Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Engineer Bracketology: Week 6

The past few weeks, we got a few comments, mostly from those who couldn't wrap their minds around the concept of bracketology. Usually went something like this: "well, all we have to do is win and everything will be fine." And then the team gets swept at home and there's a serious drop and they smirk and think they were right.

1. Quinnipiac*
2. St. Cloud State
3. North Dakota*
4. Boston College*
5. Providence
6. Michigan*
7. Notre Dame
8. Boston University
9. Omaha
10. Yale
11. Harvard
12. Denver
13. UMass-Lowell
14. Cornell
15. Penn State
16. Dartmouth
19. Robert Morris*
20. Rensselaer
21. Minnesota State*
In since last week: Cornell
Out since last week: Rensselaer
Last in: UMass-Lowell, Cornell
First out: Penn State, Dartmouth
League breakdown: 5 HEA, 4 ECAC, 4 NCHC, 1 B1G, 1 WCHA, 1 AHA

After Saturday, the Engineers dropped off significantly - down eight spots from the 14th they were in last week. Last night brought some slight redemption as Bemidji State's win over Minnesota Duluth moved the Engineers up two slots (based on Duluth's RPI drop and the Engineers moving ahead of Minnesota in PWR).

So, is the party over? Possibly. But possibly not. Dropping eight spots in one night is tough to deal with. But when you can rise two on a night you're not even playing, there's still some daylight there somewhere. Especially when you consider what else happened over the weekend. It wasn't just the Engineers losing (although that did hurt too, of course).

Cornell tied Quinnipiac on their way to a three point weekend. Robert Morris, Clarkson and Michigan Tech swept the weekend. If some of that changes a little, the drop off isn't nearly as precipitous. In fact, it was fairly easy to find a scenario in which the Engineers only dropped a couple of spots despite getting swept, simply by changing other results.

In lieu of a bracket this week, here's the analysis on the regionals and ticket sales that I promised last week. Hosts are in parentheses.

Worcester (Holy Cross): The Crusaders are probably the only host team that doesn't bring with it at least 3,000 in ticket sales. They might provide a minor bump, but that's pale in comparison to basically any Hockey East team that is placed here. Worcester rarely has a problem selling tickets because there's practically always a BC, BU, UNH, or Providence that will end up at the DCU Center. Quinnipiac based on previous experiences in New England would draw well here too, good news since they're likely to be the #1 overall seed - or at least the top eastern seed - and be sent here.

Albany (Union): Usually the NCAA tries to put an ECAC team here, which can be hit or miss. The hosts would probably draw well enough anyway given their recent successes, and you have to think Rensselaer (local, big crowd for the Mayor's Cup) and Cornell (great regional traveling) are high on the list too, and to a lesser extent Clarkson and St. Lawrence. RIT has done well in Albany in the past, and Quinnipiac certainly wouldn't disappoint either given the season they're having. The larger-following Hockey East schools would probably do well here too, like BC or BU.

Cincinnati (Miami): The hosts probably work well here (although they didn't do much for Toledo in 2013), and they'll probably try and get teams like Notre Dame and Michigan here, although they're far from a sure thing. This is likely to be the most difficult of the four venues to sell. While in the past there were good examples of teams that could draw anywhere, we've seen examples in the recent past with Cornell and North Dakota (previously thought to be more or less silver bullets) where this hasn't been the case, in Green Bay and Grand Rapids respectively.

St. Paul (Minnesota): The Gophers would pretty much guarantee a full or mostly full house, but St. Paul has done well with any of the old traditional WCHA powers of the midwest - St. Cloud State and/or North Dakota would also guarantee a good gate. Pretty much any team that ever brought lots of fans to the old WCHA Final Five (held in the same building) would work, including Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin.

So... what happens now? Well, a whole bunch of comparisons flipped over the weekend. Nearly all of them - Dartmouth and now Clarkson the exceptions - revolve entirely around RPI. And all of them are still close on RPI.

The enemies list basically reads like this:

  • UMass-Lowell
  • Cornell
  • Penn State
  • Dartmouth
  • Clarkson
  • Minnesota Duluth
  • Robert Morris
  • Michigan Tech
  • Minnesota
  • Bowling Green
  • Minnesota State
Most of these were already familiar. May want to toss St. Lawrence in for good measure. Given the right set of circumstances, the Engineers could finish the coming week's games ahead of every single one of these teams (it helps already being ahead of four of them). It's unlikely, but it's possible. Observe the RPI cliff - which, really, is more of an RPI slope.


16. Dartmouth .531
17. Michigan Tech .529
18. Clarkson .527
19. Robert Morris .526
20. Bowling Green .525
--
21. Minnesota State  .525
22. Minnesota .525
23. Rensselaer .523
24. St. Lawrence .522
25. Minnesota Duluth .519

Look how close pretty much all of those teams are. That's proof positive that there's still some hope out there. The bad news? On QWB, there's not a whole lot of help that's imminently available. Union's got one win in their last nine games, and they're now sitting 30th in RPI. That's a pretty far way off from those three wins being able to pay off again.

Quality wins
Boston College (#4, at home)
Yale (#11, at home)
Cornell (#14, at home)

Quality ties (half a quality win)
Quinnipiac (#2, on the road)
Harvard (#9, at home)
Clarkson (#18, on the road)

Missed opportunities
Michigan (#6, at home)
Harvard (#9, neutral ice)
Yale (#11, on the road)
UMass-Lowell (#13, on the road)
Dartmouth (#16, at home)
Clarkson (#18, at home)

Remaining opportunities
Harvard (#9, on the road) - Feb 12
Dartmouth (#16, on the road) - Feb 13
Quinnipiac (#2, at home) - Feb 19
Cornell (#14, on the road) - Feb 27

The Engineers have the opportunity to pick up some QWB points in four of their last six games - including three of them on the road and the other against a jackpot of points at home. They've got some room to come back if they can find some of what made them successful against strong teams earlier in the year.

