Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Engineer Bracketology: Week 3

Another week, more ECAC points, a second place position in the league... and another drop in the Pairwise for the Engineers.

The current situation:

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

Last in: UMass-Lowell, Denver
First out: Penn State, Minnesota
In since last week: none
Out since last week: none
League breakdown: 5 HEA, 4 ECAC, 4 NCHC, 1 B1G, 1 WCHA, 1 AHA

Worcester
1. Quinnipiac
2. Cornell
3. Boston College
4. Robert Morris

St. Paul
1. St. Cloud State
2. Michigan
3. Yale
4. Minnesota State

Cincinnati
1. North Dakota
2. Harvard
3. Notre Dame
4. UMass-Lowell

Albany
1. Providence
2. Omaha
3. Boston University
4. Denver

We'll learn more about the likelihood of some things in the bracketing process being different, but I'd almost swap the Worcester and Albany regionals in their entirety if only to help ticket sales at both. Problem is, the #1 overall seed is usually placed in their closest regional, and that's Worcester for the Bobcats. It's not like Albany's that much farther away.

Some clarification has come down on the whole "who's hosting in Albany" thing. It was announced that RPI and Union were both hosting, which would lead to some problems if both made the tournament and were seeded the same. Here's what USCHO found out:
In that light, the Engineers wouldn't necessarily be placed in Albany should they make the tournament. But let's be very clear about this: Albany would still be an extremely likely scenario, barring either Union making the tournament as well or the #1 overall seed coming from the ECAC and being placed there. Rensselaer being at the TU Center in March would sell tickets, period. More than Union, of course, but let's be honest, little brother can have his turn hosting, too.

So the Engineers are still falling in the PWR. despite being unbeaten since we started this whole Bracketology thing - 1-0-2. What about the other teams nearby in the RPI - and by extension, PWR?

Notre Dame: 3-0-1
Yale: 4-0-1
Boston University: 2-1-1 (loss/tie to Boston College)
UMass-Lowell: 3-0-0
Denver: 3-0-1
Penn State: 3-1-0 (loss to Minnesota)
Minnesota: 3-1-0 (loss to Penn State)
Minnesota Duluth: 1-1-2 (loss to St. Cloud State)

The moral of the story: if you're going to lose (or tie, since a tie is half a loss), lose to a strong team. The Engineers tied Princeton and Colgate, and neither - by RPI standards - qualifies as a strong team. Meanwhile, that's not something that's happening to anyone else around Rensselaer in the PWR. Had the Engineers been able to close out wins in those two games (and they had leads in both games), they'd be two spots ahead in the PWR - yet still behind where they started the month since games going on elsewhere have gone so poorly.

Honestly, the best policy is simply to not lose at all - a team can more or less control its own destiny by just winning all the games put in front of them. Just look at Quinnipiac. But again, the 7 teams listed above (everyone but Yale, who are a special situation) are primaries on our "rooting against" list, if only because running the table isn't really a feasible strategy, even if it's the only thing a team has any personal control over.

And then there's the quality wins factor. Through no fault of their own, the Engineers have been losing quality wins. The RPI quality wins cliff, as it looks right now.

16. Minnesota .533
17. Rensselaer .530
18. Minnesota-Duluth .530
19. Dartmouth .525
20. Minnesota State .523
--
21. Michigan Tech .518
22. Bowling Green .518
23. Robert Morris .518
24. Holy Cross .517
25. St. Lawrence .507

For the sake of completeness, let's look slightly beyond our normal RPI cliff.

26. Union .505
27. Clarkson .504
28. Miami .498
29. Western Michigan .497

And now you can see why I did that. Four teams representing five victories for the Engineers (and a fifth potential team coming up at Freakout!) are hanging in spots 25 through 29. Close, but not close enough. Good illustration why we frequently root for non-conference opponents, especially the ones Rensselaer beat.

Quality wins
Cornell (#8, at home)
Boston College (#9, at home)
Yale (#10, at home)

Missed opportunities
Harvard (#6, neutral ice and at home)
Michigan (#7, at home)
UMass-Lowell (#12, on the road)
Dartmouth (#19, at home)

Upcoming opportunities in the next 10 games
Quinnipiac (#1, on the road) - Jan 21
Yale (#10, on the road) - Jan 30
Harvard (#6, on the road) - Feb 12
Dartmouth (#19, on the road) - Feb 13
Quinnipiac (#1, at home) - Feb 19

Awaiting the Engineers this week is the Holy Grail of PWR opportunities - a game against the #1 team in RPI on the road. There is no other game that can produce a bigger quality win bonus than that. A win over Quinnipiac, by itself, would vault Rensselaer several spots up the PWR, likely to 15th - not quite in the tournament field, but much closer to it than the results of the last several weeks have left them.

