Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 5

This is going to be a somewhat easy pull this week. No nitty gritty details, just the basic facts.

The Engineers are currently in a five-way tie for 16th in the Pairwise with Wisconsin, Providence, Boston University, and Alaska. This breaks out to a 19th place position in the rankings, and currently out of the tournament. See the full ranking here.

Since Rensselaer is currently not in the tournament, we're going to forgo the bracket today. The bottom line is that the Engineers need help to keep their season alive, and it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could finish as high as 13th, which with some frequency would see them earning an at-large bid to the NCAAs as long as there weren't an insane number of tournament upsets that go along.

Here's what we need.

1) As few upsets in the conference tournaments as possible. A result would be considered an upset if a tournament is won by any team listed below:

Atlantic Hockey: UConn, Mercyhurst, or Canisius.
CCHA: Ohio State or Michigan.
ECAC: Union or Brown.
Hockey East: Boston University or Providence.
WCHA: Wisconsin or Colorado College.

These teams, almost across the board, we want to lose as soon as possible. Almost without exception, these are teams that would not be in the tournament if they do not win their league tournament, which means they could displace potential at-large teams (Union is a special case). There's only one game currently out there that pits two of these teams against each other - Mercyhurst and UConn - and in every other case these teams are playing higher seeded teams in their next game. There is a reason to support Ohio State in their game, however, due to their opponent (Notre Dame).

2) Losses by teams around the Engineers in the Pairwise. Of the teams they're currently tied with, Alaska is already done, and the other three we already see above we are rooting against. We can add to this list Union, for whom two losses in Atlantic City would be extremely helpful in getting the Tute into the NCAAs.

3) Wins by teams the Engineers played outside of the ECAC, where possible. These will provide the best possible boosts to Rensselaer's RPI now that they can't provide their own anymore. This means Mercyhurst, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota State. The latter two we can root for continuously. The first we can only cheer for in the first round. Boston University, being a team in direct competition for an at-large position, is not a team we can support.

4) Notre Dame is being bolstered greatly by Michigan being a TUC (they have a 4-0-0 record against the Wolverines), which provides extra incentive to root against Michigan, as a loss should drop them off the TUC cliff.

So here's what we're hoping to see as of right now. The most important results are in bold. This is somewhat subject to change based on actual occurring events, which we will cover on Friday and Saturday. Explanations listed below.

Thursday
Minnesota State over Wisconsin - RPI boost, plus it likely eliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
North Dakota over Colorado College - Eliminates a potential upset champion.

Friday
St. Cloud State over whoever they play - RPI boost (Engineers had better record vs. SCSU than MSU), could potentially eliminate at-large contender/potential upset champion if UW beats MSU.
Quinnipiac over Brown - Eliminates a potential upset champion.
Niagara over Canisius - Eliminates a potential upset champion.
UMass-Lowell over Providence - Eliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
Yale over Union - Hurts an at-large contender and eliminates a potential upset champion.
Mercyhurst over UConn - RPI boost.
Boston College over Boston UniversityEliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
Minnesota over whoever they play - Probably not important unless Minnesota is playing Colorado College.

Saturday
Ohio State over Notre Dame - Allows a potential upset champion into the title game but deals an RPI blow to the Fighting Irish.
Miami over Michigan - Eliminates a potential upset champion and drops Michigan as a TUC.

As far as we can tell, the Engineers' best case scenario would land them 13th in the Pairwise, a better position than they were in for the 2011 tournament. They would be the top-rated #4 seed in the tournament and would stand a pretty solid likelihood of being placed in Manchester against what would likely be the Hockey East champion (either Boston College or UMass-Lowell).

There are, no doubt, other ways for the Engineers to get into the tournament. There are apparently reasons to support UConn over Mercyhurst. Please, feel free to share with us some of your best ways to get the Engineers into the tournament - hit us up with the link to the right (contact us), one of the best ways to examine potential paths is through the You Are The Committee tool.

We're hoping to have more information before Thursday on what we can expect out of the Pairwise this weekend. Two years ago, we hacked the Pairwise to determine what each team's odds were on making the tournament, we're hoping to do that again this season.

The "bubble" currently consists of Western Michigan, Union, Wisconsin, Providence, Boston University, Rensselaer, Alaska, and Robert Morris as far as teams that can potentially get in with an at-large bid or that have a realistic likelihood of falling out of the current tournament field. Those eight teams are in the running for what should end up being between one and three slots, depending on  how many upsets there are in the conference tournaments (operating under the assumption that anything more than two upsets is unlikely - three would almost certainly require these teams listed to win their conference's automatic bid).

As far as what we know about seeding, Quinnipiac is locked into the #1 overall seed and will play in Providence unless Brown wins the ECAC tournament (they would be seeded as the #4 seed in Providence as hosts and could not play QU), in which case they would play in Manchester. This means the Engineers have no possible method for ending up in Providence, should they make the tournament.

Minnesota will be the #2 overall seed and be placed as the #1 seed in Grand Rapids.

Other potential #1 seeds are Miami, Boston College, Yale, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, Niagara, and St. Cloud State.

Thus, since the Engineers can only possibly be a #4 seed, should they play in the tournament, they would play one of the teams mentioned in the two sentences above with the exception of Yale.

Quinnipiac, Minnesota, Miami, Boston College, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, and New Hampshire are guaranteed NCAA bids - there is no scenario where these teams miss the tournament. New Hampshire, as hosts in Manchester, will be either the #2 or #3 seed in that regional (it is mathematically possible for them to be a #4 seed, but exceptionally unlikely).

Yale, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, Niagara, St. Cloud State, and Denver are essentially assured of making the tournament. None are a lock, but something weird would have to happen for them to be out.

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