Pairwise Update: CCHA Early-Round Edition

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MSU hockey sent the seniors out in style with a 5-2 home win on Friday, but fell in a shootout (counts as a tie for Pairwise purposes) on Saturday. Unfortunately, 1-0-1 against an awful team didn't help our RPI, and a few teams took advantage. Cornell and Alaska both passed us in RPI to take the comparisons, but Colorado College being swept gave us the advantage over them. No movement at the TUC cliff. Net result: down one point to 12, dropped to 12th in the standings (and a precarious 12th at that: Vermont trails in RPI by just .0017; should it come to an RPI tiebreaker with UMD and Ferris at 11 points, we would come out worst and potentially right on the cut line.

Thanks to Western somehow forcing a shootout both nights against Ferris, we earned the #2 seed in the CCHA tournament. That means we sit out the first weekend. Not having to play one of the dregs of the league averts any risk of an RPI-anchor loss; a 2-1 series win would probably be a net loss in the Pairwise.

After the jump: the CCHA tournament, other teams of interest, and our rooting interests.

CCHA Tournament Byes: #1 Miami, #2 MSU, #3 Ferris, #4 Northern Michigan

First round series (best of 3): #12 Western Michigan at #5 Alaska, #11 Bowling Green at #6 Nebraska-Omaha, #10 Lake Superior State at #7 Michigan, #9 Notre Dame at #8 Ohio State.

The four winners will be reseeded and travel to the four teams with byes for best-of-three series in the second weekend of March. The four survivors of those series go to Joe Louis for a single-elimination bracket with a third-place game (which can end in a tie; the rest go as far into OT as necessary). Win the whole thing and this exercise becomes a question of seeding only; the tournament carries an auto-bid for the winner.

Michigan's spot in the top 25 is still quite precarious (they're 24th in RPI). To keep our TUC record up, it is definitely best if they stay in with a sweep of Lake State. Notre Dame-Ohio State is pretty much irrelevant, as neither has a realistic chance of making the top 25 and it won't affect seeding of other teams. As for the other two series ... well, that's where things get complicated.

Michigan is easily the most dangerous team we could face in the second round (they actually finished tied for second in the league in goal difference, usually either losing close games or winning big), but they're also the only potential TUC we could face. If they face someone else and win their series, our .500 TUC record (unless we lose twice at the Joe) is safe. If we play them and win in three, Michigan probably stays up and that gets us a game over .500 on TUC if we split at the Joe. If we sweep, Michigan is probably going to stay in but it will be dicey. If they do, a split at the Joe gives us an 11-9-2 TUC record, which probably wins that part of the comparison on all but the top teams. If Michigan should drop out, that falls to 6-8-2. (All of this, of course, assumes that the teams at the Joe are all top 25; this is likely unless there's a major upset or two.)

If Alaska and UNO both win their series and Michigan beats Lake State, we get Michigan in round two. If one of them is upset, we get the Ohio State-Notre Dame winner. If both fall, we get Bowling Green. I don't know which is more in our interest, but if one of Alaska and UNO is to fall it would be far better if it is Alaska. We cannot take the point from them without passing them in RPI, and we already have a decent lead on UNO.

Comparisons In Play

We cannot realistically take the comparison with any of the current top 8 in the Pairwise (Denver, Miami, Wisconsin, St. Cloud State, Bemidji St., BC, North Dakota, Yale). Nor can any of the bottom 5 (Northeastern, Minnesota, Mass-Lowell, Michigan, BU), or any team likely to replace them, realistically catch us. That leaves 11 comparisons in play:

