It’s that time of the year. There’s just one more weekend of play left until the committee decides what the brackets will be for this year’s tournament.
What do we know? What don’t we know? What are the possibilities?
Thanks to our handy-dandy PairWise Predictor, we can simulate what may happen if we hypothesize the results of the games.
So let’s give you some of the things that I believe to be the case and some of the things that I know.
• I believe that the number-one seeds can only be Michigan, New Hampshire, Colorado College, Miami or North Dakota, and each one of these teams can still be the overall number-one seed.
Five teams for four spots. Someone is going to be very disappointed.
Here’s an interesting scenario. What if I told you that if Miami beat Michigan this weekend, it would affect New Hampshire? Probably not a surprise.
But what if I told you that it affects whether or not New Hampshire gets a number-one overall seed? Probably not a surprise.
Now what if I told you that if Miami beat Michigan in the third-place game rather than the championship game of the CCHA tournament that it would affect whether or not New Hampshire got a number-one seed? It might be a surprise.
Let’s take this scenario from the PairWise Predictor, where Miami beats Michigan in the third-place game and see what we get.
CCHA Semifinal #2: Notre Dame defeats Miami
CCHA Semifinal #1: Northern Michigan defeats Michigan
CCHA Championship game: Notre Dame defeats Northern Michigan
CCHA Consolation game: Miami defeats Michigan
ECAC Semifinal #2: Harvard defeats Cornell
ECAC Semifinal #1: Princeton defeats Colgate
ECAC Championship game: Princeton defeats Harvard
ECAC Consolation game: Cornell defeats Colgate
Hockey East Semifinal #2: Boston University defeats Vermont
Hockey East Semifinal #1: Boston College defeats New Hampshire
Hockey East Championship game: Boston College defeats Boston University
WCHA Play-in #1: St. Cloud State defeats Minnesota
WCHA Semifinal #2: North Dakota defeats Denver
WCHA Semifinal #1: Colorado College defeats St. Cloud State
WCHA Championship game: North Dakota defeats Colorado College
WCHA Consolation game: Denver defeats St. Cloud State
We get New Hampshire finishing in a three-way tie for the third overall seed, but losing the RPI comparison to finish with the overall number 5 seed in the number 2 band.
OK, now let’s just switch it. Let’s have Miami and Michigan win their semifinal games and Miami winning the CCHA Championship instead.
New Hampshire moves up to a clear number 4 overall seed.
What? What happened? Well, with Northern Michigan winning a semifinal, it becomes a TUC. With Michigan winning the semifinal, NMU is not a TUC. So the difference here really is NMU going 1-1 or 0-2.
• I believe that Michigan, Miami, New Hampshire, Colorado College, North Dakota, Denver, St. Cloud, Boston College, Clarkson and Michigan State are all in the tournament.
Now, my statement may in fact be wrong, but in hours and hours of running the addictive PairWise Predictor, I have yet to find a scenario in which any of those teams is out of the tournament.
It stands to reason that this is the case.
If you look at the PairWise as it stands today, there is a gap between the last of these 10 teams, Clarkson and Michigan State, to the 13th position in the PairWise of five comparisons. That means that someone has to turn a minimum of five comparisons in order to pass one of these 10 teams.
Minnesota State and Wisconsin are no longer playing and must make up five comparisons. That can’t be done without playing.
Harvard must make up seven comparisons and Princeton and Vermont must make up nine comparisons. That’s pretty close to impossible with a maximum of two games left for these teams.
If you can find a scenario which takes one of these 10 teams out, please send me a note.
But, I have yet to find that scenario, so I think that these 10 teams are in the tournament.
• Boston University, Vermont, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Colgate and Northern Michigan must win their tournaments to get into the NCAA field.
I haven’t found a way for any of these teams to lose one game and make it into the tournament, because that’s basically what will happen if they don’t win their tournaments. 1-1 or 0-1 will not switch any comparisons.
If you find a way to do so, please send me a note.
