Saturday’s championship (and 3rd place) games caused a couple of changes to the final Pairwise rankings. Michigan had already locked up the #2 overall seed, but there were still a few spots up for grabs entering play on Saturday, and in a couple instances, teams could have ended up as high as #3 overall, and as low as #10 or #11. Here are Saturday’s results:
CCHA championship: Western Michigan beat Michigan
CCHA 3rd place: Miami beat BG
Atlantic Hockey championship: Air Force beat RIT
ECAC championship: Union beat Harvard
ECAC 3rd place: Cornell beat Colgate
Hockey East championship: BC beat Maine
WCHA championship: North Dakota beat Denver
As a result of these…er...results, here are the final Pairwise rankings:
- Boston College
- North Dakota
- Ferris State
- Boston University
- Western Michigan
- Michigan State
- Air Force
The bracketing starts by placing the top four teams in the closest regional, then doing the #2, #3, and #4 seeds so that there are no intraconference matchups in the first round, and to try and have “bracket integrity,” meaning the first round has 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, etc. and the second round would have 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc. The two things that can draw things away from bracket integrity are 1) host schools, which in this case means Minnesota, which must be placed in St. Paul, and 2) attendance considerations, so that a couple of 2 or 3 seeds might be switched to ensure better attendance at regionals, and to prevent things like an Eastern regional from having mostly Western teams. With that in mind, here is the bracket I have come up with:
1. Boston College
16. Air Force
9. Boston University 10. Maine
St. Paul, MN
4. North Dakota
14. Western Michigan
10. Maine 9. Boston University
Green Bay, WI
6. Ferris State
15. Michigan State
EDIT: switched BU and Maine to keep the 8-9 and 7-10 matchups in the first round.
This is pretty much the bracket I posted yesterday, but with Western and State switched as a result of Western winning the CCHA. It is also possible that Michigan (along with Cornell) could get put in St. Paul for better bracket integrity. That would basically switch the Michigan-Cornell game with the North Dakota-Western game. I really don’t think this will happen though, since you’d be giving the #2 seed a more distant regional, a more difficult than expected first round game, and a host school in the second round. That’s a trifecta of screwing that I don’t think even the NCAA selection committee is capable of. Plus, the attendance setup is probably better with Michigan in Green Bay and North Dakota in St. Paul.
The Cornell matchup is pretty much a given in the first round. I mentioned this in comments to another post this morning, but that is a pretty tough matchup. Cornell has six shutouts on the year (including their game Saturday), and simply don’t give up a lot of goals (only gave up more than three goals six times all year). They have also had 10 of their last 20 games go to overtime, so be prepared for a close, white-knuckle finish.
So there is my bracket prediction. We’ll find out how right I am tomorrow at noon on ESPNU when the brackets are announced. Go Blue!
The hockey team is now roughly halfway through the 2011-12 season. I thought this would be a good time for a recap of the first half, along with a (very) early look at the pairwise rankings heading toward NCAA Tournament selection time. By the way, thanks to MGoBlog for already having a "way too early to be doing this" tag.
First half recap
Michigan got off to a strong start, at one point holding down the #1 ranking in the polls with a 4-0 record following easy wins over Niagara, Bentley (twice), and St. Lawrence. A trip to Northern, resulting in a loss and a shootout win, put a quick end to that. After winning three of four against Ferris and Western, Michigan went on a massive losing streak, with one point in the next seven games, before a 1-0 OT win in Alaska. After getting four of a possible six points two weeks ago against MSU, Michigan now sits 8th in the CCHA with 19 points in 14 games, and has a lot of work to do to get back into the NCAA tournament mix. The defense has been mediocre at best, and Jon Merrill's absence has really hurt. All signs are pointing to Merrill being reinstated for next weekend's matchup against the Lakers, but we'll have to wait and see.
Current Pairwise Rankings
For the uninitiated, the pairwise rankings compare every team to every other team in four categories: RPI; record against “Teams Under Consideration (TUCs)”, which means teams with an RPI over .500, as long as both teams have played at least 10 TUCs, not counting each other.; record against common opponents, and head-to-head. Winning one of the first three categories gets you one point, and you get one point for each head-to-head win over your opponent. Any ties are broken by the RPI ranking. The pairwise rankings have accurately predicted the NCAA field for something like ten years, so they are a very useful and important tool.
As an example of how the pairwise rankings work, let’s compare Michigan to Miami right now.
- Michigan has an RPI of 0.5374 to Miami’s 0.5264. Point Michigan.
- Michigan is 5-7-2 against TUCs other than Miami. Miami is 7-9-0, for a slightly better winning percentage. Point Miami.
