Obviously, it would be a big boost to Michigan to wind up as the top seed in the Grand Rapids regional. Besides the kind-of-home-ice advantage, there would be a decent chance that the first-round game would be against a team like Air Force or Bemidji State if U-M can pick up a top-two seed.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem: Notre Dame. We have to finish ahead of the Irish in the Pairwise rankings to get that spot. Thanks to some interesting officiating a few weeks ago, we are far behind the Domers in the Pairwise, and have really no hope of passing them in a head-to-head comparison.
So how do we pass them? Well, we let a few "friends" do it for us: Vermont and Denver. Right now, we win 21 out of 24 comparisons among the top 25, while ND wins 22. We don't need to win 2 more as long as the Irish lose 2 more.
The key is in Notre Dame's TUC record -- that's Teams Under Consideration for those not steeped in Pairwise nerdness. The Irish are 6-5-0 against teams in the top 25 in the RPI; a hair better than Vermont's 7-7-3. Currently, Vermont loses the RPI and TUC comparisons, and wins against common opponents. A swing in the TUC lifts the Catamounts over Notre Dame. Vermont has two home games this weekend against UNH, followed by the Hockey East tournament. If they get a sweep this weekend and get to the finals of the Hockey East tourney and lose, they will have a record of, at worst, 10-8-3 against TUC for a percentage of 0.548. If ND gets to the Joe and splits either way, their record will be 7-6-0,for a percentage of 0.538. Vermont wins the comparison without even winning their conference tournament.
That gets us into a tie with ND, but we need one more. Denver has a head-to-head win over ND, but that doesn't count in the TUC. They are currently tied against common opponents, and ND wins the RPI. Denver is 13-9-3 in TUC compared to 6-4-0 for ND. Denver has a home game left against Colorado College, followed by the WCHA tourney. Let's say they beat CC, then lose in the finals of the WCHA. That boosts their TUC record to 15-10-3, for a percentage of 0.589. If ND again gets to the Joe and splits, they fall to 7-5-0, or 0.583. Denver wins the comparison.
The only fly in this hypothetical ointment is the Common Opponent comparison. Denver and Notre Dame have common opponents in Ohio State and Minnesota-Duluth. If Notre Dame beats OSU in the CCHA tournament (very possible), or Denver loses to Minn.-Duluth (very unlikely), that gives common opponents to ND, and they tie the comparison. With ND ahead in RPI, they get the win, and the Grand Rapids Regional.
So here's what we root for:
Michigan wins the CCHA tournament, or at least splits at the Joe. You were probably rooting for that before anyway.
Vermont and Denver win this weekend and at least make their conference tournament finals.
Important: Ohio State loses without getting to the Joe.
And, oddly enough, Notre Dame gets to the Joe and loses. I don't think getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, as unlikely as it is anyway, drops their RPI low enough that they get passed.
If all of this happens, we are looking at a probable 3rd overall seed, possibly second overall, at Grand Rapids. Winning the CCHA would probably give us 2nd.