As an added bit of good news, a loss to Rensselaer wouldn't be enough to knock the Bobcats out of the top spot in RPI - frequently, picking up a quality win comes with making the team you just beat fall a couple of pegs in the process, but that's not something that would happen on Thursday. It's a big chance for PWR support that they can put together themselves, but it's a one time opportunity. The return trip for QU to Troy in February won't be worth as much.

Let's have a look at a few of the Engineers' comparisions that are worth examining this week.

Minnesota Duluth (straight RPI) - Normally, it's not worth breaking down comparisons with teams that Rensselaer hasn't and won't play, but there's something that needs to be highlighted here - Minnesota became a Top 20 RPI team this week, and that gives UMD just enough of a quality win boost thanks to their two victories over the Gophers that, even though Rensselaer's RPI is (barely) higher than Duluth's, their quality win bonus is enough to push them over the top. Another illustration on why SLU and Union's poor fortunes are harming the Engineers right now - and of other variables in the PWR that are slightly more tangent to Rensselaer and their own results.

To complicate matters, UMD is playing against Denver in an NCHC weekend series this weekend. Both teams are on our above "rooting against" list, and obviously they can't both lose. However, the Engineers can flip this comparison by themselves simply by beating Quinnipiac tomorrow ("simply"). So, if that happens, we're probably willing to absorb the hit from UMD wins if it hurts Denver enough. The reverse is probably true if the Engineers lose or tie with the Bobcats.

Dartmouth (H2H loss) - One of two comparisons the Engineers are winning against teams that beat them earlier this year (Alaska is the other, and there's no worry about that one). As noted above, the Big Green are closing in on the Engineers in RPI, and the H2H loss makes this comparison more tentative than others - like Minnesota State and Robert Morris, for instance.

It's probably at least time to start getting a grasp on COp with Dartmouth. This weekend, Colgate (tie) and Cornell (win) become common opponents through the Big Green's games, while Quinnipiac (loss) becomes one through the Engineers' game (Dartmouth lost to Union, so the Mayor's Cup is actually irrelevant here). So as things are set up, it's actually going to be more pressure on the Big Green for COp this weekend, since Rensselaer is gaining positive results against COp and Dartmouth only gaining a negative.

Ultimately, Dartmouth losses this weekend would hurt them in both RPI and COp, so that's what we're going with. The Rensselaer at Dartmouth game on February 13 will have potential implications for this comparison and for the comparison with Michigan (for whom Dartmouth is a common opponent).

Union (2 H2H wins) - If not for the possibility of the Engineers and Dutchmen playing each other in the ECAC playoffs, Rensselaer would effectively clinch this comparison on Saturday with a win, since that would be 3 points on H2H wins alone, meaning the Dutchmen could potentially pull ahead on both RPI and COp and still lose. Not a terribly important comparison to look at, just a remark on what could be done this week. Even if Union retains the Mayor's Cup, this is still a comparison that looks good for the Engineers.

Time to look at what we're hoping for in the coming week, outside of a couple of wins for the Engineers.

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

Engineers Cheering Section
Friday
Yale over Clarkson - 3 (although the reverse helps COp with Yale)
Harvard over Colgate - 3
Cornell over Dartmouth - 1/3/4
St. Lawrence over Brown - 3
Boston College over UMass - 3/5

Weekend series
Providence over UMass-Lowell - 4
New Hampshire over Notre Dame - 4/5
Maine over Boston University - 4
Mercyhurst over Robert Morris - 4
Bentley over American International - 5
Ohio State over Penn State - 4
Alaska-Anchorage over Bowling Green - 5
Lake Superior State over Minnesota State - 4
Western Michigan over St. Cloud State - 5
Miami over Omaha - 5
Wisconsin over Minnesota - 4

Saturday
Colgate over Dartmouth - 1/4
Cornell over Harvard - 3
Yale over St. Lawrence - 3 (although the reverse would help SLU get back to being a quality win)
Boston College over UConn - 3/5

Tuesday
Princeton over American International - 2
Sacred Heart over UConn - call this one a rare six - weakens Hockey East's inter-conference record. Not really that important either way.

Important COp/H2H games for currently relevant comparisons
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)
Alaska-Anchorage

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

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