What Yale, Northeastern and Minnesota Duluth need

Remember that 11 teams are already in.

These teams can’t get in at-large, but can claim a spot by winning their conference tournament:

  • Minnesota
  • Robert Morris or RIT
  • Minnesota State or Ferris State

These teams are hoping for at-large bids:

  • Yale (idle)
  • Minnesota-Duluth
  • Northeastern

The Big Ten Championship is the biggest determinant of who gets in, because it’s the only one in which it’s not yet known whether its winner will take away an at-large spot. If Minnesota wins the Big Ten and takes away a spot, then Northeastern can only get in by winning, otherwise Yale and Minnesota-Duluth get the two spots. If Minnesota wins and Northeastern does take one of the spots, then Minnesota-Duluth needs to win to get the last spot, otherwise it goes to Yale.

Here’s how each team gets in

Yale

Michigan wins
or
Northeastern loses
or
Minnesota-Duluth loses

Minnesota-Duluth

Michigan wins
or
Minnesota Duluth wins
or
Northeastern loses

Northeastern

Michigan wins
or
Northeastern wins

Friday night update

These 11 teams are locks:
North Dakota
Quinnipiac
St Cloud St
Providence
Boston College
Denver
Michigan
Mass.-Lowell
Boston University
Harvard
Notre Dame

These teams are hoping for at-large bids:
Yale (idle)
Minnesota-Duluth
Northeastern

These teams can claim a spot by winning their conference tournament:
Minnesota
Robert Morris or RIT
Minnesota State or Ferris State

Each of Minnesota-Duluth and Northeastern is also in if they win their conference tournament.

So, given that the Big Ten is the only remaining conference in which it’s unknown whether the winner will consume an at-large spot or not, Minnesota is the wildcard. If they win, they will take a slot, denying one of Yale, Minnesota-Duluth, or Northeastern. If Michigan wins, all three get in regardless of their own outcome.

What could be decided by today’s games

We’re not particularly likely to know a lot more about who’s in or out after today’s games because there aren’t a lot of edge cases that just depend on one or two outcomes. Instead, there’s a decent size group of teams fighting for the middle and we probably won’t know who makes it until they’re all either eliminated or have won their conference tournaments.

But, referring back to NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math), here are some things to watch for:

Teams still playing that can make it at-large

#11 Harvard
#13 Minnesota-Duluth
#14 Northeastern
#15 Michigan Tech

The more of these that lose, the better for the others and idle Yale and Notre Dame (who are also hoping for at-large bids).

Teams that won’t chew up an at-large spot if they win

Big Ten – Michigan
ECAC – Quinnipiac
Hockey East – Boston College, Providence, Mass.-Lowell
NCHC – North Dakota, St. Cloud St, Denver

If all the teams listed for a given conference lose, there will be one less at-large spot available. So, most relevant today are Michigan and Quinnipiac.

A few things that could be decided today

Again, it takes some deep combinations for anything big to happen today, but here the most interesting things I’ve found.

If Quinnipiac, Michigan, and Providence all lose, Cornell is out.

If Michigan Tech and Minnesota Duluth lose, Harvard controls its own destiny (in with a win).

If Michigan Tech and Northeastern lose, Yale is in and Harvard controls its own destiny (in with a win).

If Northeastern and Minnesota Duluth lose then Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame are in.

Correction – removed incorrect scenario that involved Harvard losing. Harvard losing is not sufficient to make any changes to any teams’ outlook.

The 1 seeds – UND and three of QU, SCSU, PC, BC, DU

The 1 seeds

These teams have a shot at 1-seed:
North Dakota (lock)
Quinnipiac
St Cloud St
Providence
Boston College
Denver

Extracted from PWR Possibilities:

Team Result 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
UND Win 0 34% 41% 21% 4%
Win 1 63% 30% 7% < 1%
Win 2 100%
Quinnipiac Win 0 < 1% 35% 39% 25% < 1% < 1%
Win 1 4% 46% 38% 12% < 1%
Win 2 57% 42% 1%
SCSU Win 0 < 1% 29% 40% 24% 7%
Win 1 8% 18% 48% 25% 1%
Win 2 62% 27% 11%
Providence Win 0 1% 58% 32% 9%
Win 1 7% 44% 41% 7%
Win 2 14% 51% 30% 5%
Boston College Win 0 82% 18%
Win 1 < 1% 4% 81% 15%
Win 2 < 1% 29% 41% 29% < 1%
Denver Win 0 98% 2% < 1%
Win 1 1% 3% 93% 2%
Win 2 31% 36% 8% 24% < 1%

UND will finish in the top 4 and get a 1-seed.

