I did not make this headline up
Last week went about as well as you can hope for as a Michigan fan looking for some positivity regarding an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. As discussed in last week's diary, Michigan is in a dog fight for one of the last at-large bids into the NCAA hockey tourney if they do not win the B1G Tournament, the victor of which gets an auto-bid.
Again, as detailed last week, the Pairwise Rankings (PWR) are your Harry Potter-esque sorting hat for entrance into the NCAA tournament. PWR, in basic terms, compares every team in Div-I hockey against each other based on three factors: RPI (a computer metric taking into account your record, winning % of your team, your opponents, and your opponents' opponents- bonus points are awarded for wins against Top 20 opponents and road wins), record against common opponents, and head to head record. This then gives each team a PWR "score" or how many of those indiviudal bi-lateral PWR comparisons a team has an advantage in.
The tournament accepts 16 teams: autobid conference tournament champions from Hockey East, ECAC, Atlantic Hockey, B1G, WCHA, and NCHC; at-large bids from the remaining top PWR teams until a 16 team field is created. Many many moons ago, ECAC and the predecessor to Atlantic Hockey were considered "bid stealers" since non-regular season champions of their tournaments were typically well outside the at-large bid range in PWR but thee regular season champ would still get an at-large bid because of a ridiculously high PWR. This year (and frankly the last couple), only Atlantic Hockey is a bid stealer conference-- and even then, since their regular season champ is already still low in the PWR (Robert Morris, 25th), if a team not named Robert Morris wins their tournament for the auto-bid, the conference is still only getting in one team. Consider the Atlantic Hockey autobid as slot #16 in the NCAA tournament-- so for practical purposes, there are at most 10 at-large slots left. At minimum, the last at-large team will be the 15th slot in PWR; at worst, 12-13 could be the cut-off line.
In Michigan's case, they sit tied for 15th with UMass-Lowell with 44 comparisons won. Ultimate tiebreaker between two teams tied in PWR is RPI, and Michigan leads here by a slim margin. The relevent teams around us in PWR as of Monday:
TEAM, PWR SCORE (UMich centric), RPI, comparisons won vs. Michigan
11. Minnesota, 2-4, .5435, RPI/Common opponents (tied 2-2 in head to head)
12. Quinnipiac, 1-1, .5481, RPI (overall comparison to Quinnipiac since RPI is higher)
13. Yale, 0-1, .5433, RPI (tied in common opponents)
14. Bowling Green, 0-2, .5407, RPI / Common opponents
15. Michigan, RPI = .5404
16. UMass-Lowell, 2-1, .5394, Common opponents (Mich won head to head & RPI)
17. St Cloud St Fighting Mollies, 1-0, .5369
18. Colgate, 2-0, .5339, (Mich wins RPI & common opponents)
19. Vermont, 2-0, .5357 (Mich wins RPI & common opponents)
Ok, first caveat: PWR is very volatile in this grouping. Every team from 14-19 is basically within one weekend of each other in RPI, and one RPI flip can shuffle standings around significantly. Second caveat: Atlantic, ECAC and Hockey East start their tournaments this weekend, so some teams like Vermont are on life support, and other teams like Colgate, UM-L, Yale, and Quinnipiac may only have 1 more game left before Selection Sunday.
- I'm surprised how well Michigan is positioned for an at-large. We essentially sit in the last at-large slot now if chalk holds in conference tourneys, and with a 4-0 finish to the regular season we probably can absorb a loss in the BTT semi and still get in as the 13 or 14 slot. We finish 4-0/3-1 in the regular season and lose in the BTT finals, we're challenging for a 3-seed. We finish 4-0/3-1 in the regular season and win the BTT, we're a high 3 seed no doubt.
- This next weekend against Penn St will bascially tell us our tourney fate. We win both, we're probably in good position for an at-large team barring a sweep by MSU. We split, we need a sweep against Sparty to keep at-large hopes alive. We drop both against PSU, we're sweating bullets and probably at a win-to-get-in situation in the BTT.
- Minnesota is probably in no matter what barring a complete collapse the next two weekends. They may slip from a 3 to a 4 seed, but they're probably feeling safe if they sweep this weekend.
- We are within a 1 game difference of flipping RPI with Bowling Green. Getting into the 14 slot at least is a HUGE difference. Atlantic Hockey has already killed the 16 slot as an at-large bid this year. As I mentioned in a comment to another post this weekend, a non-regular season champ in the tourney from an ECAC, Hockey East, or NCHC school probably isn't a game killer since they have so many teams in the running above us in PWR now anyway, unless its a true Cinderella (team in the mid 20's in PWR) making a run. Even then, they're probably knocking out a team from their own conference who's in the 13-19 PWR slot now.
