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

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)

With the first two Big Ten games down, there are only minor changes to the overall tournament outlook.

St Cloud St now appears to be a lock for an at-large bid.

Michigan has taken on the expected “0 win” scenario from previous columns (about a 22% chance of making the tournament at-large).

Each of the bubble teams — Mankato, UND, Vermont, Colgate, and Cornell — improved their one win at-large chances by about 10% (idle Vermont’s overall chances increased by about 10%).

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%).

With this year’s simplification of PWR (primarily moving the good wins bonus into RPI), there are far fewer fluky outcomes that push teams up or down. Teams trying to make the tournament from the #12-16 range are looking for two things:

- maximizing the number of teams that make the tournament on the basis of PWR
- maximizing their own PWR

The first is accomplished by minimizing the number of autobids that go to teams with lower PWRs.

Because of the new PWR’s simplicity, the second is usually accomplished by teams with rankings near the team in question is losing. If the team in question wins, it is helped by teams around it losing to clear a path. If the team in question loses, it is mostly focused on teams below it also losing so as not to be overtaken.

PWR Rankings (SiouxSports.com)

If you think of the tournament as having 6 autobids (for conference tournament winners) and 10 at-large bids, then each autobid that goes a team that would have made it at-large essentially frees up the at-large bid for the next lower ranked team.

So, if four autobids go to teams that otherwise would have made the tournament, then #14 in PWR will get a bid. If only two autobids go to teams that otherwise would have made the tournament, then only through #12 in PWR will get a bid.

So, the teams on the at-large bubble of #12-#16 want as many conferences tournaments as possible to be won by teams that were going to make the tournament regardless. Those are:

- #1 Minnesota
- #5 Wisconsin

- #3 Union
- #6 Quinnipiac

- #4 Ferris State

- #7 Mass.-Lowell
- #8 Notre Dame
- #9 Providence

#2 Boston College and #10 St Cloud St are idle.

As teams like #11 Michigan and the teams featured in this article advance to the point that they’re pretty much guaranteed a tournament spot, it may similarly benefit the featured teams for those teams to continue to succeed and claim conference championships. However, the Atlantic Hockey tournament autobid guarantees that at most the top 15 in PWR will make it, so teams featured in this article have to be cheering for at least some of the others to lose.

#12 Minnesota State makes the tournament in 54% of scenarios in which it wins 1 game and 6.4% of scenarios in which it has no wins.

Minnesota State is most helped by #16 Cornell, #17 New Hampshire, #13 North Dakota, and #15 Colgate losing (note that #14 Vermont is not playing).

Minnesota State, like all teams featured in this article, is also helped by autobids going to highly ranked teams as described above.

#13 UND makes the tournament in 42% of scenarios in which it wins 1 game and .5% of scenarios in which it has no wins (a tie in the consolation game seems to be required).

Because the NCHC has a consolation game, UND could exit the tournament with one win either by winning then losing, or by losing then winning. The two have slightly different outlooks.

If UND wins its first game, it makes the tournament in about 46% of scenarios in which it loses the championship game. Most useful to UND in this situation seems to be #12 Minnesota State, #16 Cornell, #15 Colgate, and #11 Michigan losing (note that #14 Vermont is not playing).

If UND loses its first game, it makes the tournament in about .5% of scenarios in which it ties the consolation game or about 36% of scenarios in which it wins the consolation game. Most useful to UND in this situation seems to be #17 New Hampshire, #21 Ohio State, #16 Cornell, and #15 Colgate losing (note again that #14 Vermont is not playing).

North Dakota, like all teams featured in this article, is also helped by autobids going to highly ranked teams as described above.

#14 Vermont has no opportunity for an auto bid but makes the tournament at large in 69% of scenarios.

Because Vermont is idle, it’s counting on others to clear it a path. Its own PWR is most helped by losses from #11 Michigan, #15 Colgate, #16 Cornell, #12 Mankato, and #13 North Dakota.

Vermont, like all teams featured in this article, is also helped by autobids going to highly ranked teams as described above.

#15 Colgate makes the tournament in 77% of scenarios in which it wins a game, but only 2% of scenarios in which it has no wins.

Colgate is most helped by #12 Minnesota State, #16 Cornell, #13 North Dakota, and #17 New Hampshire losing (remember that #14 Vermont is idle).

Colgate, like all teams featured in this article, is also helped by autobids going to highly ranked teams as described above.

#16 Cornell makes the tournament in 85% of scenarios in which it wins a game, but under 1% of scenarios in which it has no wins.

Cornell is most helped by #15 Colgate and #13 North Dakota losing (remember that #14 Vermont is idle).

Cornell, like all teams featured in this article, is also helped by autobids going to highly ranked teams as described above.