Quinnipiac, St Cloud St, and Providence are each guaranteed a top 4 finish, and a 1-seed, if they win their conference tournament.

Quinnipiac is nearly (but not quite!) a lock for a 1-seed regardless of outcome, and St Cloud St is nearly (but not quite!) a lock for a 1-seed if they win 1.

Boston College and Denver each need at least one win, preferably two.

BC to #1 overall

An example:
http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e6c9fa056fc

Obviously Boston College needs to win and North Dakota, Quinnipiac, St Cloud St, and Providence need to lose enough to be passed by BC. Finally, it takes an unusual combination of other outcomes to give BC a small RPI advantage over those teams (note, for example, that the linked scenario actually has Providence win one then lose one to give BC just enough of an RPI edge; note also that the top 4 in that example end up within .0003 in RPI).

This is pretty unlikely, occurring only in about 1 of 940 scenarios in which Boston College wins its conference championship.

Quinnipiac missing a 1 seed

An example:
http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e8cbd15d592

Even with a win, it’s possible for Quinnipiac to fall to 5th and miss out on a 1 seed. Success by other teams eligible for #1 is a key, in this case Boston College, Denver, and St Cloud St. Note how unusual this scenario is, with a 3-way tie in pairwise comparisons and the RPI tie-breaker settled by just .001 between the three teams.

This is pretty unlikely, occurring in only about 1 of 1900 scenarios in which Quinnipiac wins one, or 1 in 210 scenarios in which Quinnipiac loses its first game.

NCAA tournament conference participation possibilities

Conference recreation in NCAA tournament

Conference representation in NCAA tournament by share of possible scenarios
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Atlantic Hockey 100%
Big Ten 25% 75%
ECAC 2% 60% 38% 0%
Hockey East 2% 63% 35%
NCHC 49% 51%
WCHA 96% 4%

Big Ten

Michigan is in for sure. If the Big Ten tournament is won by anyone else, that will be a second representative for the Big Ten.

NCHC

North Dakota, St Cloud St, and Denver are in for sure. Minnesota-Duluth can make it at-large or by winning the conference tournament.

Atlantic Hockey

Only the Atlantic Hockey tournament winner will get a bid.

WCHA

Michigan Tech can make it at-large, and the conference tournament tournament winner will get a bid.

Hockey East

Boston College, Providence, Mass.-Lowell, and Boston University are in. Notre Dame and Northeastern each stand a chance at-large, and Northeastern is the only team that can win the conference tournament that isn’t already guaranteed a bid.

It’s possible for neither Notre Dame nor Northeastern to make it, limiting HE to four teams, but far more likely that they send five or even six.

ECAC

Quinnipiac is the only ECAC team guaranteed a spot. Yale, Harvard, and Cornell each stand a chance of an at-large bid. The tournament winner, if not Quinnipiac or Harvard, also gets a spot.

Though it’s possible for the ECAC to only send two teams, three or even four are more likely. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this article is that five is possible in about 1 in 1700 scenarios (each of Yale, Harvard, and Cornell must make it at-large despite the conference tournament being won by either St. Lawrence or Dartmouth).

January forecast follow-up

Back in January, I published a forecast of how many teams each conference was likely to put in the NCAA playoffs. That forecast has held up remarkably well, confirming that PWR in January is a pretty good predictor of PWR in March.

How Cornell can make the NCAA tournament

Background

You may want to read the Background on how PWR matters for tournament selection and How the “can make it at-large teams” can make it sections of NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math), if you haven’t already.

How Cornell can make it

Idle Cornell is currently sitting at #16 in the PWR, but has the possibility of landing anywhere between #13-#19. Because the Atlantic Hockey conference tournament winner will come from outside the top 16, only teams that finish in the top 15 stand any chance of an at-large bid.

