Changes from today’s games, looks like…

- BC is a lock
- SCSU is a lock
- QU is a lock
- Colgate needs to win its conference tournament.
- Mass.-Lowell needs to win its conference tournament.
- Yale is up to about a 23% chance.
- Vermont is out

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Changes from today’s games, looks like…

- BC is a lock
- SCSU is a lock
- QU is a lock
- Colgate needs to win its conference tournament.
- Mass.-Lowell needs to win its conference tournament.
- Yale is up to about a 23% chance.
- Vermont is out

The bulk of games are tonight, so there will plenty of PWR tables, simulations, blogs, and tweets about PWR implications of the outcomes. I’ll try to give you a preview of some of those in advance.

These claims are a little less certain than my usual articles because they involve a fair amount of human tweaking, tallying, and writing. So, I may have introduced some error, so I’ll use the words “appear to be” a lot.

I’m starting with the effects of ECAC outcomes because the large number of bubble teams in the ECAC makes those among the most interesting.

- Minnesota appears not to be able to make it at-large with 0 wins if Harvard wins today.
- Boston College appears to be guaranteed an at-large bid if Harvard and St. Lawrence win today.
- Mass.-Lowell appears not to be able to make it at-large (though could still be alive in their own tournament) if Harvard wins today.
- Yale appears not to be able to make the tournament if Quinnipiac and Colgate win today.
- Vermont appears not to be able to make it at-large (though could still be alive in their own tournament) if Harvard and Colgate win today.

Plus the effects on the playing ECAC teams themselves, previously discussed:

- St. Lawrence appears to need to win its conference tournament to get a bid
- Colgate appears to need at least one win to make the tournament, so would be eliminated with a loss tonight

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/VukVIh

The keys are:

- A large number of conference tournaments being won by top teams. In this case 4 conference tournaments go to top teams so the top 14 in PWR will make the NCAA tournament.
- Enough teams lose for Yale to climb to #14. In this case Quinnipiac, Bowling Green, Colgate, Minnesota, and Mass.-Lowell all fall below Yale. Passing five instead of four is needed to allow Vermont to pass Yale so it can absorb the autobid.

That set of conditions come together in only about 4% of scenarios to get Yale in.

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/lkricG

The keys are:

- A large number of conference tournaments won by low ranked teams to take up more slots. In this example, all but 2 conference tournaments go to lower ranked teams so only the top 12 in PWR will make the NCAA tournament.
- Move idle BC’s PWR down as much as possible. In this case, BC falls from #9 to #13 by losing the comparison to Bowling Green, St Cloud, and Colgate, to fall from 49 comparisons won to 46 (see BC’s PWR). It does so on a combination of their RPIs rising just a hair and a BC’s falling just a hair.
- The intersection between the above two is what makes this scenario very unlikely — teams that pass BC must do so without winning the conference tournament so lower ranked teams can still take up spots. Looking back at all the possibilities, only a small number of teams have the potential to climb to #12 or higher without winning their conference tournaments. In this case, St Cloud St and Bowling Green are able to flip their comparisons with BC without too much success because they’re already so close in RPI to BC.

That set of conditions come together in only about .8% of scenarios to keep Boston College out.

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/fVsULS

The keys are:

- As discussed in Odds and Ends, SCSU is perilously close to a .500 record so must take advantage of the possibility of a tie in the NCHC consolation game to end up with exactly a .500 record without winning another game.
- Have only 3 conference tournaments go to lower ranked teams so #13 makes the NCAA tournament.

That set of conditions come together in about 40% of the scenarios in which SCSU loses the semifinal but goes on to tie in the consolation game.

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/n0L3on

The keys are:

- In addition to BU (which makes it for sure), we need four of Mass.-Lowell, Vermont, Boston College, Providence, and New Hampshire.
- It’s easy to get BC and idle Providence highly ranked (that’s two).
- Because Vermont and Mass.-Lowell are long shots who play each other, we can really only get one highly ranked (one more).
- Give New Hampshire the conference championship (outbid for one more), but also give 3 conference championships to highly ranked teams so the HE teams we positioned in 11-13 all make it.

That set of conditions come together in about .3% of scenarios to get 5 Hockey East teams in.