• But, I know that one of Princeton, Harvard, Cornell or Colgate will get into the tournament as an autobid for winning the ECAC tournament.
This is a given.
• So I know that the autobids that are not already in the Top 16 of the PairWise are Niagara, Air Force and the ECAC champion.
The winner of the ECAC may well wind up in the Top 14, so the line can certainly move. Niagara and Air Force cannot move past the 16th position in the PairWise.
• I believe that the magic line will at least be 14 in the PairWise, and as high as 11.
We know that Niagara and Air Force take two spots away from the Top 16. The ECAC champion may take a third.
Then if BU or Vermont wins Hockey East and Northern Michigan wins the CCHA, we could have those five autobids occupying spots 12-16.
With the possibility of only one autobid (the WCHA champion) coming from the group of 10 that we have deemed in the tournament, that means that there might be only one at-large bid left.
So the magic line for sure is no higher than 11. If you’re there at the end of Saturday, you are safe. Anything below, and you could be in trouble.
• I believe that this means that 13 teams are already in the tournament.
Those are the 10 teams I listed above, plus Niagara, Air Force and the ECAC champion.
• I know that Minnesota-Duluth, Massachusetts, Michigan Tech and Quinnipiac cannot get into the tournament. Nor can anyone else who is not a TUC at the moment except for Air Force or Colgate.
Since their seasons are done, they cannot switch the required number of comparisons to make the field.
Air Force is in the field as an autobid and Colgate can still win the ECAC title, so they are the only teams that are not TUCs at the moment that can make the NCAA field.
• Which means that I believe that the bubble is officially Minnesota, Notre Dame, Minnesota State and Wisconsin. Four teams for at least one, and a maximum of three spots.
Since we’ve concluded that there are 13 teams already in the tournament, there could be four teams fighting for three spots.
Or, as we’ve already pointed out, there might only be one at-large berth left.
Of course, Notre Dame and Minnesota can still get autobids as well, meaning that if one of those gets and autobid, that would be three teams for two spots. If both got an autobid, then there would be two teams for one spot.
• I believe that I would rank the probability, from highest to lowest, of making the NCAA field as Minnesota, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, and then Wisconsin.
Looking at all of this information, it’s safe to say that Minnesota State and Wisconsin are in the worst positions here, with Wisconsin’s being the more dire, as the Badgers are losing comparisons to Minnesota, Notre Dame and Minnesota State.
Both Minnesota State and Wisconsin have to turn at least three comparisons on Minnesota, and two on Notre Dame. That’s tough to do when you’re not playing.
Notre Dame is definitely in worse shape for an at-large than Minnesota as it has one comparison to make up; plus, the Irish have a possibility of going 0-2 or 1-1 this weekend, whereas Minnesota can go 0-1, 1-2, or 2-1 (we are talking about the at-large, since a perfect 2-0 for Notre Dame or 3-0 for Minnesota would mean an autobid anyway).
• What about the TUC bubble? Can anyone else come in and screw some things up? I believe that there are only four teams that can come in or out of the list of TUC teams. Those teams are Northern Michigan, Northeastern, Air Force or Colgate.
The only way Colgate gets to be a TUC is if it wins the ECAC.
Air Force becomes a TUC in certain scenarios, but Northern Michigan must lose two games. Similarly, Northeastern becomes a TUC in certain scenarios, but Northern Michigan must again lose two games.
Northern Michigan is presently a TUC, and only needs one win to remain a TUC, else it falls out of the TUC zone.
• I know that the PairWise Predictor is fun!
Have a go and make your own scenarios. Don’t like where your team may wind up? Find a way to get them where you want them by changing the results.
I have laid out some of the conclusions that I have come to based upon hours of time spent on the PairWise Predictor.
But I have not run through every single scenario — of which there are still over 200,000. Therefore there are many PairWise results that I have not seen and do not know about.
Nonetheless, what I have presented is what I believe and I have marked it as such.
So there is the possibility that one of my statements above is wrong. Please do not make travel plans, sell tickets or mortgage the house based upon what I have written.