- Michigan is 3-4-1 against common opponents. Miami is 3-5-0 against those opponents. By a very slim margin, point Michigan.
- Miami has one head-to-head win over Michigan. Point Miami.
This puts the comparison at 2-2. Michigan wins the overall comparison by virtue of having the higher RPI score.
Every team is compared to every other team in the top half (essentially) of the RPI standings, and the teams are ranked based on the number of comparisons won. Right now, Michigan sits 17thin those rankings. I think that based on the really awful stretch Michigan had in November, many would have felt that they would be further down the list, but the CCHA teams are ranked very high in the Pairwise right now based on their incredibly high RPIs. In fact, 9 CCHA teams are in the top 19 in the Pairwise as of this writing. Right now, with very few teams outside of the CCHA having ten games against TUCs, this is a heavily RPI-driven ranking. That will change as the season goes on, and in a bad way for Michigan unless they pick up some big wins down the stretch.
Why is the CCHA doing so well in the pairwise rankings?
It turns out that nonconference games have a huge impact on the Pairwise for a couple reasons. First, having a conference do well overall in its nonconference slate has a big impact on the RPI, because it improves every conference team’s strength of schedule. The CCHA is 40-12-5 out of conference so far this year, for a winning percentage of 0.746. Even terrible Bowling Green, who is 1-11-2 in conference, went 5-0-1 in nonconference play, which helps everyone else in the conference. Secondly, when comparing teams from different conferences, the common opponents part of the Pairwise is usually based on a very small number of games. For example, if we compare Michigan to a Hockey East team such as Merrimack, the common opponents are Boston College, Northeastern, St. Lawrence, and Union (Merrimack won’t play St. Lawrence until Friday, and neither has played BC, but both will). Right now, Michigan is 1-2 against those teams, while Merrimack is 2-1-1 against them (mostly against Northeastern). Had Michigan beaten either Union or Northeastern, it would have made a huge difference. As it stands, beating BC in the GLI would be a huge help in comparisons against all the Hockey East teams, since they will mostly have bad records against BC.
Second half preview
We start with the GLI, and a matchup with #3 Boston College, followed by either MSU or a surprisingly competent Michigan Tech team. The next six series are all against CCHA teams that are in the top 20 in the pairwise, including four (Ohio, Notre Dame, Northern Michigan, and MSU) that are currently in the top 10. The season ends with a two-game set at Bowling Green.
This is both good and bad. Obviously, the schedule down the stretch is pretty brutal, with the Ohio and ND series on the road, and the MSU series as an away/neutral split. The good news is that this gives Michigan a huge opportunity to work its way back into the mix for an NCAA spot and a higher conference standing.
How does Michigan get back to the NCAA tournament?
Well, winning the CCHA tournament would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. Michigan is going to have a fairly strong RPI for its record no matter how the season ends up; what could hold Michigan back is their sub-.500 record against TUCs, and their losses to Union and Northeastern, which (along with some other losses to CCHA teams) are hurting them in the common opponents comparison in the pairwise rankings. With only the GLI remaining outside the conference, Michigan is going to have to rely largely on improving its record against TUCs. The good news is that there are still plenty of those left on the schedule. With at least 13 regular-season games against TUCs, plus a couple in the playoffs, Michigan should have 15-17 more games against TUCs. Right now, Michigan has a record of 5-8-3 against TUCs. That winning percentage is not going to be good enough, especially given Michigan’s poor record against out-of-conference opponents. They’re going to have to get that TUC record up to at least .500, and probably higher.
To start with, Michigan needs at least a split in the GLI. A loss to BC won’t hurt too badly, but a win would be huge. After that, assuming a sweep against BG to end the season, Michigan is going to have to go through that 12-game CCHA stretch following the GLI with at least a .500 record, and it might be necessary to go as much as 8-4. While the RPI numbers are going to be good for Michigan, the TUC record is going to hurt them down the road if they don’t win more than half of their games the rest of the way.
A lot of things can change between now and March, aside from Michigan's performance. Every game over the next two months is critical, and it's going to be an exciting ride as Michigan tries to extend its consecutive tournament appearance streak.
