Monday, March 11, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 4

You don't have to play hockey to move up and down in the PairWise Rankings, hopefully everyone who has been following bracketology this season already knew that. For the Engineers, it's a bump up to 14th (technically, a tie for 13th), which inches them closer to the 3-seed band of the PWR, which is a much safer place to be than the 4-seed band, which consists entirely of bubble teams that could end up out of the tournament if enough conference title upsets take place.

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

In: Union
Out: Alaska

TUCs
In: None
Out: Northern Michigan

So, that's good, we're rid of NMU like we wanted. That helped the Engineers move up to 14th. Now let's have a look at the brackets.

Providence
1. Quinnipiac
2. Boston College
3. Minnesota State
4. Notre Dame

Grand Rapids
1. Minnesota
2. Denver
3. Western Michigan
4. Union

Toledo
1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Yale
4. Niagara

Manchester
1. UMass-Lowell
2. New Hampshire
3. St. Cloud State
4. Rensselaer

USCHO's Jayson Moy had the Engineers in Manchester last week, and looking at his logic, it does make sense, especially when you compare the placement of Rensselaer and Niagara. Technically, Niagara is closest to Toledo than any other regional, and having the Tute in Manchester will help sell tickets there (not that that's going to be a major issue there since UNH is guaranteed to be in the house). Regardless, it's something that might as well be done, since the four WCHA teams in the 2 and 3 seed bands combined with UNH being forced into Manchester blows perfect bracket integrity out of the water anyway. It all makes sense.

That would be an exciting matchup for the Engineers for sure. Arguably the two hottest teams in the nation heading into March playing each other, and if the Tute could pull the upset, they'd get a rematch with a team they played earlier in the year for the right to go on to the Frozen Four.

I've shortened the TUC cliff discussion to anything plus or minus .0075 from .5000. Now that we're in the conference playoffs fully, the outer edges of what had been the TUC cliff are not as important as those teams, especially the ones already above the cliff, are not likely to be able to lose enough games to fall out or vice versa. I've removed Alaska (26th) as well, since their season is over and they're going to be a TUC through the end.

27. Holy Cross (.5063)
28. Air Force (.5062)
29. Nebraska-Omaha (.5051)
30. Ohio State (.5049)
31. Colorado College (.5023)
32. Merrimack (.5018)
--
33. UConn (.4951)
34. Michigan (.4946)
35. Bowling Green (.4930)

The bottom line here is that Colgate, its season over, is gone and is not coming back. We move on - the Engineers had two wins against Clarkson this season too, but we were never worried about their status as a TUC. Raiders are now the same way. The good news is that Northern Michigan is gone - also for good since their season is over too, which should help firm up the Engineers' NCAA chances a little.

The better news is that St. Lawrence is up out of danger, they should be a TUC until the end. Brown and Cornell (and Ferris State) are farther away from the TUC cliff now. We can, it appears, safely root against Cornell and Ferris State if we must (and as you'll see, it's not a bad idea in either case) but what about Brown? Rensselaer's playing them this week.

The good news is that a sweep of Brown should still leave them up ahead of the TUC line, which is good news. According to the CHN Pairwise Calculator, a sweep by the Engineers, before considering any other result, would leave Brown with an RPI of .5011 - close to the TUC cliff, but not close enough for us to worry hugely about. Although every game technically could have an up or down impact on it, with their season over there probably wouldn't be enough downward pressure to move them out.

This is important for a few reasons. First, it gives the Engineers an opportunity to pick up two more TUC victories this coming weekend, which could help move them up the PWR. Second, it means there's no incentive to lose (a frequent problem with PWR), since losing even once to Brown would provide a TUC loss, and one that we could be fairly certain would not go away.

And it should drive home this very important point - without at least advancing to Atlantic City, Rensselaer will almost certainly not make the national tournament. This isn't a situation like it was two years ago, where the Engineers could afford to lose to Colgate without it hurting much. Losing twice to Brown will not end hopes for an at-large bid, but it would make one extremely unlikely.

At this point, the Engineers are basically winning every comparison with teams behind them in the PWR, and are losing comparisons ahead of them.

There still isn't much room for growth strictly through flipping comparisons that are currently being lost. These three seem to be the only ones with any prospect in the near future:
Niagara - Right now, a 1-1 victory for the Purps on RPI, which is close. The TUC comparison does not yet come into play here - it could if UConn became a TUC - but even if it did, it would still likely hinge mostly on RPI, since the Engineers were undefeated against common opponents this season. We need Niagara to lose.

Yale - 3-2 Bulldogs on RPI/TUC/COp, but the Engineers, with the two H2H wins in their pocket, have opportunities here to flip this in their favor simply by beating Brown and getting just one St. Lawrence victory over Yale. Why? Because both Rensselaer and Yale swept SLU this season. Yale needs to do it again in order to keep their COp record up, even though it won't help them additionally there to win. Meanwhile, the Engineers have the opportunity to improve their COp record with wins over Brown.

