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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The status of Western Michigan, Lake State, and Ohio State is vitally relevant to Michigan's tournament chances. At this moment, both Western and Lake State are tentatively TUCs (assuming, as most do, a "good win" bonus of .003); Ohio State is not. Michigan plays OSU this weekend; Western and Lake State play at the Soo. All four games are critical for Michigan. Obviously, losing to OSU is bad but it gets even worse if getting swept shoves the Buckeyes into the top 25 in RPI, adding an ugly 0-2 to Michigan's TUC record. Michigan is 1-1 against Lake State and would probably prefer the Lakers to not be a TUC; they are 3-1 against Western and very much want those games to count extra.

This calculation was easier a year ago when there was a set threshold instead of a top 25, but we do what we must. With two games against a decent opponent, a Western sweep will retain their TUC status. The chasing teams don't have the opponents to pass the Broncos. Threat by threat:

  • RIT plays Bentley, 55th of 59 in RPI.
  • Sacred Heart plays Army, 44th.
  • Lake State plays... uh... Western.
  • MSU-Mankato plays Colorado College.
Only Mankato has the opportunity to break past Western if they sweep, and that would require an implausible sweep of their own. OTOH, if Western takes the pipe their RPI will drop to 0.4986. Though teams are going to bounce around madly over a weekend of play, as of right now that would be good for but 32nd. There's no chance they get swept and retain TUC status.

Is a split good enough? Maybe. They're 24th now, so one team can pass them. With a split Western will see their RPI drop to .5057 from .5100 -- not good. Both RIT and Sacred Heart are better than that now, albeit barely. Since they're playing crappier opponents than Western, if either one of them splits Western would stay ahead of them. Lake State will not pass Western with a split and Mankato needs three points from CC to make the leap. Past that you're looking for fairly improbable things to happen, like Bemjidi sweeping its last four games or Northeastern taking its last three, for anyone to pass the Broncos.

In sum: Western sweep is good. If they get swept they're gone. If they split we're rooting for Army or Bentley to take one of four games and for CC to not completely blow it against Mankato. The chances of that are around 75%, just to pull a number out of thin air. One of two should be good enough for now. The playoffs will also play a major role, but projecting out past the next couple games is fruitless.

Nasty, close your eyes and shiver scenario: That is, unless Michigan gets swept this weekend. That would propel OSU past Western into the 25th spot in the 75% scenario, replacing our 3-1 record versus them with a (hypothetical) 0-2 record versus Ohio State. Our RPI would plummet to 15th, our TUC record would get eviscerated, and the chances of an at-large bid would virtually flatline.

Moral of the story: do not lose to Ohio State this weekend.