by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
There is some more clarity to the NCAA picture now that we are fully into the playoffs. Not that crazy things can't happen, but it's easier to pinpoint what the ramifications are of everything.
One thing we have not addressed in the past two weeks was the effect of changes in which "Teams are Under Consideration" (TUC). A TUC is defined, nowadays, as a team in the Top 25 of the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). Since "Record vs. TUC" is a key component of each of your comparisons with other teams, if the TUC list changes, it could easily affect your Record vs. TUC, either positively or negatively.
This sometimes has strange effects which are not easily noticed in advance. The team most positively impacted this week is St. Lawrence, by the fact that Niagara dropped out of the TUC list.
1-4. Minnesota, Notre Dame, New Hampshire, St. Cloud State
It's more certain than ever that these four teams will be the four No. 1 seeds. Nothing has happened to change that, even with New Hampshire losing twice and SCSU getting only one point from North Dakota. Notre Dame did, in fact, flip the comparison with UNH thanks to the Record vs. Common Opponents (COP) criterion (Notre Dame defeated BC earlier this season).
Instead, we'll give a repeat presentation of last week's discussion where these teams will end up:
We know that New Hampshire has to be in Manchester, so that leaves the other three.
If Notre Dame somehow winds up the No. 1 overall seed, it will be in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in Denver, and St. Cloud State in Rochester.
If Minnesota is the No. 1 overall, many people see the Gophers in Denver and Notre Dame in Grand Rapids anyway. But I don't think so.
According to the committee's rules, the No. 1 seeds get placed closest to home, with preference given to the higher overall seed. Obviously, Grand Rapids is closest to Minneapolis among the three outstanding spots, 584 miles away vs. 955 miles to Denver. But others have argued that, as the committee has reasoned before, "a flight is a flight." While I agree with this philosophy, people are misusing its application.
Where the committee has used this rationale before is in helping the higher overall seed, not in helping a lower overall seed. In other words, the committee isn't going to use this rationale in order to place Notre Dame in nearby Grand Rapids, and ship Minnesota to Denver, just because "a flight is a flight." The committee has used that rationale in the past to protect the higher seed.
So if Minnesota remains the overall No. 1, I see them going to Grand Rapids. Sending Minnesota to Denver is a detriment to the team that earned the No. 1 overall seed — because it would have to go through a "home" team — the Denver Pioneers — in order to reach the Frozen Four. That's not worth the tradeoff of benefiting Notre Dame.
The committee has been clear in the past about doing what it takes to protect the higher seed that earned it.
So that's why I have Notre Dame in Rochester. Your mileage may vary.
5-12. Clarkson, North Dakota, Miami, Boston University, Boston College, Maine, Michigan, Denver
Here is that mushy middle we've been talking about for the last two weeks. The eight teams here have not changed, though their placement has.
North Dakota and Miami went up three spots. Boston College went up two spots. Michigan went up one spot. Miami and Michigan achieved this without even playing.
BU went down one spot. Maine and Denver went down four spots.
Maine plummeted, but is not in danger. The same cannot be said for Denver, which slipped hard and fast, and was on the verge of disaster were it not for Saturday's remarkable comeback in the closing minute at CC, earning a tie. Denver would still be 12th in the Pairwise had it lost to CC, but it would have lost the comparison to CC and its place would be more tenuous.
Where these teams wind up is impossible to tell, and we might as well just wait and see. It is as dependent on where the top seeds go as anything else. Denver, of course, will definitely get to play in the Denver regional.
13. St. Lawrence
One thing we didn't count on in the past, mistakenly, was the effect of Niagara falling from TUC status. St. Lawrence's early-season loss to Niagara was causing three comparison losses, including the one against Niagara itself. With the Purple Eagles out of the way — at least temporarily — the Saints moved up the charts without lifting a finger this weekend, and now sit in an at-large position for the NCAAs.
The key, of course, is making sure Niagara stays where it is, which could be difficult, since the bottom two TUC teams — Nebraska-Omaha and Lake Superior State — are both road underdogs in Best-of-3s this weekend, while Niagara will be favored to win the CHA title.
Needless to say, the Saints need Niagara to lose, and UNO and Lake Superior to win.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence will get little help out of playing Colgate this weekend, since Colgate is not a TUC. But obviously, it must win in two straight. Do that, get to the ECAC final, and hope for the best with Niagara, and the Saints could still get in at-large.
Also, if Massachusetts loses two games to Maine this weekend, that would not only keep UMass of the Saints' backs, but flip the comparison against UMass itself, helping St. Lawrence in general.
14. Michigan State
If the Spartans win two against Nebraska-Omaha this weekend, they won't be out of the woods. Oddly, the wins may cost Michigan State in the Record vs. TUC criterion, because defeating the Mavericks would knock them out of TUC status, most likely.
If the Spartans ever lost the series to UNO, forget it. Not only for obvious reason, but also, their comparison against CC is currently contingent upon the Mavericks being a common opponent. Lose to UNO, and MSU will lose the comparison to CC and go slip sliding away.
Sweeping Maine flipped some comparisons, including the one against Maine directly. But this means that there isn't much more upward mobility for UMass, since it already has the Maine comparison (a team ahead of it in the Pairwise as a whole). So it has to beat Maine again just to tread water. It may be able to pick up other comparisons here or there, but would need help doing so.
17-19. Dartmouth, Vermont, Michigan Tech
Dartmouth won't even play a TUC this weekend (Princeton), so it can't get much help there. Vermont doesn't appear capable of doing enough to move that far, even with two wins over BU this weekend.
Michigan Tech is actually the team most within striking distance of flipping some comparisons, with a sweep this weekend of Colorado College, followed by some help elsewhere. Difficult, but at least it's feasible.