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/JxVA6l

The keys are:

- Because Boston University is going to make the tournament anyway, the conference championship either needs to go to BU or another team that’s going to make it at-large.
- BC is exceptionally hard to push out (see above), so instead preventing any of Mass.-Lowell, Providence, or Vermont from climbing is easier. Vermont is coming from far enough behind that despite a first round win, it’s easy to keep their PWR low with wins by neighbors Harvard, Bowling Green, and St Cloud St.
- Finally, enough conference tournaments (in this scenario, 3) go to low ranked teams to keep out any remaining Hockey East teams on the bubble.

Those factors come together to limit Hockey East to two NCAA bids in only about 5% of scenarios.

Here’s an example: http://goo.gl/dp9e7S

The keys are:

- Colgate, Harvard, and Quinnipiac are all on the bubble. But, because Harvard plays Quinnipiac in the first round, the winner of which plays the winner of St. Lawrence vs. Colgate, it’s really hard to get all three in. Both Harvard and Colgate are long shots, so in this scenario we sacrifice one to get the other in, sending Harvard all the way to the championship.
- Advancing Harvard damaged Quinnipiac, so we then need to make sure as many conference tournaments as possible go to top teams. In this scenario, that’s 4, allowing #14 Quinnipiac in at-large. That requirement also allows Yale to slip in (see “How to get Yale in” above).

Those factors come together to get 3 ECAC teams in the NCAAs in about 6% of scenarios, so it can also happen without Yale being one of the teams

If you haven’t read them yet, you might want to start with my articles from earlier this week, Who’s a lock for the NCAA tournament? and Who might fall out of contention for the NCAA tournament? Having visited those two extremes, this article goes into a little more depth on the teams in between.

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.

#9 Providence would be on the bubble if eliminated from their conference tournament this weekend. They’d then need a bit of luck to make the NCAA tournament, needing to either climb a bit while idle and/or have a lot of conference tournaments won by top ranked teams.

If Providence wins this weekend, they’ll be in pretty good shape. A semifinal loss would probably push them back down to the high end of the bubble, while a win would nearly lock up a bid.

#10 Boston College is in a very similar position to Providence. They’d be on the bubble if eliminated this weekend and would be watching the other conference tournaments carefully.

If they advance this weekend, they’ll be in pretty good shape — favored, though probably not mathematically secure, for an NCAA bid.

#11 Bowling Green would likely be pushed down below the bubble if eliminated this weekend. It would take a lot of luck to climb back onto the bubble while idle and have most of the conference tournaments won by top ranked teams.

If Bowling Green advances, they would still probably need a semifinal win to stay on the bubble.

#12 Quinnipiac has a chance of staying on the bubble if eliminated this week, but would have to watch future tournament results carefully.

If they advance, another win would probably be needed to stay atop the bubble.

#13 Yale is likely to be pushed just below the bubble if eliminated this weekend, but would stand a slim chance of climbing onto it dependent on other tournament results.

Advancing this weekend would position them well, but not secure a spot in the NCAAs. With an additional win, Yale would be favored to secure a spot.

#14 Minnesota hasn’t entered conference tournament play yet, so does not face elimination. Getting swept this weekend would put them in a bad spot for an at-large bid, but would also probably force them to play in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The extra game would give them the chance to go 2-1 in the conference tournament and possibly get back onto the bubble.

#15 Mass.-Lowell is likely to end well below the bubble if eliminated this weekend. It would take a very unlikely confluence of events for them to move into an at-large bid from that position.

Advancing puts them in a precarious spot on the bubble, such that a subsequent loss would probably push them off.

#16 St Cloud St is currently at 11-12-1 so needs one more win than loss in its remaining games to meet the .500 requirement for consideration for the NCAA tournament. So, the Huskies won’t be considered if eliminated this weekend. If they advance (either 2-1 or 2-0), they’ll be in a decent bubble position, but probably need at least one more win.

#17 Harvard will be below the bubble if eliminated this weekend and it’s very unlikely they could slide into position for an at-large bid while idle.

Advancing would put them right on the bubble, such that they’d probably want another win to stay there.

#18 Colgate is out if eliminated this weekend. Advancing puts them on the low end of the bubble, such that a subsequent loss would probably push them off. Best to advance and win one more.

#19 Vermont is very likely out if eliminated this weekend. Advancing would put them right on the low end of the bubble, such that another win would probably be required to make the tournament at-large.

