Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Engineer Bracketology: Week 8

So close. And yet so far. The Engineers were literally 2:13 away from a season sweep of Quinnipiac that, beyond being improbable, may well have just always been impossible. They're very good. But how different is the Pairwise if Rensselaer's able to hold onto those very late leads? Well, the Engineers would be sitting in a tournament position right now (14th) - and the Bobcats wouldn't be a #1 seed, let alone the #1 overall (5th). It's a razor's edge, and it's easy to fall off the side of it. And while losing to Quinnipiac didn't really make Rensselaer fall, it ended up being a lost opportunity to climb the ladder.

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

Certainly feels like a losing effort, right? Farther back in the Pairwise again, we might as well wrap this all up. (Believe me, I wouldn't mind not having to do this.) But there's still some hope out there, and it can be found by taking a peep at the RPI cliff.

14. Cornell .534
15. Minnesota .532
16. Penn State .532
17. Michigan Tech .528
18. St. Lawrence .524
19. Rensselaer .524
20. Miami .523
21. Dartmouth .523
22. Robert Morris .523
23. Minnesota State .521
24. Northeastern .520
25. Clarkson .516

At this point, it's probably safe to write off Union becoming a quality win factor. We wanted them to go on a run in the ECAC, they did not, time's pretty much up. We're going to move on from them, but we're still rooting for them on Friday against Cornell for other reasons.

Really, the most important thing to see here right now is just how close teams around the Engineers are in RPI. These differences are extremely thin, so it's easy to see how quickly things can change, especially since basically every team on the list with the exception of Dartmouth and Clarkson (and Cornell, for now) are straight RPI comparisons. Just above this group is Minnesota at .532 and Cornell at .534. Catchable, and quickly. The area between about 14th and 27th or so in the Pairwise (including Bowling Green and Minnesota Duluth not on this list) could see serious upheaval these next two weekends.

That's a lot of teams fighting for, realistically, one or two spots at best - or potentially none at all if there's an upset or two in the conference championships. So all of this certainly puts a damper on expectations, but if the Engineers do well this weekend and then into the playoffs (can never stress enough how important it is to win your own games), the positioning is at least still there. Need to win games. Need a bit of help. But it's a near sight better than what most of the college hockey world is digesting about now.

Quality wins
Boston College (#4, at home)
Yale (#7, at home)
Harvard (#12, on the road)
Cornell (#14, at home)
St. Lawrence (#18, on the road)
Miami (#20, on the road)

Quality ties (half a quality win)
Quinnipiac (#2, on the road)
Harvard (#12, at home)

Missed opportunities
Quinnipiac (#2, at home)
Michigan (#6, at home)
Yale (#7, on the road)
Harvard (#12, neutral ice)
UMass-Lowell (#13, on the road)
Miami (#20, on the road)

Remaining opportunities
Cornell (#14, on the road) - Feb 27

The majority of comparisons that could be flipped soon are, as usual, straight RPI, and they're basically the teams listed above. But there are a few other considerations to check out.

UMass-Lowell (H2H loss) - The final COp games of the regular season for this comparison take place this week as the River Hawks face Boston College in a home-and-home. With the Boston College comparison effectively out of reach despite the H2H win, we can safely root for the Eagles to help keep the COp portion of this comparison locked out and hurt UML's RPI at the same time. Anything other than a UML sweep here helps bolster a COp victory for the Engineers, cancelling out the River Hawks' H2H win and keeping this an RPI comparison. Even if UML does sweep, COp remains tied. RPI doesn't appear to be flippable this week, but sweeps by the Engineers and Eagles would bring this awfully close heading into the playoffs.

Total COp: 3.000 each
Boston College: To be added (1.000 for Rensselaer)

Dartmouth (2 H2H losses) - Breathing room for the Engineers on COp. While we wanted the Big Green to beat Cornell last week to stop the Big Red from rising in the Pairwise, Dartmouth's loss did at least help this comparison by a slight amount. Since we need both RPI and COp to be going Rensselaer's way, keeping COp in the good is important - and that'll stay in the Engineers' favor through this weekend no matter what. RPI's still pretty close, though, so Dartmouth losses still help in that area - and this could still flip away from the Engineers on RPI in a big hurry.

Total COp: 7.000-5.750 Rensselaer
Colgate: 1.000-0.500 Dartmouth
Cornell: 1.000-0.500 Rensselaer
St. Lawrence: 1.000-0.500 Dartmouth
Clarkson: 1.000-0.250 Dartmouth

St. Lawrence (H2H split) - Straight RPI here, but there's a catch. Dartmouth and St. Lawrence play each other on Friday, and the winner stands to gain serious traction on the Engineers no matter what happens in their game, given how close they are to each other and to Rensselaer in RPI as seen above. However, a tie between the two teams should keep both of them at bay and allow Rensselaer the chance to improve on both teams with a win.

Clarkson (H2H loss) - Really not much of a worry here right now as long as the Engineers can take care of their own business this week. There's some separation on both RPI and COp, both of which Rensselaer needs to win to pin down this comparison. Here's COp for the week. A worst case scenario would see it tied at 8.000 after the weekend and flipping the comparison back to the Golden Knights (2-0 on RPI/H2H), but honestly, if that happens, we're probably not doing EB next week because the Engineers got swept.

Total COp: 8.750-7.500 Rensselaer
Colgate: 0.500 each
Cornell: 1.000-0.500 Rensselaer
Harvard: 1.000-0.500 Clarkson
Dartmouth: 0.000 each

Cornell (H2H win) - Not going to delve too far into Cornell this week. They're winning on very thin RPI/COp margins right now, but since there's another H2H on Saturday, this could flip pretty quick just by the Engineers' own hand with a win. As a reminder, there's no functional difference between 1 H2H win and 2 H2H wins (the other side still has to win both RPI/COp to win the comparison), so that's not really a big deal should Rensselaer prevail, it's a bigger concern if they lose because then it's straight RPI and it's an RPI benefit to the Big Red while being an RPI drag to the Engineers simultaneously. The game on Saturday is of utmost importance if Rensselaer's going to have a shot at an at-large bid.

For the cheering section this weekend, it's worth pointing out that much of what is beneficial to the Engineers in the Pairwise runs semi-counter to what they need to happen for ECAC positioning. For instance, the best case scenario for the Engineers in the ECAC on Friday night are wins by Dartmouth and Clarkson, but those aren't as good for the Pairwise. The whole Dartmouth/Harvard at SLU/Clarkson weekend still being a thing that has to happen is really the biggest problem the Engineers have on both the Pairwise and ECAC fronts.

The key for the cheering section:
1. Wherever there is direct COp assistance
2. For the ECAC out-of-conference (no longer applicable, just keeping it for continuity's sake)
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
Bentley over American International - 5

Union over Cornell - 4
Harvard over Clarkson - 4
Dartmouth ties St. Lawrence - 4

Weekend series
Michigan over Minnesota - 4/5
Boston College over UMass-Lowell - 1/3/4/5
Maine over Northeastern - 4
Western Michigan over Denver - 5
Bentley over Army - 5
New Hampshire over UConn - 5
Alaska over Michigan Tech - 4/5
Canisius over Robert Morris - 4
Colorado College over Miami - 4
St. Cloud State over Minnesota Duluth - 4
Alaska-Anchorage over Minnesota State - 4/5

Clarkson over Dartmouth - 4
Harvard over St. Lawrence - 4

Important COp/H2H games for currently relevant comparisons
Friday, February 26: UMass-Lowell at Boston College
Saturday, February 27: Boston College at UMass-Lowell

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