So everyone seems to think that Michigan is going to face Houston in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, in order for that to happen, Michigan has to finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. The current BCS standings come out at 8:15 pm tonight. This has been an overanalyzed topic on the MGoBoard, but there are some interesting and somewhat overlooked things that could happen next week to affect Michigan's BCS hopes. The consensus round these parts has been that if LSU beats Georgia, we should be in the top 14 and thus selected to the Sugar Bowl. However, even if that happens, there are some other teams that we should be concerned about:
1. Michigan State. If they lose to Wisconsin in a close game, it is not unreasonable to think that they might stay above us. Yes, they have 3 losses to our 2, but they beat us by two touchdowns. They have moved up to 9th (barely) in the Coaches poll and are 11th in the Harris poll. The computers have us (just) ahead of MSU, so if they drop to one spot ahead of us in the polls, the BCS rankings will probably have us ahead of them. For State to stay in the top 14, they'd have to only drop a couple of spots after a loss. A State win in the B1G championship game, while deeply unsatisfying to my fandom, would actually benefit Michigan, as Wisconsin would almost definitely drop below us, and with MSU as one of our opponents, it would help our computer rankings. It would still, however, make me nauseated.
2. Baylor. This is the one that really scares me. The computers LOVE the Big 12. Two of the computer rankings had Baylor 7th overall last week, even with losses to Kansas St. and Texas A&M. My guess is that Baylor and Michigan will almost be exactly tied in this week's rankings, with Michigan having a slight edge. The good news is that they might have dropped a little in the computer rankings, as their win over Texas Tech will not help them as much as South Carolina's win over Clemson, for example. That same game helped Michigan to move in front of Clemson in several computer polls. In any case, Baylor's game next weekend against Texas may decide Michigan's bowl fate.
3. Oklahoma. An Oklahoma win over Ok. St. keeps both in the top 14. I have no doubt that the Sugar Bowl would take us over the Cowboys, but we'd have to make the top 14 for that to matter. An Oklahoma loss should drop them past Michigan in the human polls, but they were 6th in the computer polls last week. A loss to Ok. St. (#2 in the computers last week) is not going to hurt them too much, and they'll probably stay in the top 10 in the computer rankings. That means they'd have to drop to at least about 17th in the human polls to fall past Michigan. I don't know if that will happen.
The overall math is this: We will be 16th in tonight's rankings. We need two teams to drop past us with no teams moving ahead of us. (or three drop and one moves ahead of us.) We need the following to happen:
1. Georgia loss to LSU. A Georgia win eliminates the Sugar Bowl slot. Nobody, not even Mark Richt's mother, thinks this will happen.
2. The B1G loser to drop at least 4 spots in the human polls. That should happen, but hope for a blowout either way (run it up, Bielema).
3a. Texas beats Baylor. A Baylor win probably puts them ahead of Michigan and leaves us at 15th in the BCS, which means we can't be selected over other eligible teams.
3b. Oklahoma loses badly enough to Ok. St. that the human polls drop them to about 18th, allowing Michigan to slide ahead of them in the BCS.
3c. UCLA beats Oregon. The Pac-12 championship game should be irrelevant, as UCLA won't beat Oregon, but if they do, Oregon should drop out of the top 15 in the BCS. That would be great, as it would pretty much lock up a spot in the top 14 for Michigan, and it would give the B1G a winnable Rose Bowl. Go Bruins!
We also should hope that Virginia Tech beats Clemson. A Clemson win is dangerous because it hurts us in the computer polls, and it gives a bowl game the opportunity to take Virginia Tech as an at-large instead of Michigan (unlikely, but possible). I don't think Clemson overtakes Michigan in the human polls with three losses, but it would probably be close.
The BCS standings come out at 8:15. What to watch for: the gap between Michigan and Baylor, and both teams' positions in the computer rankings. I expect Michigan to be at almost exactly 0.400 overall (probably a little above), and Baylor to be just a little below 0.400. If the gap is big enough, it could be hard for Baylor to overcome even with a win over Texas, especially if Baylor gets pushed down by other teams in the computer polls. Last week the computers had them at 0.550; hopefully they have dropped from this spot.
Edit: There has been a lot of consternation in this thread and the others that have popped up tonight about Baylor. Basically, the fear is that a Baylor win over Texas bumps them ahead of Michigan. I should know, since I said it above. Having seen the updated standings, I don't think it will happen. A Baylor win is not going to help them in the human polls. We all know that the voters have a tendency to "ladder" their votes, meaning that teams usually only drop when they lose, or if a team behind them has an impressive win. Beating Texas is not that impressive; a lot of other teams have done it too. So Baylor should stay two spots behind us in the human polls even with a win (assuming TCU beats a 2-9 UNLV team at home). In the computer polls, Baylor can only move up about one spot (ahead of South Carolina) if Houston, Boise, Va. Tech and Oregon win (as they should). The Michigan-Baylor gap is 0.04, which corresponds to exactly one spot on average between the three polls. Since Baylor can't move up in the human polls, and can move up at most a spot and a half in the computers, that gap should only narrow to about half of what it is now. Also, either Georgia or the B1G loser should drop between Michigan and Baylor in the human polls, which should increase the gap. In short, I think the Baylor-Texas game shouldn't matter. We should just need LSU to win, and the voters to drop the B1G loser below us.
