Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Potential Significance of UMD-Clarkson is High

CANTON, N.Y. -- Last year, UMD didn't miss the NCAA Tournament by much. While my math isn't good enough to run numbers and confirm anything, it's reasonable to suggest that if any one of five losses by UMD over the second half of the season in winnable games (at Vermont, at Bemidji State, vs. Bemidji State, at Michigan Tech, and at Alaska-Anchorage) had been wins instead of losses, the Bulldogs would have gone dancing.

Being close isn't good enough, and the best way to avoid letting a computer decide your fate is to just win games.

Of course, life isn't always that easy.

Right now, UMD is 13-4-3, pending Tuesday's game with Clarkson. According to the version of the Pairwise currently available at CHN, UMD sits at No. 6 in the Pairwise after Monday's 4-1 win in Potsdam. That puts them safely in the NCAA field, but we've got a lot of hockey left to play.

Because there's so much season left, Tuesday's game for UMD is a highly significant one. Here's why.

In the Pairwise, each team eligible (the top 25 of the RPI -- also known as Teams Under Consideration) is compared to one another in four different categories. Those are RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), Head to Head (when applicable), Record vs. Teams Under Consideration (TUC), and Record vs. Common Opponents (when applicable).

Because there simply aren't many WCHA vs. ECAC regular-season games, each one that is played gets over-valued in a sense. It's the nature of this system, and everyone is playing under the same rules. UMD's games against Clarkson are the only time this season they will see an opponent from the ECAC. Clarkson, meanwhile, will play every other team in the ECAC, including Yale, RPI, Union, Princeton, and Dartmouth, all of whom are currently in the Pairwise.

If UMD can beat Clarkson, they will help themselves immensely. Clarkson is unlikely to go the rest of the season without a win. They're a good team with a good record, and there are plenty of chances for them to beat a top team the rest of the way. Clarkson plays Yale, RPI, and Union twice each before the regular season ends. Every time one of those teams fails to beat Clarkson, it's a win in the Pairwise for UMD. The Golden Knights will not be the only common opponent for UMD and Yale, Union, or RPI, but they will be one of few.

Yale played (and won) at Colorado College. UMD hasn't played CC yet, but will visit in late February. RPI also visited CC, getting a loss and tie for their efforts. The Engineers don't share any other opponents. Union played Minnesota (win) and Bemidji State (loss) at the Gophers' tournament this past weekend, and the Dutchmen also beat Alaska-Anchorage in Fairbanks.

That makes Union 2-1 against those common opponents so far. UMD is 3-1-2 (two wins vs. UAA, a win and tie vs. Bemidji, and a loss and tie vs. UMTC). The Bulldogs still have two games left with Minnesota, and the games with Clarkson will count in that comparison once Union plays Clarkson this weekend.

Not only would a sweep of Clarkson help the Bulldogs in these individual comparisons, but it's a huge get if Clarkson plays well enough down the stretch to stay among the TUC teams. Record vs. TUC only counts if you have ten games against TUCs within a comparison (head-to-head games don't count; for example, when you compare UMD and North Dakota, their games against each other are eliminated from the TUC record, and because of that, the comparison isn't counted yet because UMD doesn't have ten games against other TUCs).

It's a bit early to pay much attention to the ebb and flow of the rankings, but it's not too early to understand what games are potentially significant to rankings and (maybe) seedings down the road.

I will now depart from the nerdery. Talk to you later from Potsdam.

1 comment:

Runninwiththedogs said...

http://www.westerncollegehockeyblog.com/2010/3/21/1383311/pairwise-problems-help-alaska

This has more of a breakdown of how we got left at home.