Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 3

It may have been a good weekend for the Engineers as it pertains to their ECAC fate, but as to their NCAA fares... it could have been better. Even worse, there are now some pretty solid roadblocks in place that will make shoring up an at-large bid more difficult, which underscores the need for the Engineers to control their own destiny by going as deep into the ECAC tournament as they can, if not winning the championship to secure a bid the old-fashioned way.

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

In: Alaska
Out: Dartmouth

In: Cornell, Air Force
Out: Colgate

15th at the start of the weekend, 15th at the end of the weekend. How does that relate to the bracket? Well, it doesn't change much for Rensselaer.

1. Quinnipiac
2. Boston College
3. St. Cloud State
4. Alaska

Grand Rapids
1. Minnesota
2. Minnesota State
3. Western Michigan
4. Rensselaer

1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Yale
4. Notre Dame

1. UMass-Lowell
2. New Hampshire
3. Denver
4. Niagara

This bracket is a mess as far as integrity is concerned, but it's pretty much the best we're going to be able to do to balance ticket sales with a need to avoid intraconference matchups, especially between the glut of WCHA teams currently holding down 2 and 3 seeds.

But, for the Engineers, it's no change at all from last week, with the exception of the teams playing in the second game. Same opponent, same venue. That's at least a little bit telling - after a home sweep, and despite rising as high as 13th in the Pairwise during the weekend, the Engineers are still stuck playing the Gophers, highlighting the importance of what goes on elsewhere. In this case, the Engineers ended the weekend with a net TUC loss despite beating St. Lawrence. Why? Because Cornell and their 1-1-0 TUC record joined the ranks, and Colgate with their 2-0-0 record fell out.

The TUC cliff illustrates the problem. I've included the Engineers' record against teams they've played.

26. Ferris State (.5073) - 1-0-1
27. Holy Cross (.5060)
28. St. Lawrence (.5057) - 2-0-0
29. Colorado College (.5042)
30. Merrimack (.5032)
31. Cornell (.5008) - 1-1-0
32. Northern Michigan (.5006)
33. Brown (.5003) - 1-0-1
34. Colgate (.4963) - 2-0-0
35. UConn (.4952)
36. Lake Superior State (.4908)

The TUC problem is still fairly pronounced. Four teams beneficial to the Engineers' TUC record are in danger of dropping below the TUC line, and one team that could help it is stuck below that line.

There are two problems moving forward, both involving the first round of the ECAC playoffs.

Problem #1 is the most pronounced - Colgate and St. Lawrence are playing each other this weekend in a best-of-three playoff series. That's extremely annoying. That's four potential TUC wins hanging in the balance. The hard truth is that we're probably going to have to kiss one of them goodbye permanently, since the team that loses that series is done for the season. St. Lawrence is already a TUC, and Colgate after getting swept over the weekend is going to have a hard pull to get back above the TUC line without causing irreparable harm to SLU. Look at it this way - the Raiders are 1-7-0 in their last eight. They're unreliable going forward. We're probably going to have to let them go, and root for SLU in order to shore up their position. If St. Lawrence gets swept, they will not be a TUC anymore. There's a possibility that a three-game series won by Colgate would end with both teams as TUCs, but it's no sure thing. The good news is that the series winner will be a TUC, but that doesn't advance the Engineers at all - especially if Colgate is the one that advances, and then gets clowned in the quarterfinals by either Quinnipiac or... that #2 seed.

Problem #2 is a little more nuanced - Cornell and Brown are two of the most likely opponents for the Engineers in the ECAC quarterfinals, which means Rensselaer is probably going to have to deliver a TUC death blow to one of these teams in order to advance to Atlantic City. Losing to them would hurt, because it would shore up that team as a TUC while killing the Engineers' record against that team, almost certainly putting them out of the tournament. Defeating them would drop them out as a TUC in all likelihood. This is where we start to see the seedier side of the Pairwise. This is how you end up seeing situations where teams can benefit themselves by losing.

We saw it two years ago - Rensselaer earned a national tournament berth despite losing to Colgate in three games two weeks prior to Selection Sunday. Why? Because they had a strong TUC record, and once they were out, they couldn't lose to TUCs anymore.

Ultimately, though, the Engineers have to soldier on and beat whoever is put in front of them. That lends itself to an RPI boost, which can be crucial in flipping some of these comparisons.

The bottom line? There's going to be little that Rensselaer can do at this point to improve their TUC record. It is what it is, and that severely limits the upward mobility. All the Engineers can really do now is to win games and boost their RPI.

It's not all bad news. The Tute did get a couple of comparisons flipped in their favor over the weekend:
Nebraska-Omaha - Now 2-0 in favor of the Engineers thanks to UNO getting swept by Wisconsin, but again, that just means the whole thing depends on RPI staying in Rensselaer's favor - they passed UNO in that metric over the weekend. Let's hope the bad ways continue for the Mavericks.

