Hockey Bubble Talk: Waiting and Hoping

Last weekend's series at Miami went ... poorly. Very poorly. With a chance to more or less lock up a bid, the Spartans were outscored 10-1 in an ugly sweep. All hope is not yet lost, though: As of right now we sit 14th in the Pairwise Rankings. If there are no surprise auto-bids and that position holds, we would be in the field. The good news is that of the teams immediately behind us, only Western Michigan is still in action, and letting them pass us would not, by itself, knock us out (although it would mean that one bid thief would do the job). The bad news is that multiple teams further back can take a point away from us, even if they can't pass us themselves, and potentially vault idle Northern Michigan ahead of us.

US College Hockey Online now has the Pairwise Predictor up, which allows us to try out every different scenario and see what happens. With 19 games (2 of which can end in ties) yet to be played, we have about 1,000,000 scenarios to try. That's not feasible, so we'll look at the key variables in isolation and try to extrapolate from that.

Comparisons at Risk

Western Michigan: We have to hold on to a .0013 lead in RPI. Depending on what else happens, Western could make up this gap with a split and certainly would with two wins. Western will face Miami in the CCHA semifinals; Michigan or Bowling Green (who completed another shocking upset, this time of Ferris State, on Sunday) will meet them in the final or third-place game.

Colgate: TUC record could flip it. This would require Colgate to win the auto-bid (a bid theft as well) or for some movement to occur around the cut line (Air Force falling out).

RIT: Team that just barely made the RPI cut could flip it again on TUC record due to common opponents (beating both Ferris and Lake State in a holiday tournament). Here, Air Force falling out would actually help because it would reduce RIT's TUC game count below the 10 necessary for this point to count; if that doesn't happen, RIT only passes us by winning the auto-bid.

Michigan Tech is the only team currently just below the cut line still alive, and they are no threat to take the point from us.

Comparisons We Can Potentially Steal

Cornell: We trail in RPI by .0029; flip that and we take the point. Cornell faces Harvard, then Colgate or Union. (Note that Western Michigan could also swing this point, although they need the TUC point or a Cornell loss to Union as well as catching up in RPI.)

Potential Bid Thieves

CCHA: Western Michigan (although they would likely pass us in the pecking order even if winning didn't give them the auto-bid), Bowling Green

ECAC: Harvard, Colgate

Hockey East: Providence

WCHA: Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State

Atlantic Hockey: Everyone

What We Need

CCHA

Assuming all chalk everywhere else, a Western split (even if the second game is against Michigan) keeps us ahead of Western in the RPI and keeps that point for us. Better for us if they lose both since there may be enough volatility elsewhere (with opponents that we played different numbers of times) to swing RPI if they split. We also need Bowling Green to fail to win the autobid.

Doomsday scenario: Bowling Green wins the title, Western beats Michigan for third place. One bid stolen, and the possibility may exist for Western to swing RPI on us if other things go poorly (if they do, that would be enough to eliminate us). Western winning the title is not good either.

Sunshine and rainbows: Western loses to Bowling Green in the third-place game. They actually fall behind Northern Michigan (which has little effect for us, as then Northern is tied with us on points but behind on RPI, like Western is now). Nobody steals a bid.

ECAC

A Colgate split isn't enough for them to steal the point from us. As long as there's no bid thief, we're in good shape.

Doomsday scenario: Colgate wins the title over Cornell, both stealing a bid and stealing the point from us. Western (with a split or sweep) or Northern (with Western losing both) would leap ahead of us for the final at-large spot. We're out. (Harvard winning the title would also be bad, but they wouldn't steal the point from us in the process, so we would still be alive unless someone else steals a bid.)

Sunshine and rainbows: Union over Harvard for the title, Colgate over Cornell in the third-place game. Cornell falls far enough to buy us a little more breathing room (we can survive one extra bid thief).

Complicated scenario: Colgate wins the title over Harvard, Union beats Cornell in the third-place game. Here we lose the Colgate point but gain the point on Cornell. This still gives us a chance as long as Western doesn't win the CCHA; we drop behind Northern or Western if they don't, but behind both if they do.

Hockey East

Only thing we're worried about here is a bid thief. Providence can't take the point even if they sneak above the TUC line, and we can't get the point from anyone else.

Doomsday scenario: Providence wins the title to steal a bid.

Sunshine and rainbows: Pretty much anything else.

WCHA

St. Cloud State is a threat because they can potentially steal comparisons against Maine, Merrimack, and Union. It appears that they can't pass us without winning the auto-bid unless Colgate also wins the title, however.

Doomsday scenario: St. Cloud State wins the title. Bid thief, and it helps Western Michigan's strength of schedule sufficiently that a split probably is enough for them to pass us.

Sunshine and rainbows: St. Cloud State is eliminated immediately by North Dakota. Michigan Tech making a mini-run would be nice to get them above the TUC line, but that probably requires a run to the final, which is too close to bid-thievery for comfort (and it doesn't help enough to matter in most scenarios), so we're rooting for straight chalk here.

Atlantic Hockey

Everybody who wins this league is a bid thief, but RIT could be a potential point thief as well.

Doomsday scenario: RIT wins the whole thing over Air Force. That swings the point as well as stealing a bid, unless Michigan Tech reaches the final in the WCHA.

Sunshine and rainbows: Air Force over Niagara in the final. No sweating out the scenario above, and Air Force gives our RPI a minor boost via strength of schedule.

At this point, our fate is out of our hands. Cheer for Miami and (yuck) Michigan in the CCHA, Union in the ECAC (Cornell if they have to beat Colgate in the final, but if they meet in the third place game go the other way), anybody but Providence in Hockey East, a quick exit for St. Cloud State in the WCHA (and Michigan Tech not to win it all, although there are cases where Tech reaching the final but losing there helps us), and Air Force and Niagara in the AHA.

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