hope you guys have an iron D, because the ride is bumpy [Bill Rapai]
Since the last time we checked, Michigan was swept by OSU, split with Wisconsin, and took an old-fashioned three point weekend from MSU. This has moved them up to #14 in the Pairwise, which is probably 50/50 to be in. If this sounds better than those results justify, well, there's bad news:
That's the current RPI, which is a 100% proxy for PWR for teams Michigan does not play. There's a fairly significant gap between Michigan and #13 WMU, and an incredibly narrow one down to #17 PSU. Their upward mobility is limited, and even remaining in the same spot might be tricky.
Or at least it would be if not for this weekend's looming series. Michigan has a home and home against #2 Notre Dame, which is a massive opportunity. While splitting that series doesn't move Michigan up it does solidify their position, and put them in a spot where sweeping Arizona State (7-18-5 and #56 in the RPI) moves them up to 11th in PWR*. Getting both shoots Michigan up to 8th(!).
Getting that split is the tricky part. ND is #2 for a reason. But Michigan played ND dead even earlier in the year, losing a pair of 2-1 games in which they outshot, out-Corsi'd, and out-housed the Irish. Getting one of two this weekend is very possible, and hugely important.
The conference tournament will also impact Michigan significantly, and unlike the old CCHA days there are few tomato cans to draw. ND has won the conference and gets a first round bye; OSU is all but locked into the #2 spot. Michigan currently stands third, three points in front of Minnesota and four in front of Wisconsin. Minnesota has two games in hand. Their finishing stretches:
- Minnesota: home series against OSU, road series against PSU.
- Wisconsin: road series against OSU.
Minnesota is probably going to get the 4 points they need to pass Michigan—which holds the tiebreaker—and Wisconsin is not going to get their five, leading to a first round series at Yost against the Badgers. This would be a massive swing series. Assuming a sweep versus Arizona State (because there's no point in doing this if they don't), outcomes:
- Split with ND, sweep Wisconsin: #8
- Swept by ND, sweep Wisconsin: #14
- Split with ND, 2-1 vs Wisconsin: #11
- Split with ND, 1-2 vs Wisconsin: #14
- Swept by ND, 2-1 vs Wisconsin: #15
- Swept by ND, 1-2 vs Wisconsin: out
- Split/swept vs ND, 0-2 vs Wisconsin: out
- Sweep ND, 0-2 vs Wisconsin: #13.
A sweep this weekend puts Michigan in a spot where sweeping one of the worst teams in the country is a near-lock at large. A split versus ND means any series win in the first round of the playoffs is probably good enough. Getting swept this weekend means Michigan will be in the danger zone short of an autobid.
Have fun storming the castle!
*[This is a parallel universe where only Michigan plays games.]