[Ed-M: Bumped because I'm still laughing]
Upper Peninsula can’t be sure it’s staying in Michigan
BY MARK SNYDER
DETROIT FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Upper Peninsula said all the right things.
It said it would “definitely” be back next year. After all, it is geologically attached where it is, and already has the Mackinac Bridge connecting it to the rest of Michigan.
But the UP will investigate other options.
Once caught in the middle of a Michigan-Ohio recruiting war over Toledo (who later proved to be one of the largest busts in history), the UP was lured away from Wisconsin with the promise of being part of an actual state. Things in Wisconsin have changed since then, however, and the UP may find the attraction of a living, breathing NFL team, as well as Bret Bielema’s musky man-scent, to be too powerful to resist.
The UP has been a valuable asset to Michigan. Once a source of lumber for paper mills and the iron that eventually fed Detroit’s automobile industry, the UP has recently put together an impressive collection of Indian casinos and even taken a Hollywood turn in “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”
However, the presence of Mackinac Island on its southeastern border has become an irritant. The overwhelming odor of horse feces and fudge can be a powerful repellent, and may push the UP toward the greener pastures of Green Bay.
The UP said Sunday it will be back. It was understandably emotional. It has since been unreachable for comment, as the invention of the telephone has not yet progressed that far north.
I believe, as of now, it will return to Michigan. When it makes the decision official, Michiganders can exhale.
Until then, even the UP can't be certain itself.
Contact Mark Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: A previous headline on this story named the Upper Peninsula a part of Canada. This version is correct.
Note: this diary has changed quite a bit since it was originally posted. The Michigan win over Notre Dame made a huge difference in their final position, as did the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East championships.
Saturday's important results
Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2
BC 5, Merrimack 3
Miami 5, Western 2
North Dakota 3, Denver 2 in OT
Air Force won their conference tournament, so they get the autobid and 16th spot.
UNH has dropped to a #4 seed. Since they stay in Manchester as the host school, and the committee does not want intraconference first round matchups, BC would probably be the #1 in St. Louis. Here is how the brackets should look:
16. Air Force
11. Notre Dame
2. North Dakota
10. Western Michigan
3. Boston College
14. Colorado College
This bracket has no intraconference matchups in the first round. It also limits travel as much as possible, and at least gets a team or two that might draw fans in St. Louis. Merrimack gets placed in Manchester to at least have a team other than UNH that will fill those seats. The original location would have been Michigan and Miami in Manchester, with BC and Merrimack in St. Louis. That seems stupid.
The most likely way for this bracket to change is if the committee decides not to put both Denver and North Dakota in the same region. The Michigan-UNO pairing would get switched with the Denver-Western pairing in that case. I don't think they'll do that, however, because it might absolutely kill the attendance in St. Louis. At least Michigan has the fan base to bring people to St. Louis, and Nebraska-Omaha is within driving distance. Denver and Western probably don't draw people to St. Louis. They could also switch Denver and Merrimack, but that would mean a regional in New Hampshire with three "western" teams, and you could have a lot of empty arenas, which the NCAA abhors. Also, there is more bracket integrity with the above setup.
The only way that this bracket could see substantial change is if the committee bumps UNH up to a 3 seed, switching them with UNO. This would be way against their stated principles, but it would allow them to put BC and UNH in the Manchester regional without playing each other, and have Miami host in St. Louis. Michigan would probably get sent to Manchester in that unlikely scenario.
Selection Sunday is tomorrow at 11:30 am on ESPN2, when we'll find out for real. Go Blue!
[EDIT: updated with Sunday's results]
Here’s a recap of Saturday’s significant action:
- This was on Friday, not Saturday, but still: David Wohlberg was sandwiched hard by two BG players as he reached for the puck, and Red Berenson said that he’s probably done for the season. Ugh. However, we could have Louie Caporusso back next weekend, so we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
Denver completed its sweep of MSU (NTMSU), knocking the
Screaming EaglesMavericks out of the ranks of the TUC, and obliterating Denver’s TUC record as a result. If you have a problem with how this works, by the way, check out everyone quoting the basketball team’s record against the RPI top 50, which went from something like 1-9 to 6-10 this weekend, thanks to MSU and Penn State. Anyway, this makes it impossible for Denver to pass Michigan now without Michigan losing.