- There's an interesting scenario developing though where you could possibly get 3 B1G teams in, as crappy as the conference is. You'd need: (1) Michigan and Minnesota to sweep out the regular season keeping Minnesota as a border 2/3 seed team in PWR going into the BTT. (2) Minnesota would lose in a semi. Pick your team, it doesn't matter. (3) Michigan would need to get to the BTT Finals and then lose to the team Minnesota dropped a semi to. This would possibley cause: (A) MSU/PSU/OSU/Wiscy to get an auto-bid as a 4-seed, (B) Minnesota would dropoff a 2 line to a 3 or 4 seed, and (C) Michigan would slip in as one of the last two at-large teams.
- You could also have the converse though where the B1G regular season champs don't make the NCAA tourney if say Michigan and Minnesota played mediocre hockey to close out the season with Michigan winning the conference by a game or tie-breakers and then losing a semi-final or final to a cinderella B1G team, essentially getting its at-large bid stolen by the B1G tourney champ. On paper if you said the conference regular season champ of a league with Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan St didn't get a NCAA tourney bid 4 years ago, Jim Delaney would have choked on his ham sandwich. But such is life in the B1G Hockey.
I'll leave the results from last week and this week's cheering primer to Canadian, who I'm sure will be chipping with his part in a day or so. SPOILER ALERT-- Cheer, cheer for Ol'... ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE????
In the glow of Sunday's gloriousness, one disturbing item was nearly washed out, the hockey team's inconceivable loss to Ohio St on Friday night. Needing a strong finish to the season to ensure an at-large bid chance, majority opinion was that a non-sweep this weekend was life-threatening (see "Sweep or Die" in Brian's preview).
With the split instead of a sweep, the predicatble happened. Michigan dropped a couple slots all the way down to 20th in Pairwise Rankings (PWR) and are by first blush out of consideration for an at-large bid (see PWR here http://www.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-rankings/d-i-men/grid/#Michigan). With the way the NCAA tourney works, you basically have to be higher than 14th to have any confidence of an at-large bid. 16 teams are taken and usually the 15th and 16th slots if not more are taken by conference tourney winners outside the Top 16. This year, there's guaranteed to be one bid stolen from the Top 16 PWR teams, the spot going to the American Hockey champion (right now Robert Morris has secured the regualr season title, and sit at 23 in the PWR).
PWR is essentially a 3-part process where you compare your selves against other teams: RPI (a percentage measure of a team's strength based on record, road wins, and strength of schedule), Common Opponents, and Head-to-head.
While the situation is bad, it's not impossible to see Michigan *even at this point* getting an at-large bid. Assuming Michigan needs to get to at least 15 for an at-large slot, looking at Michigan directly on the PWR matrix, there are 5 teams ahead of us. I list them below with the PWR score, and what they're winning the comparison on:
14. St Cloud St, 0-1, RPI, .5349-.5457
15. Yale, 0-1, RPI, .5349-.5441
16. Harvard, 0-2, RPI & Common opponents
17. UMass-Lowell, 1-2, RPI (.5349-.5374) & Common opponent- note we win head to head
18. Vermont, .0-1, RPI, .5349-.5388
19. St Lawrence, 0-2, RPI (.5349-.5364) & common opponent
So realistically, a delta more than 0.02 in RPI at this point in the season is too much to make up and a common opponent comparison is pretty much set in stone at this point unless you're talking about someone else in your own conference. But Yale, UMass-Lowell, Vermont, and St Lawrence are all only 1 comparison flip away from us jumping them, and it's so bunched up with the difference in RPI so low, there's still a chance. Since we stil have 2 away games against Penn St coming up, the bonus points for a road win that go into RPI still put us in play. If Michigan St keeps improving, we might even be eligilble to gaba bonus road win point adjustment from that Friday night game at Munn on the last regular season weekend.
Basically there's a multi-part formula that's still in play for us to get an at-large slot. It is:
- Go 5-1 / 6-0 to end the regular season. A sweep against Penn St is a necessity. No more room for error.
- Hope Harvard loses to BC tonight (common opponent) and then everybody else from St Cloud St through St Lawrence play middling hockey to end the regular season
- We need to beat Penn St (more likely after this weekend they're going to be a 3 seed) in a BTT Semifinal. We could lose in the final, but only to Minnesota as long as they're sufficiently high in the PWR (and they are right now). Any other B1G team wins the tourney besides Minnesota and we're out for at-large consideration.