A few interesting comparisons out there still.

UMass-Lowell (H2H loss) - If there was any seriously good news to be derived from the Pairwise results this week, it would be in New Hampshire's win over the River Hawks on Saturday night. Despite the Engineers' loss to Clarkson on Saturday, UML's loss moves COp here into a tie (3.000-3.000) - the River Hawks lost 0.500 off their COp total with their loss, while Rensselaer lost only 0.250 with theirs.

So for all of the comparisons that now need to be flipped back, at least the UML comparison now counts as one that can be flipped on RPI. Before the possibility of playoff games (between Rensselaer and either Brown or Clarkson, and between UML and UNH), UML now cannot win the COp criteria, even once they play Boston College (adds 1.000 for Rensselaer, meaning UML would need a sweep just to keep pace), which effectively cancels out the impact of their H2H win and makes this comparison revolve completely around RPI. That's a positive development.

Dartmouth (H2H loss) - A win on Saturday is important if only because it would make this very relevant comparison hinge on RPI alone once again, which would be nice. A second H2H loss actually doesn't change much about this (or any) comparison other than the RPI drop, since it doesn't change the metric - winning 2-2 on RPI/COp is the same as winning 2-1 on RPI/COp. Because of the head-to-head matchup and the reminder that we were rooting for Union on Friday anyway for sundry reasons (remember the drag on Dartmouth from their comparison with Vermont), we'll forgo a COp look this week and see if it's still relevant next week (assuming bracketology itself is still relevant).

Clarkson (H2H loss) - The Freakout! loss complicates this comparison, which now must be won on RPI/COp. Right now, that's 8.500-8.000 Engineers, and they're slightly behind on RPI. Rooting against Clarkson extra hard this weekend since they have potential to improve COp in both of their games. The Engineers do as well.

Total COp: 8.500-8.000 Rensselaer
Harvard: 1.000-0.250 Clarkson
Dartmouth: 0.000 each
Princeton: 0.500-0.000 Rensselaer
Quinnipiac: 0.500-0.500 each

Cornell (H2H win) - With the H2H win, this one can be flipped back on COp, as we've mentioned. The situation this week - the Engineers can only improve COp against Dartmouth, while Cornell can only lose COp against Brown. Either could gain or lose in their other matchup of the week, which makes the Dartmouth game, again, the more important element.

Total COp: 5.250-4.750 Rensselaer
Harvard: 0.250-0.000 Rensselaer
Dartmouth: 0.000 each
Brown: 1.000-0.750 Cornell
Yale: 0.500 each

Michigan (H2H loss) - Really nothing going on here, it's more of a footnote. There's no scenario where this gets flipped down the road without RPI flipping, and RPI's not even remotely close to flipping. But COp needs to flip too, and the Rensselaer/Dartmouth game would play into that. If the Engineers beat or tie the Big Green, they'll handle the COp end of things for now - permanently unless they lose to Dartmouth or Union in the playoffs. If they lose, this becomes an unflippable comparison unless the Engineers face (and beat) the Big Green in March.

Total COp: 1.250-1.000 Michigan
Dartmouth: 0.750-0.000 Michigan

Minnesota (straight RPI) - There's something interesting about the Gophers. Their horrifyingly bad record against in-state opponents (1-7-0) is hamstringing them big time. While their comparison loss to #2 PWR St. Cloud State shouldn't be too surprising, their losses to Minnesota State, Minnesota Duluth, and Bemidji State are direct results of their terrible records against those teams. In fact, the Golden Gophers are guaranteed to lose all four comparisons no matter what else happens this season - because the Minnesota teams all play each other and are therefore all common opponents. That's keeping the Engineers ahead of the Gophers right now despite the fact that Minnesota wins the comparison with Rensselaer at present AND the Engineers have that pesky UAA loss they can't get rid of.

Before this week's cheering section, a quick note - if the weekend plays out poorly again, this may be the last bracketology session for the time being. I'm playing it like this: if I can't find a scenario whereby the Engineers are back in the Top 16 by the end of the following weekend, I won't bother with a bracketology look. At that point it's probably ECAC championship or bust.

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
Union over Dartmouth - 1/3/4
Princeton over Clarkson - 1/4
Yale over Colgate - 3
Brown over Cornell - 4
Quinnipiac over St. Lawrence - 4

Weekend series
Boston University over UMass-Lowell - 4
Miami over Bowling Green - 3/4/5
Western Michigan over Omaha - 5
Ohio State over Minnesota - 4
Michigan State over Penn State - 4
Boston College over Merrimack - 3/5
New Hampshire over Vermont - 5 (if Dartmouth beats or ties Union, might want UVM to pull out at least one win)
Bentley over Canisius - 5
Army over Robert Morris - 4
Alabama-Huntsville over Minnesota State - 4

Saturday
Union over Harvard - 3
Princeton over St. Lawrence - 4
Quinnipiac over Clarkson - 1/4
Yale over Cornell - 3/4

Tuesday
American International over UMass-Lowell - 4

Important COp/H2H games for currently relevant comparisons
Friday, February 12: Union at Dartmouth
Saturday, February 13: Rensselaer at Dartmouth
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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