So, Cornell is looking for some combination of climbing to the 13-15 range and having 3 to 5 of the conference tournaments won by teams ranked ahead of them.

Climbing in RPI ranking

Because Cornell is idle, their two levers to move their RPI ranking are to have their opponents’ (and opponents’ opponents’) win percentage rise to increase their own RPI, and to have teams that are just ahead of them (and still playing) stumble and drop below them in RPI.

Looking at Cornell’s weighted games played against teams that are still playing, Cornell has the largest potential RPI boost from Quinnipiac, Dartmouth, Harvard, and St. Lawrence winning. Of course, those teams all play each other, so it’s best to go with Quinnipiac as the champ and Harvard as runner up to get the most upward bounce. Providence winning its conference is also common in Cornell’s successful scenarios. Cornell’s weighted games played vs teams that are still playing are the following:
Quinnipiac 5
Dartmouth 2.4
Harvard 2.2
St. Lawrence 1.6
Providence 1
Ohio State 1

The other way Cornell can pass teams in PWR is to have teams immediately ahead of them have their own RPI fall enough to be passed. All of #13 Minnesota-Duluth, #14 Northeastern, and #15 Michigan Tech are active, so each losing can clear the way for Cornell to rise.

Conference tournaments won by high ranked teams

In addition to winning more PWR comparisons, Cornell needs conference tournaments won by teams ranked ahead of them. We learned above that Quinnipiac and Providence wins are key to raising Cornell’s RPI, so those two winning their conference tournaments are the cornerstone of most successful scenarios for Cornell. That leaves the following additional possibilities for the necessary 3-5 high-ranked conference tournament champions:
Big Ten – Michigan
NCHC – North Dakota, St Cloud St, Denver
WCHA – Michigan Tech

Remember, how many of those Cornell needs to happen depends on how many teams Cornell can pass in PWR.

Summary

Needing both to increase their PWR ranking (through a combination of raising their own RPI and others’ falling) and to have top teams win most conference tournaments makes this a pretty long short for Cornell, with the Big Red advancing in only about 1% of possible scenarios. Those scenarios generally include:

  • Increasing Cornell’s RPI (e.g. wins by Quinnipiac, Harvard, and Providence)
  • and/or decreasing RPI of teams directly ahead of Cornell (e.g. Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, and/or Northeastern losing)
  • and having enough top teams win their conference tournaments that Cornell’s final PWR rank is included at-large (e.g. Quinnipiac, Providence, and Michigan as winners)

Example of Cornell making it from #15
http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e7130347abe

Example of Cornell making it from #13
http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e71e9410e14

Edit – original version stated that Northeastern was idle, updated to reflect that they’re still playing.

How Notre Dame could miss the NCAA tournament

Background

You may want to read the Background on how PWR matters for tournament selection and How the “can make it at-large teams” can make it sections of NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math), if you haven’t already.

How Notre Dame could miss

Given that Notre Dame is already #12, there are myriad ways to get the Irish to 12-13, totaling about 60% of total remaining scenarios (see Notre Dame PWR details).

Because that 12-13 range is the lowest the idle Irish can fall, the most important contributor to excluding Notre Dame is to have conference tournaments won by low-ranked teams. That chews up spots that could otherwise have gone to at-large teams, what we call “moving the cutline”.

For example, the following scenario has Minnesota-Duluth flip its comparison with Notre Dame to push the Irish down to 13. It then has 4 other conferences won by teams that wouldn’t have otherwise auto-qualified:

http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e70bf082bcb

Those factors come together in about 7% of remaining scenarios.

How Yale could miss the NCAA tournament

Background

You may want to read the Background on how PWR matters for tournament selection and How the “can make it at-large teams” can make it sections of NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math), if you haven’t already.

How Yale could miss

Given that idle Yale can fall no further than #13, the most important contributor to excluding Yale is to have conference tournaments won by low-ranked teams. That chews up spots that could otherwise have gone to at-large teams, what we call “moving the cutline”.

