Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Engineer Bracketology: Week 2

This week was an excellent demonstration for why other games are just as important - and frequently more so - than your own games when it comes to positioning in the Pairwise Rankings.

Rensselaer played just one game this week, skating to a 3-3 draw with Princeton. That's not a great result, but taken by itself, it really didn't change much of anything. In fact, even if the Engineers had beaten the Tigers, they still would have seen their Pairwise ranking decrease.

Here's what it currently looks like.

1. Quinnipiac*
2. North Dakota*
3. St. Cloud State
4. Harvard
5. Cornell
6. Providence*
7. Omaha
8. Michigan*
9. Boston University
10. Boston College
11. Notre Dame
12. Yale
13. UMass-Lowell
14. Denver
15. Penn State
16. Minnesota Duluth
17. Rensselaer
18. Minnesota State*
23. Robert Morris*

Last in: UMass-Lowell, Denver
First out: Penn State, Minnesota Duluth
In since last week: Boston College, Denver
Out since last week: St. Lawrence, Penn State
League breakdown: 5 HEA, 4 ECAC, 4 NCHC, 1 B1G, 1 WCHA, 1 AHA

(Since Rensselaer's out of the tournament right now and nothing major has changed other than what's listed above, we'll forego the projected bracket this week. Also note - I decided to change the presumed autobid from whoever is in 1st in each league by winning percentage to whoever is tops in each league in KRACH. Much better way to determine who the best team is supposed to be.)

Had the Engineers beaten Princeton, they'd be in 16th instead of 17th, where they'd been in 15th before this weekend's games. So why the drop? Well, the biggest reasons were Union's loss to Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence getting swept by Northeastern. The Dutchmen and Saints had been providing RPI boosts thanks to their position in the Top 20 of RPI. But no longer.

Old and busted: The TUC cliff.
New hotness: The RPI bonus cliff.

16. Minnesota Duluth .533
17. Rensselaer .532
18. Minnesota State .530
19. Minnesota .524
22. Bowling Green .522
21. Holy Cross .521
22. Union .518
23. Dartmouth .517
24. Robert Morris .517
25. Michigan Tech .515
26. St. Lawrence .514

Quality wins
Boston College (#10, at home)
Yale (#12, at home)

Lost quality wins
Union (#22, at home and on the road)
St. Lawrence (#26, on the road)

Missed opportunities
Harvard (#4, neutral ice and at home)
Michigan (#8, at home)
UMass-Lowell (#13, on the road)

Upcoming opportunities in the next 10 games
Cornell (#5, at home) - Jan 15
Quinnipiac (#1, on the road) - Jan 21
Yale (#12, on the road) - Jan 30
Harvard (#4, on the road) - Feb 12

That's a loss of three out of five quality wins - two of which were on the road - off the Engineers' docket, providing the biggest change to their RPI, the most crucial aspect of the PWR (note that, whether Rensselaer is in the Top 20 is irrelevant to this part of the discussion, although they're going to struggle in PWR generally if they aren't).

St. Lawrence took a huge tumble down the RPI and PWR standings when they were swept by a Northeastern team that seems to have flipped a switch, having been awful early in the year and practically unstoppable now. While the Huskies are pretty good now, RPI takes the entire season into account, and NU started the year 2-12-3, both of their wins coming against Colgate.

Northeastern may prove to be a problem for the ECAC writ-large, as they are now 4-0-1 against the conference, their draw coming at Quinnipiac of all teams. That's a huge boost for Hockey East against the ECAC, against whom they're otherwise struggling for the most part - 18-26-3 without the Huskies' contribution.

As for the Saints, losing to Clarkson last night only exacerbated the situation. They were in the tournament last week as a #3 seed, ranked #10 overall in PWR. This week? Not just out, but way out, free-falling 15 spots in one weekend to #25. That underscores that, even now that it's January, it's still too early to take major stock in the Pairwise. There's still a lot that can happen in a hurry. St. Lawrence especially is in a situation where they need things to turn around quickly if they're going to contend for an at-large spot.

It should go without saying that a win over Cornell on Friday would be pretty big for the Engineers. It would provide another quality win (at home, but let's not quibble here), it would move them into 2nd place in the ECAC, and it would be a solid RPI boost all at the same time. Before considering any other game this week, a win over the Big Red would move Rensselaer back up to 15th on its own (on RPI).

Again, only a couple of comparisons worth looking at. Otherwise, it's just straight RPI.