#20 Michigan is not yet in its conference tournament so is not facing elimination this weekend. Two losses would likely put an at-large bid out of reach, while two wins would bring the bubble within sight. A first round bye, though, would reduce their opportunities to climb in the PWR.

#21 Bemidji State is out if eliminated this weekend. It’s possible, though not particularly likely, that Bemidji State could position itself for an at-large bid by advancing to the conference tournament final and losing.

#22 St. Lawrence is almost identical to Bemidji State. They’re out if they lose this weekend. It’s possible, though not particularly likely, that St. Lawrence could position itself for an at-large bid by advancing to the conference tournament final and losing.

#23 Dartmouth is out if they fail to advance. Dartmouth is better positioned than the teams above it to get an at-large bid by winning a few games then losing the conference final. Winning the conference tournament would be a safer bet.

Forecasts include the results of games played through Sunday of this week, unless otherwise noted.

Each forecast is based on at least one million monte carlo simulations of the games in the described period. For each simulation, the PairWise Ranking (PWR) is calculated and the results tallied. The probabilities presented in the forecasts are the share of simulations in which a particular outcome occurred.

The outcome of each game in each simulation is determined by random draw, with the probability of victory for each team set by their relative KRACH ratings. So, if the simulation set included a contest between team A with KRACH 300 and team B with KRACH 100, team A will win the game in very close to 75% of the simulations. I don’t simulate ties or home ice advantage.

- Current PWR Rankings (SiouxSports.com)
- Current RPI Rankings (SiouxSports.com)
- CHN PWR Rankings (CollegeHockeyNews.com)
- USCHO PWR Rankings (USCHO.com)
- Explanation of how PWR mimics NCAA tournament selection (CollegeHockeyNews.com)

In previous columns this week I presented what tournament selection outcomes are most likely, every possible tournament selection outcome, and what determines the fate of teams with the most uncertainty as to outcome. Today, I’ll dive into the nooks and crannies of the most unlikely outcomes to explain how they could come about.

The key to swapping #2 Boston College (idle) and #3 Union is for Union to overcome BC’s current RPI advantage. That would change the comparison, currently 2-0 in BC’s favor, to 1-1 with the RPI tie-breaker going to Union. Though the current RPI gap is only .5892 for BC to .5810 for Union, it’s difficult for Union to overcome because BC isn’t playing so can’t move down much.

Obviously, the best thing Union can do to improve its own RPI is win two games. To further maximize the benefit, Union prefers to play #6 in RPI Quinnipiac over #16 in RPI Colgate (though Colgate’s better opponent win% somewhat offsets Quinnipiac’s better win%, the quality win bonus for defeating Quinnipiac tips the scales).

The next most important thing for Union’s RPI is to further improve its quality win bonus by having teams it has defeated climb in the RPI ranks. New Hampshire is the most obvious candidate, capable of climbing from its current #18 in RPI to as high as #12. In addition to the benefit it would receive from two wins, New Hampshire would be helped by losses from teams immediately above it such as #15 Colgate, #16 Cornell, #13 North Dakota, #12 Mankato, and #11 Michigan.

Finally, Union can pick up a few other quality win bonus points by having Bowling Green become a contender.

Here’s an example of one such scenario:

http://goo.gl/qs5CXO

When such factors all come together Union can climb to #2 in about .5% of remaining possible outcomes, or about 2% of the scenarios in which Union wins its conference tournament.

The two keys to Providence missing the NCAA tournament are for Providence to fall in the PWR and for conference autobids to go to teams that wouldn’t make it at large. Combined, the two can push Providence down and move the line for an at-large bid up enough such that Providence doesn’t make the tournament.

For Providence’s PWR to fall sufficiently, Providence must exit winless by losing its first game. Second, a combination of teams below Providence must rise sufficiently to further push Providence down.

Here’s one such example in which #16 Cornell, #10 St Cloud St, and #14 Vermont pass Providence, pushing it to #12. This scenario additionally features 5 of the 6 conference autobids going to teams below the cutoff, thus denying #12 Providence an at-large bid.

Similar factors come together for Providence to miss the NCAA tournament in about 1.3% of remaining outcomes, or about 2.6% of scenarios in which Providence loses its first game.

The principles for St. Cloud State missing are the same as for Providence — St. Cloud St’s PWR must fall and conference autobids must go to teams that wouldn’t make it at large.