  • Alaska: This one's all about the RPI. We have common opponents handily, they have a head-to-head win. Unless we play them again (a possibility at Joe Louis), TUC record is moot, because if the RPI goes the other way the RPI is the tiebreaker. We trail by .0023 at the moment. If we meet them at the Joe and win, TUC (which we currently lead by a narrow margin) is enough even if we don't flip RPI. If we lose to them, we need both RPI and TUC. This weekend: Hosting Western Michigan, CCHA first round, best-of-3 series
  • New Hampshire: We're down by a decent margin in RPI (.0100), but TUC is pretty close (counting ties as a half-win, half-loss, they're 11-10 and we're 9-9; I'll simplify most such records this way so it's easier to see the win%) and common opponents is a lock for us. They play BC this week; a BC sweep would give us the lead in TUC for the moment in addition to bringing RPI closer. This weekend: Home-and-home series with BC, regular season.
  • Cornell: Common opponents locked (we're 3-0 to their 3-0-1, all ECAC teams so our perfect record is safe), TUC doesn't count yet (they're 4-5), down slightly in RPI (.0021). If they make the ECAC final four and lose to either Union or Yale (or split against them), we can win TUC and make RPI moot as long as Michigan stays in the top 25. If they don't make it that far, RPI probably favors us anyway. This weekend: Idle, awaiting quarterfinal opponent in ECAC tourney
  • Vermont: Up .0017 in RPI, common opponents is guaranteed unless they draw Maine in a first-round series and sweep (then it ends in a tie), down in TUC (they're 11-9). Keep RPI and we keep the point. Lose it and we need both common opponents (likely) and TUC (unlikely). This weekend: @ Mass-Lowell x2, regular season.
  • Minn-Duluth: Down .0028 in RPI, leading TUC handily as long as Michigan stays in (they're 9.5-12.5), down in common games (9-5 to 5.5-3.5). Games against Lake State or Northern would help us in common games; UMD could fall back toward us if they play Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan Tech (though if it's the latter, they likely won't lose). Swinging RPI or common games (as long as we keep TUC) would do it. This weekend: @ Alaska-Anchorage x2, regular season
  • Ferris: We're pretty safe in TUC (they're 4.5-8.5, drop to 3-7 if Michigan falls out), one game up in common opponents (16-10 to 15-11), split head-to-head, they're up .0018 in RPI. If we face them at the Joe, the winner is almost sure to take the comparison. If we don't, we have to match them win for win to keep common opponents. This weekend: Idle, awaiting quarterfinal opponent in CCHA tourney
  • Northern: We lead RPI by .0024, trail TUC by a narrow margin (they're 9.5-8.5 to our 8-8; head-to-head games don't count under TUC), split head-to-head, and we have a slight lead in common opponents (19-11 to 18.5-12.5). Have to keep RPI, most likely, as I don't see any way we can flip TUC while losing RPI, nor any way they can flip common opponents without winning RPI as well. Probably another win-for-win situation, and that may not even be enough since they'll get a tougher quarterfinal opponent than we will and thus a bigger SOS boost. This weekend: Idle, awaiting quarterfinal opponent in CCHA tourney
  • Maine: No common opponents, head-to-head split, we lead RPI by .0052, they own a slight advantage in TUC (11-10 to 8-8). TUC is moot unless RPI somehow ends up exactly tied. This weekend: Hosting UMass x2, regular season
  • Nebraska-Omaha: Up .0080 in RPI, +1 head-to-head, down in TUC (7.5-8.5 to 9-9), up 1.5 games in common opponents (15.5-10.5 to 14-12). Keep RPI and we win, lose it and we have to get TUC to even (unlikely if they make up that much ground). This weekend: Hosting Bowling Green, CCHA first round, best-of-3 series
  • Union: Up .0113 in RPI, they don't have enough TUC games to count it yet (3.5-4.5), losing common games (5.5-1.5 to 7.5-1.5). This is a weird comparison: if Union wins the ECAC tournament by defeating Cornell and Yale, they will hit 10 TUC games and take the TUC point. (We can still win TUC if we win the CCHA tourney, but then we're only worried about seeding.) If that happens, we need to make common games even at worst, which is only possible if we play Lake State. If Union sweeps Rensselaer then beats Cornell and Yale, there is no hope of winning this comparison regardless of RPI (short of winning the CCHA tourney). If Union does not face them (which would require that either they or St. Lawrence are upset in the first round), a sweep of Lake State is the only way we can tie common games. If Union wins that series in 3, either sweeping Lake State in the quarterfinals or beating them at the Joe would do.
    On the other hand, if Union does not defeat both Cornell and Yale, this seems pretty safe. Our RPI lead is pretty significant, and if they don't face both Cornell and Yale TUC cannot come into play (thus RPI alone would be enough). If they split against them in the ECAC semis/final/third-place, we are in good shape as long as Michigan stays in but would lose this if Michigan drops out. If they lose to both, we'll have TUC pretty solidly even in the worst case and it should be impossible for us to lose this point. This weekend: Idle, awaiting quarterfinal opponent in ECAC tourney
  • Colorado College: Despite being 20th in the Pairwise, this comparison is a precarious one for us. Our RPI lead is just .0014, we're losing common opponents (2-3 to 4.5-4.5), but winning TUC fairly handily (9-9 to 8.5-13.5). We can't help the common opponents, but if Colorado College faces some combination of Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan Tech they can fall back to us. Have to either keep RPI or flip common opponents (the former being more likely). This weekend: Home-and-home series with Denver, regular season.