- Hope everybody on that list from 14-19 above lose early in their conference tournaments. No semi or finals appearances for them.
We probably can make up enough ground with a winning streak and a BTT finals appearance to flip a single RPI against msot of these teams. The bugaboo would appear to be Harvard-- but they may play themselves into an at-large if they get up to 14. An American Hockey cinderella story isn't going to affect us, and one possible advantage of the B1G being so down, is that each other "big" conference (Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC, WCHA) have most of their contending teams already significantly above us, so it'd have to be a REAL cinderella run by a lower team from those conferences to "steal" another slot. I think we're looking at a tournament this year where the 15 team in PWR gets in as teh last at-large slot.
This is stil highly volatile and Michigan does not have its destiny in its own hands. I'm still of the belief that if we would have swept this weekend, we probably would be at 16 or even 15 in PWR and could have essentially controlled our destiny to an at-large. Now we need help. But it's not impossible.
UPDATE (2/24): With Harvard's loss to BC in the Beanpot 3rd place game, that helped us in two ways:
1. Harvard losing knocked their RPI down a little
2. BC and BU winning actually bumped up our RPI from .5349 to .5352. My back of envelope math shows we're probably within a 1 game difference of Harvard and UMass-Lowell (important for UML since we won head to head). Not sure if we can jump Vermont yet. A Vermont - UML split this weekend probably is the preferred result.
Revised bottom line is that from this point out, beside Michigan finishing 6-0 or 5-1 with a BTT Finals appearance, cheer like hell for Michigan Tech (easy), BC & BU (not so easy) to make huge runs from here on out. Their (BC & BU) improvements in winning percentage alone bumped us up Monday. They're the only OOC opponents we've played that have a realistic shot of helping us by winning a lot the rest of the season. Plus, all three are already ahead of us in PWR significantly, so a conference tourney win by either of the three helps with addition / maintenence of another at-large slot. It's still going to be tight, but the road to slot #15 is still open.
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Staee all made it to the Elite Eight, giving the B1G 3 teams to make it this far, more than any other conference. It's not hard to see since it's only 8 teams, but here's the breakdown:
B1G (3): Michigan, Wisconsin, Staee
SEC (2): Florida, Kentucky
Pac-12 (1): Arizona
AAC (1): Uconn
A-10 (1): Dayton
(Nicely done, ACC; Big 12.... nicely done.)
My question, then, is does this at all validate the B1G as the best conference in basketball? Last year it was a no-brainer. This year there has been more speculation. So are we the best or is this just the tournament being the tournament?
If we are the best, does that mean Michigan will finally get the respect we deserve, or do we have to make it past UK for anyone to start believing that this team can win it all?
I think that the B1G is definitely the best conference, and this just proves it. I'm not sure that the media or anyone else will give us a fighting chance in this game, though. I would hope that should we make a second-straight Final Four, the critics will drop. Thoughts?
That is it. This wallpaper was SO much fun to make and, in my humble opinion, one of my best works from a pure photoshop experience. Last year I was on my game for the Tournament wallpapers, so I'm trying hard to bring it again this time. BTW, I know you wouldn't put a tag on a trophy piece, but it helped the image.
Anyway, hope you like it. Here's to rooting for back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances from the Wolverines for the first time since the Fab Five. Go Blue, beat Texas!
"Hook 'em [on the wall], Wolverines!" Desktop (1920x1080)
The bracket is final...even if Michigan loses, I'm sticking with them as the 4th No. 1. The committee could rightly disagree, but not w/UVa— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 16, 2014
So despite the mess that is this game, I guess we have that going for us.
After the most recent Bracket Matrix update (today, 1:10PM), Michigan is now the top 4 seed, unsurprisingly dropping from their previous spot as the second 3 seed.
36 brackets were updated today; here are the seeds given to Michigan and their frequency:
- 2 (one bracket -- all hail HoopsHD!)
- 3 (six brackets)
- 4 (21 brackets -- including ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo)
- 5 (seven times)
- 7 (one bracket)
Once again, Drew's Bracketology, who you'll discover is a Minnesota fan if you click over to his page (or just read this sentence), is quite bearish on Michigan (and Iowa), listing both as 7 seeds. His bias does not carry over to his Gophers, though, as he has them barely in the field as a 12 seed.
Other B1G seeds according to the Matrix:
- MSU: 2 seed
- Wisconsin: 3 seed
- Iowa: 5 seed
- OSU: 6 seed
- Minnesota: 10 seed
In addition, Nebraska is now listed on two brackets as a 12 seed. For reference there are currently 81 brackets in the Matrix.