UMass-Lowell (H2H loss) - A scoreless tie with UNH was broken with under 3 minutes left in regulation as the River Hawks beat the Wildcats 1-0, keeping this comparison firmly in UML's hands. The win over UNH basically keeps COp as it was last week, and we won't get another crack at flipping this one until January 29, when the Engineers visit Brown. A win over the Bears would help, but wouldn't flip COp by itself. The bigger one comes in February when UNH visits Lowell for the other half of the series. Even a tie in that game would be very helpful, especially if paired with a Rensselaer win over Brown. But nothing can really change unless the Engineers catch UML in RPI as well, which means we're rooting against the River Hawks for the foreseeable future.

Yale (H2H win) - The Bulldogs' 4-0 win over the Sun Devils cancels out any advantage the Engineers could have gotten on Yale through ASU (both were 1.000 against the Sun Devils), but thanks in part to their 1-1 tie with Michigan Tech, they're within striking distance in RPI. Losses to Brown would not only help the Engineers catch them in RPI (assuming Rensselaer can win at home), it would also be potential COp boost provided the Bears can take at least 3 out of 4 points this weekend. With the head-to-head win, only one out of RPI/COp needs to be flipped.

The Yale comparison can be flipped in Rensselaer's favor this week given the right set of circumstances. As far as I can tell, currently losing comparisons with Notre Dame, Penn State, Minnesota Duluth, and Denver can also be flipped in the right circumstances (all on RPI, of course). Gonna be optimistic and not get into winning comparisons that can be flipped in the wrong circumstances - rest assured there are probably more than a handful, including...

St. Lawrence (H2H win) - Gonna mention the Saints here if only because they're a sticky situation. The Engineers definitely want them up in the Top 20 of RPI, but they're also a possible rival for at-large positioning. So SLU, right now, is a big Catch-22. Certainly a team worth monitoring closely despite the current 2-1 comparison win on RPI/H2H. On COp, the only non-conference teams both Rensselaer and SLU played were UNH and Miami - and SLU beat UNH and split with Miami (the ECAC won every game against the NCHC this year except for these two Miami games), making that a wash and basically making COp hinge on the final ECAC standings, with the Mayor's Cup a possible difference maker.

Sitting on the Boston College and Union comparisons this week until matchups crop up in the coming weeks that will make them worth talking about again. Dartmouth may become more interesting in the near future depending on the results of this coming week.

A best-case for the Engineers this week, with a sweep and lots of favorable help elsewhere, and they could pull up into the tournament field for next weekend, for sure, but not very far into it - probably no better than 14 PWR (although I've found one scenario where they're 13th).

The key for the cheering section:
1. Wherever there is direct COp assistance
2. For the ECAC out-of-conference
3. For improved quality win bonuses (QWB)
4. Against teams ahead of or just behind Rensselaer in the RPI or PWR
5. For non-conference opponents

Engineer Cheering Section
St. Lawrence over Harvard - 3
Dartmouth over Clarkson - 3 (Dartmouth much closer to the Top 20 for potential future win against them)
Union over Colgate - 3

Weekend series
Brown over Yale - 1/4 (Although Yale winning at least helps keep the quality win bonus higher)
New Hampshire over Northeastern - 5
Boston College over Boston University - 4/5
UMass over UMass-Lowell - 4
Merrimack over Notre Dame - 4
Michigan over Ohio State - 5
Wisconsin over Penn State - 4
Michigan State over Minnesota - 4
Bentley over RIT - 5
Alaska over Northern Michigan - 5
Alaska-Anchorage over Lake Superior State - 5
Michigan Tech over Minnesota State - 4
St. Cloud State over Minnesota Duluth - 4
Western Michigan over Denver - 4/5
Arizona State over Bemidji State - 5

St. Lawrence over Dartmouth - 3 (Engineers have a win against SLU, only a prospective one with Big Green)
Harvard over Clarkson - 3 (Prospective road win with Harvard, home with Clarkson)
Union over Cornell - 3
Miami over Bowling Green - 5

Quinnipiac over Maine - 2

Important COp/H2H games for currently relevant comparisons
Friday, January 15: Brown at Yale
Saturday, January 16: Yale at Brown
Saturday, January 23: Union vs. Rensselaer (Mayor's Cup)
Friday, January 29: Arizona State at UMass-Lowell; Rensselaer at Brown
Saturday, January 30: Arizona State at UMass-Lowell; Rensselaer at Yale
Monday, February 1: Harvard vs. Boston College (Beanpot)
Friday, February 5: New Hampshire at Boston College; St. Lawrence at Rensselaer
Saturday, February 6: New Hampshire at UMass-Lowell; Clarkson at Rensselaer
Friday, February 26: UMass-Lowell at Boston College
Saturday, February 27: Boston College at UMass-Lowell

Unwinnable comparisons (H2H loss, will lose COp)

Clinched comparisons (H2H win, will win COp)
Western Michigan, Bentley

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