Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where'd Our Tough Schedule Go?

Before the season started, the conventional wisdom on RPI's schedule was that it was heavy with tough games. Outside of four games against Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst - and at the very least, Mercyhurst was at least considered to be among the tougher teams from Atlantic Hockey - the RPI non-conference haul is indeed chock full of traditional power teams.

Unfortunately, a schedule is only as strong as how those teams play in subsequent games, and from the way some of those opponents have started off the season... it hasn't been an awful lot of help. New Hampshire and Boston University have sub-.500 records, as does Denver. In fact, only two known non-conference opponents right now have winning records, and that's Boston College and Ferris State (RPI may or may not face Minnesota in January).

The short version? Unless some of the teams the Engineers are playing this year up their game a little bit, it's going to make for tough sailing later in the season when we're hoping that RPI is shooting for an NCAA spot - and hopefully aiming for a higher one rather than just making the tournament.

Don't bother looking for the Engineers' current position in the Pairwise Rankings for a number of reasons: 1) It's November and the Pairwise doesn't tell you a thing in November, and 2) The Pairwise method has changed significantly over last year, and there isn't a reliable calculator up and running yet on any of the major sites.

Fortunately, there's always KRACH. Here's where KRACH ranks the 19 different teams that are on the Engineers' schedule this season (and RPI themselves, for comparison), along with their current records (and RPI's record against them second, if they've played).

1. Minnesota (6-1-1)
2. Boston College (6-2-1, 0-1-0)
6. Quinnipiac (9-1-1)
9. St. Lawrence (6-2-2)
11. Ferris State (7-2-0)
13. Yale (3-1-2)
16. RPI (6-2-2)
18. New Hampshire (4-5-1, 1-0-0)
19. Boston University (4-5-0, 1-0-0)
22. Union (4-3-2)
23. Clarkson (9-2-1)
24. Cornell (3-2-1, 0-0-1)
25. Colgate (4-6-1, 1-0-0)
28. Brown (3-3-1)
33. Harvard (2-3-1, 0-1-1)
43. Mercyhurst (3-6-1)
44. Denver (4-5-1)
55. Sacred Heart (2-7-0, 2-0-0)
57. Princeton (1-6-0)
58. Dartmouth (0-6-0, 1-0-0)

So as it turns out, UNH and BU are probably a little better than they've been given credit for thus far - KRACH says they've had the 4th and 6th most difficult schedule in the nation thus far.

By comparison, RPI has the 28th most difficult schedule according to KRACH. Don't forget, fully half of RPI's victories this year to date are against Sacred Heart and Dartmouth, both in the bottom five in KRACH, and they've lost to the only team they've played that's currently ahead of them in KRACH (although that's not uncommon this early, given the index's retrodictive nature), which pegs the Engineers as only the 16th best team in the nation, six places below the USCHO poll's voters. That Harvard has generally done rather poorly when not playing RPI doesn't help things either, considering the issues the Engineers had against the Crimson.

KRACH also suggests that Clarkson is being highly overrated, while their arch-rivals from Canton and RPI's first opponent of 2014, Ferris State, are actually being pretty severely underrated by the human voters in the polls. At the end of the day, neither the polls nor KRACH really matter, but this does show us one thing that will be important down the road - not only are we hoping for the Engineers to do well in every game they play, so too would we like to see their non-conference opponents do well, and so far... the jury's certainly out on that.

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