But, Yale also needs to lose some RPI comparison(s) that it’s currently winning to get knocked out of the safe #10 PWR spot. Given that they’re not playing this weekend, Yale’s RPI can only be pushed downward by moving their opponents’ (and opponents’ opponents’) win percentages. Here are Yale’s top opponents by weighted games played (from Yale RPI details):

Dartmouth 4.2 (still playing)
Princeton 3.4
Union 2.4
Cornell 2.2
Massachusetts 2.2
St. Lawrence 2 (still playing)
Harvard 1.8 (still playing)
Clarkson 1.8
Rensselaer 1.6

Having Dartmouth lose can have a big downward effect on Yale’s RPI, as would having Harvard and St. Lawrence lose. But, they play each other. Having Harvard win is more useful because it allows the Crimson to hold onto enough comparisons to stay ahead of Yale, pushing Yale down a PWR spot.

That only flipped one comparison, but looking at Yale’s PWR details, we can push a couple of the bubble teams’ RPIs up over Yale’s. In the example scenario linked below, Notre Dame and Duluth’s RPIs rise enough that they overtake Yale’s and flip those two comparisons, for a total drop of 3 PWR spots.

Yale fans don’t need to worry much, these events come together in about 1.2% of remaining possible scenarios because they require a large number of low ranked teams to win conference tournaments. Here’s one example:

http://pwp.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-predictor/?uniq=pwp_56e6ce1d307b6

NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math)

If you want to dive deeper into the numbers, you should go read my previous blog post on NCAA tournament possibilities or go look at the PWR possibilities table.

Background on how PWR matters for tournament selection

Because we get lots of new readers during the tournament season, here’s some background information that my posts generally assume you know:

  • The PWR rankings are not a poll or computer model, but are instead an implementation of the same process the NCAA uses to select its tournament participants. They have correctly predicted the NCAA tournament participants for a decade or two.
  • Each conference gets to send one tournament winner to the NCAA tournament. So, we don’t need to look at the PWR of a team that wins its conference tournament.
  • The remaining 10 slots are given to top teams as ranked by the process implemented in PWR. So, PWR ranks 1-10 are in for sure; but, for 11-16 to make it requires some of the autobids to have gone to teams ranked above them (e.g. if an autobid goes to the team ranked #3, then an extra slot is open for the team ranked #11, and so on).
  • Because of that structure, we think of teams that are going to finish in the 12-15 range as “on the bubble”. Teams’ prospects are dependent not only on their final ranking, but also on how many lower ranked teams wins conference tournaments. Bubble teams’ chances for an at-large bid increase as slots are freed up by more conference tournaments being won by teams that would have made the NCAA tournament at-large.

These guys seem in

#1 North Dakota
#2 Quinnipiac
#3 St Cloud St
#4 Providence
#5 Boston College
#6 Denver
#7 Michigan
#8 Mass.-Lowell
#9 Boston University

Can make it at-large

The percentages are the share of scenarios in which each listed team can make the tournament based on the described outcome.

#10 Yale (idle, in 99%)
#11 Harvard (73% if they lose, 98% if they win 1)
#12 Notre Dame (idle, in 93%)
#13 Minnesota-Duluth (17% if they win none, 50% if they win 1)
#14 Northeastern (15% if they lose, 30% if they win 1)
#15 Michigan Tech (1% if they lose, 14% if they win 1)
#16 Cornell (idle, in 1%)

Can make it by winning their conference tournament

#17 Minnesota
#19 Robert Morris
#20 St. Lawrence
#21 Dartmouth
#22 Penn State
#24 Minnesota St
#27 Bowling Green
#28 Air Force
#30 Ferris State
#31 Ohio State
#37 RIT
#40 Wisconsin
#41 Army
#43 Michigan State

How the “can make it at-large teams” can make it

The winner of Atlantic Hockey will be a team that would not get an at-large bid, taking away one spot. That leaves at most 15 spots for top PWR teams.

For each conference tournament won by a top PWR team, an additional at-large team can make it. So, the at-large group wants the conference tournaments to be won by the following:

Big Ten – Michigan
ECAC – Quinnipiac
Hockey East – Boston College, Providence, Mass.-Lowell
NCHC – North Dakota, St. Cloud St, Denver

Though Michigan Tech could make it at-large, it only does so if other at-large candidates stumble and clear the way, so there’s not much point to cheering for Michigan Tech to win the WCHA.

The at-large group are competing with each other for ranking position, so generally want the other at-large candidates to lose.