Dartmouth - Cornell as a TUC hurts the Big Green against the Engineers, since Rensselaer had a better record against the Big Red, but again, Dartmouth was 3-0-0 against Brown, so it's kind of a wash. The Engineers lead this now thanks to an RPI swap, we could probably be rid of Dartmouth as a problem if they were to lose to Harvard in the opening round of the playoffs. There's a secondary benefit of having Dartmouth out of the tournament - they're a likely draw for Manchester (as a method for boosting ticket sales), which is almost certainly the only eastern regional the Engineers can get sent to since Quinnipiac looks locked into Providence. If Dartmouth is there, the Engineers go west.

Unfortunately, one flipped back against them, one that's a real thorn in the side:
Northern Michigan - Nauseatingly annoying. Thanks to Colgate's departure as a TUC, this is back to the Wildcats on TUC and COp, and it's the reason the Engineers are behind Notre Dame in the PWR right now. Fortunately, they're almost over the TUC cliff themselves, which remains the best way to offload the Wildcats. If Michigan can sweep NMU in the CCHA first round this weekend, that would get rid of this comparison altogether (and permanently) and move the Engineers up past the Fighting Irish (a team that has plenty of odd comparison issues themselves). No team wants to be losing comparisons to teams 15 places below them in the Pairwise, and that's exactly what this is.

There are still a number of comparisons the Engineers are winning that we need to keep an eye on.
Providence - A win right now on RPI and TUC, neither are solid enough to be comfortable right now. Need the Friars to lose to UMass-Lowell, a TUC, for this to be firmed up.

Wisconsin - Same as Providence, with one caveat. They're playing St. Cloud State this week, which will make the Huskies a common opponent. If SCSU takes 3 points this weekend, it would make COp a wash and turn this into a purely RPI-centric comparison. If SCSU sweeps, the Engineers would win COp and make this a comparison we don't need to worry about. Either situation would help us in RPI and TUC, so we're rooting big for SCSU.

Boston University - 2-1 edge for the Engineers on RPI and COp, with the Terriers' point coming on the H2H win. Not much to worry on with COp, but RPI is close, and TUC is tied. BU swept three games with Merrimack this season, so the Warriors dropping below the TUC line would be helpful, as would BU losses to Northeastern - not a TUC, but the RPI hit would be good.

Union - As mentioned last week, this comparison is now hinging almost exclusively on RPI. Neither team plays this week, so we can worry about this later. We'd like to root against them in two weeks, but this is going to become problematic too, since they're likely to be playing Dartmouth in the quarterfinals, yet another reason to root for Harvard over the Big Green.

Alaska - The Nanooks aren't really a major threat to flip this comparison right now, but it's close enough that we really wouldn't mind if their season (at least, their pre-NCAA season, given that they're on the bubble) ended this weekend in the CCHA first round. A sweep of Michigan State would probably draw this one close.

Notre Dame - Not pressing since neither the Engineers nor the Irish play this week, but TUC is still close enough to make this worrisome, especially since Rensselaer is behind Notre Dame in RPI. Not much to do here but cross your fingers and hope it stays intact - but dropping Northern Michigan as a TUC would do wonders by itself (ND 2-0-0 against the Wildcats).

And alas, there still aren't many flippable comparisons out there that the Engineers are losing. Given that they aren't playing this weekend (and neither are many of these teams) there's not much out there that can be done on most of these.
Niagara - Not playing this week, but their losses to Air Force brought them down to earth. Still an RPI only comparison, so we'll touch on this more next week.

Yale - Basically the same as Niagara. We need an RPI change here and it won't be easy, but not worth getting worked up over since the Bulldogs are also off this week.

Western Michigan - Seeing a trend here. Same thing, not playing this week, needing an RPI change.

Minnesota State - Ah, finally. One where the team is playing. This is 2-2 thanks to the Mavericks' victory over the Engineers back in October, but Rensselaer wins TUC and COp. The RPI difference is big, but if they get swept this weekend they could be on their way down, putting this comparison within reach.

So, in real terms, the Michigan-NMU playoff series is the one we're watching most as it pertains to the Pairwise. A sweep by the Wolverines would be... very nice. Besides that, we are also big fans of St. Cloud State and UMass-Lowell this weekend.

ECAC Playoffs
Cornell over Princeton
Brown over Clarkson
Harvard over Dartmouth
St. Lawrence over Colgate

CCHA Playoffs
Michigan over Northern Michigan
Michigan State over Alaska
Bowling Green over Lake Superior State

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs
Mercyhurst over Army
Sacred Heart over Robert Morris

WCHA and Hockey East regular season series (Fri/Sat)
Northeastern over Boston University
UMass-Lowell over Providence
New Hampshire over Maine
UMass over Merrimack
Vermont over Boston College
Michigan Tech over Colorado College
St. Cloud State over Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth over Nebraska-Omaha
Bemidji State over Minnesota
North Dakota over Minnesota State
Alaska-Anchorage over Denver


  1. I am disappointed you guys kind of half assed this one. You didnt account for games that are decided after the first five mins in OT go down as a tie.

    For example the best result in the SLU series is a colgate sweep that goes down as a tie and a colgate win. SLU ends the season as a TUC.

    1. That's simply not true. It only applies for games that go to a shootout (for example conference games in the CCHA). Any tournament game (conference or otherwise) that uses running 20 minute overtimes continues until you have a winner and that result goes in the books. Take a look at rule 91.4 in the NCAA rulebook.


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