Here is a look at every team in the NCAA and whether we want them to win or not:
(Rankings are based on RPI as of Saturday Morning 2/28; parenthesis enclose Pairwise Ranking)
1. Boston University (1)-Win: There is no chance of Michigan catching BU, so it would be nice if they could knock down some other Hockey East teams (i.e. Northeastern)
2. Notre Dame (3)-Lose: We trail them, we have the opportunity to catch them, and they're Notre Dame
3. Michigan (4)-Win: Obvious
4. Northeastern (5)-Lose: If Northeastern does well in their conference tournament, they may pass us
5. Denver (2)-Lose: They lead us in the Pairwise and we stand a good chance of passing them if they lose once, as every remaining game they have should come against Pairwise top-25 teams.
6. Vermont (t-6)-Lose: Like Northeastern, they too have a fair chance to pass us. However, unless they win out, we should be ok.
7. Yale (t-6)-Win: We have a solid lead over them in our comparison and they have a shot at winning comparisons against
Denver, Northeastern, and Vermont, which would boost or secure Michigan's ranking.
8. New Hampshire (t-8)-Lose: When I say lose here, I mean that we don't want New Hampshire to win the Hockey East Tournament. Unless they do that, we should stay in front of them. Also, it would be nice to see UNH upset some higher ranked teams.
9. North Dakota (t-8)-Lose: North Dakota is surging. They probably won't pass us, but even if they don't, it would be nice if they lost some momentum going into the NCAA tournament.
10. Princeton (10)-Win: Another team that can't catch us but could hurt other teams. However, Yale can do a better job of this so we want Yale over Princeton.
11. Cornell (11)-Mixed: Can't really do anything for us but if they lose to Yale and/or Princeton, it'll help our cause indirectly. That said, they don't really matter.
12. Minn-Duluth (t-12)-Win: They play other WCHA teams that we want devalued. They also aren't a threat.
13. Miami (t-12)-Lose: Thanks to OSU, we have a secure comparison here. However, it would be nice for some security in the 2-spot of the CCHA standings (if we beat Ferris State tonight, this point becomes moot).
14. Ohio State (14)-Lose: They're Ohio State
15. Colorado College (t-15)-Win: Like Minn-Duluth, they could knock down some other WCHA teams ranked above them
16. St. Lawrence (t-15)-Mixed: Same as Cornell, but when they win, our RPI improves
17. Minnesota (17)-Lose: We currently hold the #4 overall seed. Should Minnesota make the tournament, we would probably play them in the first round at their home rink. This would suck.
18. Boston College (18)-Win: Another Hockey East team that could screw over teams ranked ahead of them.
19. Wisconsin (t-19)-Win: Another WCHA team that could hurt teams above it. Also, we want Minnesota State to lose, and they play Minnesota State.
20. Air Force (t-19)-Win: You never root against the Air Force
21. St. Cloud State (21)-Win: Same as Wisconsin. Also, they play Denver tonight.
22. UMass-Lowell (22)-Win: Another Hockey East team that could screw over teams ranked ahead of them.
23. Alaska (23)-Win: We'd be indifferent, but they're playing Alaska-Anchorage, whom we want to lose.
24. Rochester Institute of Technology (24)-Indifferent: They play such a low level of competition that they have no bearing on us.
25. Minnesota State (25)-Lose: Minn State provides a lot of TUC wins to WCHA teams, including Denver. If they're knocked out of the top 25 RPI, Denver falls below us.
26. Dartmouth (NR)-Win: Pass Minn State
27. Massachusetts (NR)-Lose: We don't want a weak Hockey East team in the top 25 or the rest of Hockey East gets a boost in their TUC records
28. Northern Michigan (NR)-Lose: If NMU makes the top 25, Michigan gets 2 losses in their TUC record. It also makes for a crappy comparison.
29. Alaska-Anchorage (NR)-Lose: They add wins in the TUC column of the rest of the WCHA if they make it into the top 25.
30. Nebraska-Omaha (NR)-Win: If they make it into the top 25, Michigan gets 2 more TUC wins.
36. Michigan State (NR)-Lose: FYS
Everyone else: Play the spoiler against teams that aren't us.
