Minnesota looks like a completely new team in the past few weeks, blasting Denver with seven goals two weeks ago and taking three points at rival Wisconsin. But as exciting as it was for Gophers fans to watch their team earn its first sweep since Nov. 19-20, Minnesota didn’t get any closer to an at-large bid to the tournament. In fact, it took a step backward.
The Gophers entered the weekend 18th in the PairWise Rankings, beat Michigan Tech 5-2 and fell to two spots Friday and gained one spot after Saturday’s win. It’s not that Minnesota hurt itself by beating the Huskies, but wins over a weak team like Michigan Tech hold limited value.
The PairWise is used to decide the NCAA tournament field and compares teams based on four criteria: each team’s RPI (ratings percentage index), winning percentage vs. TUCs (teams under consideration, must have a +.5000 RPI), head-to-head competition and winning percentage against common opponents.
Michigan Tech is not a TUC, and since nearly every team in the WCHA has a great record against the Huskies, beating Tech doesn’t help much in the common opponents department. Essentially, the Gophers would be in the same position in the PairWise if they had a bye this weekend instead of sweeping Tech.
The wins did give the Gophers four points, which helps them wrap up a spot in the WCHA’s top six for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Gophers go to Bemidji State this weekend to end the season, but like the Michigan Tech series, Minnesota has very little to gain in Bemidji in terms of the PWR.
The Beavers are on the verge of dipping below .5000 in the RPI and a Gophers sweep would ensure that.
BSU’s dropping could have a positive affect on Nebraska-Omaha by erasing the blemish of UNO’s 1-3 record against the Beavers. North Dakota would take a slight hit since the Sioux beat BSU four times, but UND’s win percentage vs. TUCs is so far set apart that it won’t affect much.
St. Cloud State is the one team BSU can affect if it loses its TUC status. The Huskies are 3-1 against the Beavers this season with a .4677 winning percentage against TUCs, and that would drop to .4259.
The reality is all signs point to BSU’s RPI falling below .5000. The Beavers would likely have to get, at least, a split with Minnesota and then win its playoff series to remain a TUC.
Five of SCSU’s comparison wins (Dartmouth, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Ferris State and Alaska) rely heavily on winning percentage vs. TUCs, and the Huskies will likely lose all five without their record against BSU.
Three or four points for SCSU this weekend in Denver could help turn some comparisons and move the Huskies up the PWR, but BSU’s imminent falling out of the TUCs would bring SCSU right back down. A Denver sweep would most likely get the Pioneers into the top four in the PWR.
Minnesota-Duluth has a big series with UNO this weekend at Amsoil Arena as far as tournament positioning goes. A Bulldogs sweep would turn comparisons with the teams directly ahead of them and put UMD back in position for a two seed and a run at a top seed.
But if things go sour for the Bulldogs this weekend and UNO leaves with three or more points, UMD’s winning percentage vs. TUCs would plummit to .500. The Bulldogs would go from 11th in the PWR to the bubble, losing comparisons because of the TUCs it didn’t beat.