[I know that KJ mentioned this post below, but it's far too thorough and fantastic to not be on the front page. Also, I added the picture. --LVS.]
Last week I outlined the Pairwise Rankings and how their existence makes it a little easier to predict what will help or hurt your team's chances of making the NCAA tournament.
Last weekend didn't go particularly well for MSU hockey. We split with Ferris State, remaining tied for second in the CCHA with one weekend to go in the regular season. That split leaves our comparison with them in serious jeopardy; from here on out we have to match them win for win. Minnesota crept into the top 25, bringing our loss to them into play for TUC record. Alaska's sweep of Lake State is a double-whammy: Alaska (and our 0-1-1 record against them) is pretty solidly into the top 25 now and probably can't drop out without a disastrous run, and Lake State (and our 1-0-1 record against them) dropped out. The good news: Michigan has now snuck in at #25, which is huge for our TUC record (3-1), and Nebraska-Omaha split with Miami to hold their spot. We currently sit 10th in the Pairwise, but with Michigan hovering right on the edge we could easily drop if they fall out.
The conference race is down to the final weekend, with a lot still up for grabs. There is still a chance that we fail to earn a bye, as Northern Michigan and even Michigan could catch us if we have a disastrous weekend. (Teams 5-12 play best-of-3 series, and the winners are re-seeded and face teams 1-4 in best-of-3 series, with those winners advancing to the single-elimination final rounds at Joe Louis.) The good news is, we're playing Bowling Green this weekend, which is to the CCHA what Latvia is to the Olympic ice hockey tournament. A sweep there clinches at least third (Ferris would own the tiebreaker over us due to goal difference in our head-to-head games if they also sweep).
After the jump, a detailed breakdown of the Pairwise: which comparisons are still in play for us, which teams near the "TUC cliff" (the RPI #25/26 cut line) we would like to see above the line, and who to root for.
Comparison rundown: (Note: thanks to RPI being the tiebreaker if the comparison is even, if you hold RPI and a better head-to-head record, you win regardless of the other components.)
- St. Cloud State (best we can do is tie common opponents, so we need to swing the RPI and that's not likely)
Possible But Not Likely
- Bemidji State (flipping RPI might be enough, but we may also need to swing common opponents - easiest if UNO takes a win and tie against them)
- Yale (need to swing RPI)
- Boston College (need to swing RPI and at least maintain a tie in TUC)
Trailing But In Play
- North Dakota (we hold a slim edge in TUC, if we can hang onto that there are chances to flip RPI and/or common opponents)
- New Hampshire (any edge in TUC - currently tied - or catching up on RPI would do it, as we hold common opponents pretty solidly)
- Minnesota-Duluth (trailing very slightly in RPI and common, ahead slightly in TUC)
- Colorado College (same as UMD)
Ahead But Close
- Alaska (have to keep the slight RPI lead due to losing record against; must also keep at least one of TUC and common; may well need to match win for win)
- Ferris (slightly behind in RPI, way up on TUC, barely ahead in common - have to match win for win)
- Cornell (maintain our slight edge in RPI and we keep it)
- Union (as long as they don't add three more TUC games, we just need to keep the RPI edge; if they do, we may need to win TUC record or common)
- Maine (slight edge in RPI will do since we have no common opponents)
- Vermont (decent RPI lead and common opponents locked up; TUC record is even but we'll probably lose that if we lose RPI so we need to keep RPI)
- Boston University (solid RPI lead, but very close in common and losing a close one in TUC)
- Northern Michigan (decent RPI lead, game and a half up in common, losing close in TUC)
- Nebraska-Omaha (pretty similar to NMU except with a head-to-head win)
- Northeastern (solid edge in RPI and TUC, likely safe in common)
- Mass-Lowell (good lead in RPI and common, smaller lead in TUC - this one's borderline locked up)
- Minnesota (good leads in all three; only not a lock because of head-to-head - an RPI swing would be enough to lose)
Of teams not in the top 25 at the moment but close, UMass and Minnesota State could give us trouble in common opponents. Lake State, Merrimack, Rensselaer, and Ohio State (unless we meet them in a playoff series and get swept) seem pretty safe for us should they overtake someone.
So, to business: What do we want to happen this weekend?
- Sweep Bowling Green. This is close to mandatory, as I'm not sure we can afford the RPI hit even 1-0-1 might bring us against a team that is 5-22-5 overall, #54 (out of 58) in the RPI. Too many teams close behind us that could make up some ground.
- Michigan over Notre Dame. Keeping Michigan in the RPI top 25 is crucial to keep our TUC record up - lose them and it will take a spectacular run to catch anyone who is winning the comparison against us right now except possibly New Hampshire.
- Lake State over Northern Michigan. Doesn't make a huge difference for TUC record (1-0-1 instead of 1-1) if they can creep in and/or knock out Northern, but every little bit helps.
- Western Michigan over Ferris. This is about the equivalent of rooting for Indiana football over Penn State, but any margin they can give us for common opponent record over Ferris would be nice. (Plus Ferris has the tiebreaker should we both sweep, so we at least need Western to force a shootout once in order to get the 2 seed in the CCHA tourney.)
- Merrimack over Maine. Knocking down Maine hurts our SOS a little, but it's more important that we build a significant RPI lead over them - passing us there is enough for them to win the comparison.
- Northeastern over New Hampshire. TUC games for both, but we have a much better chance of catching UNH (in fact, TUC record alone could do it and that's currently tied) than Northeastern does of catching us.
- Alaska-Anchorage over Alaska. Dropping them out would be ideal, though difficult at this point. Realistically, we just want to build the RPI lead.
Other Series of Interest
- Rensselaer over Colgate. Mostly for SOS boost, but there's a slight chance they could sneak into the top 25, and that's another TUC win for us if it happens.
- Clarkson over Harvard. Purely SOS boost, as both teams are awful.
- North Dakota-Colorado College: We probably want this series to be a sweep one way or the other, as we have chances to catch both teams. A split keeps both comparisons pointing the wrong way for the moment, a sweep may give us the point over the loser (and if not it will be close). Probably better to get a North Dakota sweep, as CC seems like a threat to make up a lot of ground (their RPI is well above their Pairwise position).
- Vermont-Boston University: Both teams have a chance at catching us, but BU is probably the more dangerous one if they draw Maine and sweep in the conference tournament (we would then need to hope we meet Notre Dame or Michigan at some point and win, may have to get two wins). A Vermont sweep may be best, as it likely takes BU out of play entirely and has the potential to flip TUC for us against BU should they come back in. But again, we need to keep RPI over Vermont.
- Minnesota over Minnesota-Duluth. Eliminating Minnesota would give us a slight boost in TUC, but we can pretty easily flip the comparison on UMD (this would likely give us an edge in common opponents and possibly RPI).
- Nebraska-Omaha vs. Bemidji State: Split is probably best. We want UNO to stay in but we need to stay ahead in RPI.
If we sweep, Ferris splits, Michigan sweeps, Lake State sweeps, and Miami sweeps Ohio State, the final CCHA standings will look like this:
- Lake State
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Bowling Green
This sets up nicely for us, with Michigan avoiding a potential RPI-death series in the first round and the potential for Ferris and Alaska to both be eliminated prior to the Joe. Should Northern split with Lake State, they would jump to 5th, and assuming neither of the bottom two pulls a shocking upset in the first round Ferris and Alaska would meet in the quarters. (Since teams are reseeded between rounds, if NMU lost to Bowling Green, Alaska would face Michigan.) This would guarantee one of them out, but I'd rather have the chance for both to fall.
Next week: The CCHA tournament begins, and other conferences wrap up their regular seasons.