Interestingly, keeping Michigan as a TUC may not be that critical. Despite it being a big help to our TUC record, we're winning TUC in many of the comparisons that we are losing and either losing TUC already or so far ahead it wouldn't matter in many of the comparisons that we are winning.

Rooting Interests

  • Western Michigan over Alaska. This keeps us from facing Michigan in the quarterfinals and kills Alaska's RPI. (Not going to happen, but if they can at least go to a third game it'll be a significant RPI hit for them.) Importance: Significant
  • Should the above fail, Bowling Green over UNO would be nice. That would also keep us from facing Michigan and it would lock up the point for us over UNO. But I'd rather not have both occur, as that means we get a no-win series with Bowling Green (two wins wouldn't help our RPI much, 2-1 would probably hurt it, losing the series would be SEASON OVER). Best to get a team that wouldn't be a total RPI-killer, such as Ohio State, Lake State, or Notre Dame. Importance: Minor
  • Ohio State over Notre Dame. We're 0-2-2 against ND, 1-1 against OSU, so I'd rather have the team we have a better track record against. Importance: Minor
  • The Michigan-Lake State series has very different implications based on what happens elsewhere. Facing Lake State could give us some help in the UMD comparison if we can't catch them in RPI, and it might be our only hope of catching the point on Union if they win the ECAC. Keeping Michigan in the top 25 could potentially help us against Union (if they don't win the ECAC), Cornell (if they don't win the ECAC and don't beat Union or Yale while losing to a non-TUC), and UNH (if we fail to catch them in RPI). Best of both worlds is probably to get Lake State to win 2-1 and have the teams below them in the RPI lose, but I think the opportunity to face Lake State may be more important than keeping Michigan in. Add to that that Michigan is arguably a much better team than their record shows and a series against them would be a serious potential threat, and the verdict is: Cheer for Lake State. Importance: Major, depending on other results
  • BC over UNH. We're not catching BC, and this would likely give us the point on UNH for now. Importance: Significant
  • Mass-Lowell over Vermont. Lowell isn't catching us, and we keep the point on Vermont as long as we beat them in RPI. Importance: Significant
  • Alaska-Anchorage over UMD. Bring UMD's RPI down. A potential first-round series between UMD and Minnesota would require some unlikely results if we get help from UAA, but it would be potentially useful as Minnesota could give us common opponents by beating up on UMD. Importance: Significant
  • UMass over Maine. 1-0-1 might be better than a full sweep, in terms of trying to keep Michigan safe should Lake State win, but better to build the lead on Maine. Importance: Minor to significant (we're up enough that a split keeps us in decent shape).
  • ECAC first round results: Nothing too significant here, as all three of the ECAC TUCs have byes. The important games start next week.
  • Denver over CC. Keep CC from overtaking us in RPI, and Denver's so far ahead it doesn't matter. Importance: Significant to major

Next week, MSU will be back in action with the CCHA quarterfinals, and the WCHA and Hockey East tournaments will begin, while the ECAC tournament continues onto the quarterfinal round. The CHA tournament will also be played that weekend (relevant only because Bemidji State is the only at-large contender in the conference; we want them to win the tournament to prevent any bid-thievery).

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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