- Notre Dame lost to Lake Superior. You want this to happen again today, which would set up a Michigan-LSSU semifinal. Should Notre Dame win, Michigan would play the winner of the Western-Ferris series, currently tied 1-1. Either way, it’s really hard for Notre Dame to pass us now, even if they beat us at the Joe, because our RPI will be much better.
- Miami swept Alaska, and is now tied with Michigan in the Pairwise. In fact, if both teams reach the finals, Miami will probably be ahead of Michigan in the Pairwise going into that game. However, it looks like Michigan would have to lose, either to Miami or to someone else, for Miami to pass Michigan, so the closeness of this comparison is a little irrelevant, since at least one of the two teams will definitely lose. The most important thing to say is that you are rooting really really hard for Miami to lose.
- Merrimack completed its sweep of the same Maine team that embarrassed them just two weeks ago. This gives Merrimack a lead in their comparison against us. However, they will play either BC or New Hampshire in the Hockey East semis. If Merrimack wins out, they win the comparison. If they play New Hampshire in either the semis or finals, and UNH beats them, we will win the comparison even with one loss at the Joe, because the Common Opponents record would be tied, and we would win RPI. If Merrimack loses to BC in the semis, we will win the comparison with higher RPI and tied TUC record, even with one loss at the Joe. If Merrimack loses to BC in the finals, we win the comparison if we win out.
- Bemidji State completed its sweep of UNO, so the Mavericks are done, and we will own our comparison against them. Yay! By the way, Bemidji has 14 wins in 36 games this year. They are 5-0-1 against a UNO team that went 21-10-1 against everyone else. Weird.
- Union lost to Colgate. This wiped out their RPI advantage over us to the point where we are basically tied, and means they have to beat Colgate tomorrow to stay alive in the ECAC tournament. The good news is that Union played Bemidji State earlier in the season and lost. Bemidji is now a TUC, and should stay that way even if they lose their next game in the WCHA tournament. This slight wound to Union’s TUC record means that if both teams win out, Michigan would win the comparison.
- Union lost to Colgate, so they are done. They can only pass us if we lose both games at the Joe, at which point it doesn't really matter that they passed us.
- Yale won their quarterfinal, but the Union loss makes that irrelevant.
- Notre Dame defeated Lake Superior, and Western defeated Ferris. So the CCHA matchups are Michigan-WMU and Notre Dame-Miami.
- Northeastern defeated BU, so Merrimack plays UNH in one Hockey East semifinal, and BC plays Northeastern.
- If Michigan wins its two games at the Joe, they will likely get a #1 seed. Apart from the top 3, only Merrimack would be able to win a comparison against us. Even then, they might lose a comparison to someone else, and then we’d get the top seed with our better RPI. Should Michigan and Merrimack win out and Merrimack get the last #1 seed, it will be in St. Louis, and we’d probably be the #2 seed there, and I’m fine with that. A better way to look at this is: win out and you go to St. Louis, which is far more preferable than all the other regions.
- The most important teams to root against are now Miami and Merrimack. Unleash all of your psychic rage and voodoo magic upon them.
- A loss at any point for Michigan almost certainly means a #2 seed, and brings in the possibility that we’d get sent to the east coast to face UNH and BC in Manchester, or be in Yale’s regional in Bridgeport. If we had to lose, the best loss would be to ND in the finals.
By the way, I think it’s about time we got to host our own regional again. The Northeast regional is always within an hour drive of Boston. Yale is hosting this year and next. The Frozen Four is in Minneapolis-St. Paul this year, and they host a regional next year. Green Bay hosts this year and next, if Wisconsin could every get there. And that means that there are regionals in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, which is stupid. Why is Michigan punished for having better fans than everyone else? If you don’t want it in Yost, I understand (although I think it's time we stopped having to pay for the 1998 championship), but can we at least have a Detroit regional? /rant
Edit: I get that the regional-hosting decision, at least the decision to even bid, is based on money, which is why the Joe doesn't host. There are some sites that haven't hosted, though, that I'm surprised haven't bid (or haven't won a bid). I think Toledo would be a good regional site, as well as Cleveland. Actually, with Dan Gilbert being a MSU guy, maybe someone could prevail upon him to bring a regional, or even the Frozen Four, to Cleveland, so that 1) I can go, and 2) he can bring in a bunch of outside people to rent his arena and go to his hopefully-soon-to-open casino. Half of the CCHA is within a very reasonable drive of Cleveland, as are a couple others (Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Niagara, Penn State). While it is the Worst State Ever, it's a lot closer than St. Louis.
And now, on to the Joe. Go Blue!