Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Arguing With Math

So, the other day I was reading USCHO looking for some insight, and I found this.

Hard to argue with the math, which shows ECAC Hockey leading the way

Oh, really? Well, allow me to retort.

The argument that the ECAC "leads the way" nationally in this final season under the current structure is predicated apparently on one item alone - the league boasts the best non-conference record in the nation. That is true - the ECAC is 21-12-7 in non-conference play thus far, a national best .613. Eliminating AHA from the mix, you have a record against the "big three" of 11-8-3. Not bad at all.

Apparently, we're supposed to care that Dartmouth was #1 in the PairWise Rankings before last week's games, too.

OK, now before we start, let's be frank. We don't seek to pile on our own league here. In fact, we defend our league where we can - for example, two seasons ago when the larger college hockey world howled at the audacity of Yale claiming to be the top team in the nation (which they were for several weeks), the Bulldogs had few more fervent defenders than us.

But... seriously. Let's cut the crap.

First, the easy one. The PairWise are a complete joke in October, worthless in November, an oddity in December, intriguing in January, worth pondering in February, and vital in March. Let's see... yes, it's November.

Now, the more complex one.

This far into the early part of the season, if you want a general indication of which teams are doing well and which ones aren't, your best bet is actually... the polls. Yes, there are always a few jokers in there who don't know what they're talking about (see also whoever it was who had Union as the top team in the nation following the Dutchmen's tie with UConn, despite the existence of a Boston College team which is now 28-1 in its last 29 games). But by and large, it's good enough for its purpose this early in the season. Meaningless, of course, but at least an indicator.

And what do we have here! Five ranked ECAC teams? Inconceivable! Yes, Union, Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard, and Quinnipiac are all ranked in the Top 20. That's a full quarter of the ranking. Heck, Hockey East only has three. But who are these teams playing outside of their own conference?

#1 BC: 1 CCHA
#2 DU: 1 Hockey East, 1 AHA
#3 UNH: 2 WCHA
#4 Minnesota: 2 CCHA, 1 AHA

Are we seeing a trend here?

#5 Miami: 2 ECAC, 2 Hockey East

Aha! Finally, a top team that has played against the ECAC. And... the final scores were Miami 3, Colgate 0 and Miami 5, Colgate 1. Way to go, Raiders. You let the whole conference down.

#6 Notre Dame: 2 Hockey East, 2 WCHA
#7 North Dakota: 1 CCHA, 2 Hockey East
#8 Union: No ranked non-conference opponents
#9 Western Michigan: 2 ECAC. 2 AHA

OK, what do we have here... oh, St. Lawrence beat WMU in overtime 4-3, then lost the next night 3-2. A split, not too shabby. But let's cut to the chase here. The ECAC is 5-5-1 against currently ranked teams. .500 isn't too bad, of course, but the only way to get there is to include Colgate's 10-3 win over now-#20 Niagara, and we aren't really seeking to compare the ECAC to Atlantic Hockey are we?

Cornell's sweep of Colorado College is about the only real noteworthy event for the league in nonconference play thus far. It's the only matchup that has taken place all season between a ranked ECAC team and another team that's ranked. And now they're being jumped in league play so far. The other four ranked ECAC teams? Their non-conference resumes don't include a single ranked team to date.

St. Lawrence's overtime win over Western Michigan probably ranks as the league's non-conference victory of the year - it is the only time an ECAC team has beaten a team in the Top 10 with the exception of Dartmouth's win over Union in league play.

The bottom line is that the ECAC may be doing well outside the conference, but the majority of the success is coming against the middle and bottom third of the national strata, and the league's standard-bearers aren't exactly collecting impressive non-conference wins.

We don't want to put down our league, but facts are facts - since day one here at WaP, we've said the ECAC no longer deserves to be part of a "Big Four" grouping with the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East. It's more college hockey's only example of a "mid-major." However, it's fair to say that, early on, there are more teams that are likely to be able to make a national splash. All five of the league's currently ranked teams have shown brushes of greatness this season. Throw St. Lawrence into that mix as well - that's half the league (and a good reason why RPI is going to probably struggle to overcome their putrid league start).

But are all six of those teams going to be there at the end? Of course not. History tells us that once the league season begins in earnest, we'll be stabbing each other in the back and bringing each other down to size. Heck, it's already beginning, just ask Cornell and St. Lawrence. In the end, the league is going to be extremely fortunate to get three teams into the tournament, and four is almost certainly out of the question. Five and six will be impossible.

So let's give credit where credit is due - the ECAC certainly does have more that its usual share of teams that could do well on a national level this season. But "leading the way?" Child, please.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not forgiven a bad headline once in a while? Apologies. :) - TDM


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