PairWise history tells us what to extrapolate from the rankings at the start of February

Now that the calendar has turned to February, we can again look to another point in the history of the PairWise Rankings and how it might impact the race this season.

Here’s how the PairWise looked as of Jan. 31:

1. Quinnipiac
2. St. Cloud State
3. North Dakota
4. Michigan
5. Harvard
6. Boston College
7. Providence
8. Boston University
9. Omaha
10. Notre Dame
11. Massachusetts-Lowell
12. Denver
13. Yale
14. Rensselaer
— Projected cut line —
15t. Dartmouth
15t. Cornell
17t. Penn State
17t. Minnesota State*
19. Minnesota-Duluth
20. Minnesota
21. Robert Morris*
— Average position for outsider to make tournament —
22t. Michigan Tech
22t. Miami
24. Clarkson
25. Bowling Green
26. Union
27. St. Lawrence
— Lowest any team has ever been ranked and still qualified —
28. Northeastern
29. Holy Cross
30t. Ferris State
30t. Vermont
32. Air Force
33. Northern Michigan
34t. Western Michigan
34t. Bemidji State
36. New Hampshire
37. Ohio State
38. Mercyhurst
39t. RIT
39t. Wisconsin
41t. Merrimack
41t. Alaska-Anchorage
43t. Connecticut
43t. Princeton
45t. Massachusetts
45t. Bentley
47t. Brown
47t. Colgate
49. Maine
50. Colorado College
51t. Lake Superior
51t. Sacred Heart
53t. Alaska
53t. Army
55. Michigan State
56. Canisius
57. Alabama-Huntsville
58. Arizona State
59. American International
60. Niagara

To remind everyone: In the 13 years of the 16-team field, there have been only 23 teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament solely because of the autobid. The other 185 teams qualified because they were ranked high enough in the PairWise.

In those 13 seasons, no team that was ranked No. 1 through No. 4 at the start of February has failed to qualify. In fact, in nine of 13 seasons, the No. 1 overall team has finished No. 1 overall on Selection Sunday. In only two seasons has the No. 1 overall team failed to be a No. 1 regional seed. This is very good news for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats have a virtual lock on the No. 1 overall seed thanks to a sweep of No. 2 St Cloud State back in October. It would take some key losses for the Bobcats to lose the overall No. 1 ranking.

But the good news extends to St. Cloud State and North Dakota as well. Of the 26 teams ranked No. 2 or No. 3, 15 (57.7 percent) remained a No. 1 regional seed. The worst any team has fared is the 2012 UMass-Lowell that which dropped from No. 3 overall to No. 12. Fans in Ann Arbor can also take heart: Nine of the 13 No. 4 teams remained in the 1-4 or 5-8 bands.

2012 was an outlier year:

• New Year’s Day No. 1 Ohio State became the only top seed to miss the tournament.

• All four of the Feb. 1 PairWise top 4 failed to remain as No. 1 regional seeds: No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth fell to No. 7 overall (also the worst performance of any No. 1 team), No. 2 Boston University fell all the way to No. 9 and No. 4 Ferris State to No. 6 overall.

• No. 15 Union and No. 16 North Dakota were not even in the field as of Feb. 1 and ended up being No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

For those in the 5-8 and 9-12 bands, the news is still positive but with some risks. Almost 80 percent of teams in both bands as of Feb. 1 have made the tournament. The highest team to fall from the tournament field was No. 5 Denver in 2007. Fifty-three of the 104 teams ranked 5-12 have remained within that range come March. Only 23 times have they failed to make the tournament.

On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-ranked teams to still qualify for an at-large berth were in 2010, when Northern Michigan (No. 26 on Feb. 1) and Alaska (No. 27) made the tournament. Only 10 teams ranked 20 or worse have qualified, with the average being No. 21. If your team is below that line, you’ll probably need your conference automatic bid to play at the end of March.

Finally, a note about the projected cut line. What the actual cut line will be is yet to be determined. The average has been 14, but with the dissolution of the CHA it has dropped to 15 in recent seasons. This year, with no WCHA or Atlantic Hockey teams in the top 16, the cut line is projected at 14 again. This also takes into consideration that all teams in the top 14 will win their conference autobid. This includes No. 4 Michigan, which is tied with No. 20 Minnesota in the Big Ten standings. We will not know the actual cut line until all conference championships are concluded.



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