire falls to a #4, which is likely if the Engineers get to #12 PWR), and that North Dakota will be the #1 seed in St. Louis if what I have been led to believe is correct. If the Engineers stay where they are at #15 PWR and still make the tournament, they would play in either Manchester or St. Louis (with a possibility of Green Bay if the Sioux end up there instead).

#4 PWR, the final top seed, will be one of Miami, Merrimack, Denver, or Michigan. They will be the top seed in whichever western regional the Sioux are not sent to (unless New Hampshire becomes a 4 seed, in which case they will be the top seed in Manchester - then unless it's Merrimack, and then North Dakota has no choice but to go to Manchester, making Boston College and Merrimack the top seeds in the western regionals).

As long as my understanding about North Dakota going to St. Louis is accurate, the Gateway city is my best guess at RPI's most likely potential destination if they make the tournament. Manchester is next most likely, Green Bay after that, and Bridgeport is extremely unlikely, if not completely impossible.

Bottom line - Yale wins, we're in. Cornell wins, we need some help but can still make it in as long as things went our way earlier in the day.

If we're out... there is no scenario out there where we won't at least have the slight consolation of being the "first team out." The Engineers will finish no worse than where they are now.

Let's go Eli! Let's go Raiders! Go Blue!

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