Update: With Alaska's loss to Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska now is on the cusp of falling out of the Pairwise. Should this happen, Michigan moves into third place behind Notre Dame. Furthermore, Notre Dame loses credit for a sweep against a TUC. This will lead to a highly interesting scenario where Notre Dame will get a one seed if they get two wins against TUCs or a loss in the second round.
The WCHA is to college hockey as the SEC is to college football. This decade, like the SEC, the WCHA has generally been considered the best conference in college hockey. But this season it doesn't actually have the strength to match up with tourney-worthy teams from other conferences.
The WCHA currently has 7 of the top-20 teams in the [irrelevant] USCHO poll and 7 of the teams ranked in the [relevant] Pairwise Rankings, which basically determines who makes the NCAA Tournament. However, in the USCHO poll, only Denver (8) and North Dakota (9) rank in the top 10, while only Denver is in the top 10 of the Pairwise Rankings (t-5 as of 1:21 AM on Saturday, and yes I'm writing this at a ridiculously stupid time of night). One belief held by members of the College Hockey media (rather small, as you might imagine), is that the WCHA is so deep that teams keep knocking each other off, an argument that is backed up by having 9 out of 10 teams in the top 30 of the RPI. While the general consensus is that the WCHA isn't necessarily as strong as years previous, many (and when I say many, I mean many relative to people who follow college hockey) believe that the WCHA is still the strongest conference in the nation, or at least competing for the title with Hockey East.
In my opinion, the idea that the WCHA is the strongest conference in the nation is utter crap. To back it up, I am going to look at the records of WCHA teams in the Pairwise Rankings against out-of-conference opponents in the Pairwise Rankings. To put it simply, I'm going to look at the records of "good" teams in the WCHA against good teams from other conferences.
Denver: 2-2-0 (2-2-0 home) (t5 Pairwise)
Minnesota-Duluth: 1-1-0 (1-1-0 neutral) (t12 Pairwise)
North Dakota: 1-2-0 (1-1-0 home, 0-1-0 road) (t12 Pairwise)
Wisconsin: 1-2-0 (1-2-0 home) (14 Pairwise)
Minnesota: 2-1-1 (2-1-1 home) (15 Pairwise)
Colorado College: 0-0-0 (COWARDS!!!) (t17 Pairwise)
St. Cloud State: 0-1-0 (0-1-0 neutral) (21 Pairwise)
Overall: 7-9-1 (6-6-1 home, 0-1-0 road, 1-2-0 neutral) Win%=0.46875
As a straight record, 7-9-1 against quality opponents isn't bad, but certainly doesn't lend credence to the idea that the WCHA is even close to the best conference in the country this year, especially when you consider that the vast majority of these games were home games.
A fair criticism of the analysis above is that the 7-9-1 record is the result of having 70% of the conference being evaluated against the top teams in every other conference. However, I can refute this critique with two points: a) the only team with a winning record against quality competition is Minnesota (all at home too) and b) the reason that so many teams are up there is that they feasted on highly mediocre competition.
The WCHA combined non-conference record is 41-23-10 (Win%=0.62162). The combined non-conference record of the 7 teams above is 30-16-9 (Win%=0.62727). This means that the combined non-conference records of the top 7 teams are about as good as those of the bottom 3 teams. The reason for this is that the weak bottom 3 teams beat up on the worst teams in the NCAA, and the top 7 teams also racked up a positive winning percentage by beating up on the worst teams in the NCAA. This led to a high overall conference RPI because the RPI does not take individual games into account, but focuses on the overall records of teams. This means that a win over a bad team and a loss to a great team means the same thing as splitting two games against an average team. The result of this system is that the WCHA teams played a number of terrible teams, whose records do not compensate for the disparity of talent in NCAA hockey, while producing a mediocre performance against actual good teams, to give the conference a heightened RPI, putting more teams into the Pairwise Rankings (of which RPI is a component).
In conclusion, the WCHA is not that good and as it's 2:25 AM, I'm going to bed and not getting up until 2.