Because SCSU is idle, it’s a little harder to move their PWR. The biggest lever available to do so is the quality win bonus. St. Cloud St currently enjoys QWB’s from wins over #3 RPI Union, #12 RPI Minnesota State, #13 RPI North Dakota, #16 RPI Colgate, and #19 RPI Western Michigan. Poor performances from those teams, and resulting drops in SCSU’s QWB, are key to St. Cloud St missing.

Here’s one such scenario in which each of the above loses as many as possible, pushing SCSU down to #12. This scenario additionally features 5 of the 6 conference autobids going to teams below the cutoff, thus denying #12 St Cloud St an at-large bid.

Similar factors come together for SCSU to miss the NCAA tournament in only 80 of the 3,145,728 remaining possible scenarios (about .003%).

A quirk of this year’s revised conference tournaments is that only the NCHC has a consolation game, thus an opportunity for a team to go winless across two conference tournament games.

For North Dakota to make the tournament without any additional wins, the principles are familiar — maximize UND’s PWR ranking while having as many conference autobids as possible go to teams that would otherwise make the tournament at large.

Another quirk of consolation games is that they can end in ties. To maximize UND’s PWR without a win, North Dakota needs a loss in the opening game but a tie in the consolation game. Even with a loss and a tie, UND’s PWR is almost certain to fall, so the key is for teams around UND to perform poorly enough that UND’s fall is minimal.

There are a few ways that could happen, but here’s one such scenario in which only two teams (#18 Northeastern and #14 Vermont) rise above UND but only one (#11 Michigan) falls below, resulting in a net loss of only one position to #14. This is dependent on poor performance by #15 Colgate, #16 Cornell, and #17 New Hampshire. This scenario additionally features only two conference tournaments going to non-autobid teams, thus allowing #14 UND to get an at-large bid despite no additional wins.

Similar factors come together for UND to make the NCAA tournament in about .5% of outcomes in which UND loses the first game, or about 1.5% of outcomes in which UND loses the first game then ties the consolation game.

The principles for Colgate making the NCAA tournament without another win are similar to those for North Dakota — maximize Colgate’s PWR and have as many conference autobids as possible go to teams that would otherwise make the tournament at large.

Because we’ve already stipulated that Colgate must lose a game, maximizing its PWR relies primarily on poor performance from the teams around it and an improvement in its quality win bonus.

There are a few ways to do that, but here’s one such scenario in which #15 Colgate passes two teams (#12 Mankato and #13 North Dakota) while being passed by only one (#17 Northeastern) resulting in a rise to #14. While this is dependent on poor performances by North Dakota and Northeastern, it is also helped by a poor performance from Cornell and a mixed performance from New Hampshire to prevent those teams from overtaking Colgate. Colgate’s PWR is also helped in this scenario by a modest rise in its quality win bonus from good performances by Ferris State, Quinnipiac, and Union. This scenario additionally features only two conference tournaments going to non-autobid teams, thus allowing #14 Colgate to get an at-large bid despite no additional wins.

Similar factors come together for Colgate to make the NCAA tournament in about 2.1% of scenarios in which it loses its lone conference tournament game.

The principles for Cornell making the NCAA tournament without winning are the same as for North Dakota and Colgate — maximize Cornell’s PWR and have as many conference autobids as possible go to teams that would otherwise make the tournament at large.

Because we’ve already stipulated that Cornell must lose a game, maximizing its PWR relies primarily on poor performance from the teams around it and an improvement in its quality win bonus.

Though #16 Cornell has a slight RPI edge on #15 Colgate (Cornell is currently one PWR rank lower because it loses the comparison between the two because of their H2H results), it has a much tougher time improving its PWR this weekend because it doesn’t have the wins versus Ferris State and Union that give Colgate the opportunity to improve its quality win bonus. While wins by Quinnipiac help a bit, Cornell’s RPI seems doomed to fall.

So, to actually rise in the PWR (#16 won’t make it at large because the AHA autobid will go to someone not in the top 16), Cornell needs more teams above it to fall than teams below it rise. Here’s a scenario in which only one team (#15 Colgate) dips below Cornell while no teams below Cornell rise, resulting in Cornell taking the #15 spot. To make the tournament from #15, this scenario also features only one team outside the top 15 winning its conference tournament.

Such a set of outcomes useful to Cornell is quite unusual, occurring in only 182 of the 1,572,864 scenarios in which Cornell loses its lone game (about .01%).