Minnesota State - The games against Brown could bolster the Engineers against the Mavericks (they are a common opponent, and the Mavericks beat the Bears in the one game they played), but more importantly, we need Mankato to lose games to bring RPI closer. This is 2-2, with the Mavs winning on RPI and H2H. That blown game in October is basically causing more problems than any other single game that the Engineers were involved in this year.

There are still several comparisons we are worried about that the Engineers are winning right now.
Notre Dame - 2-1 Engineers on TUC/COp. NMU dropping out made this much more firm, I don't see it flipping this week unless a disaster takes place.

Union - 3-3 Engineers on RPI/TUC/COp. Obviously, all three have to stay in place for this to stay a win for Rensselaer, that means continuing to win and rooting against the Dutchmen.

Boston University - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/COp. If the Engineers keep winning, they don't have anything to worry about on this one, either, but given that the Merrimack comparison is very solid now, we can root for the Warriors over the Terriers this weekend as a hedge.

Wisconsin - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/TUC. St. Cloud State didn't help us out as much as we had hoped when it came to COp, so this is still right on the line. RPI is very close, and TUC is too close for comfort. Losing Nebraska-Omaha as a TUC would be nice (UW 2-0-0 against the Mavs), but Wisconsin losing to Minnesota-Duluth would hit them hard enough in RPI that it wouldn't be as big of a concern. Rooting big for the Bulldogs to pull off the upset, but the Engineers can help themselves by beating Brown (a TUC), since the Badgers really can't do much this weekend to boost their TUC record.

Dartmouth - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/COp, ignoring the H2H split. This is in danger of flipping back, but really only if Dartmouth advances to Atlantic City and the Engineers do not. The big issue here is that the Big Green is taking on Union, so we're probably not going to firm up both comparisons this weekend. The Union  comparison is currently more precarious, so we'll take Dartmouth this weekend. As outlined below, the Engineers would get a shot at the Big Green in Atlantic City if all goes well anyway, and a second win over Dartmouth would seal this up tight.

Providence - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/TUC. This can be firmed up and secured if New Hampshire can sweep (or even just knock out) the Friars this coming weekend, since it could flip COp and would keep Providence from improving their RPI/TUC.

Here's our cheering list this week, and it's another indication of how difficult it's going to be to move up quickly. With some frequency, it's better for teams around you in the PWR to lose. The good news is, there's a lot of separation between those teams in the first round. The bad news is, we're rooting for a lot of road teams.

There are some good reasons for rooting for teams in the Top 8 of the PWR or so, which is pretty common below - the Engineers aren't likely to be flipping comparisons with those teams, but at the same time we want to see them winning conference titles rather than seeing upsets. If we can bump out potential upset teams as soon as possible, it would make life significantly easier.

The CCHA is tough in that sense, since we would love to see Western Michigan and Notre Dame take hits. Below, we hope to see Niagara, Yale, and Minnesota State take RPI hits. Pretty much everywhere else, we're either looking at whether we want a team as a TUC or not, and the opportunity to stave off potential upset champions (except in Atlantic Hockey, where we probably wouldn't have much of a problem with one).

The Michigan-Western Michigan matchup annoys. On one hand, WMU losses would help bring their RPI down to a level where their comparison could be flipped. On the other, Michigan is close to the TUC line and would boost Notre Dame big time as a TUC. The Wolverines also represent an upset threat, since they wouldn't be in the tournament otherwise. We'll be conservative and take the Broncos, even with the knowledge that it probably ruins any chance of flipping the comparison with them. At this point, making the tournament in the first place is one of our main interests.

That explains all of them except Ferris State-Ohio State. We'd like to keep the Buckeyes as a TUC because both WMU and Notre Dame are having their TUC records pulled down by OSU. Wins by the Bulldogs (as with Mercyhurst, below) would at least have a positive impact on Rensselaer's RPI, so it's kind of OK either way.

Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals
RIT over Niagara
Robert Morris over UConn
Mercyhurst over Holy Cross
Canisius over Air Force

CCHA Quarterfinals
Ohio State over Ferris State
Western Michigan over Michigan
Bowling Green over Notre Dame
Miami over Michigan State

ECAC Quarterfinals
Rensselaer over Brown
St. Lawrence over Yale
Quinnipiac over Cornell
Dartmouth over Union

Hockey East Quarterfinals
UMass-Lowell over Maine
Merrimack over Boston University
Boston College over Vermont
New Hampshire over Providence

WCHA First Round
Nebraska-Omaha over Minnesota State
Minnesota-Duluth over Wisconsin
Minnesota over Bemidji State
St. Cloud State over Alaska-Anchorage
Denver over Colorado College
North Dakota over Michigan Tech

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