Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Please Allow Myself to Introduce... Myself...

...though my name isn't Richie Cunningham.

Gandalf and 60min approached me about joining their blog for the purposes of writing about the PWR, and who I am to say no? Some of you might know me from postings on USCHO and Buckyville.

So, to kick things off, there's no better place to start than Todd Milewski's recent blog entry concerning 'what if' scenarios in the PWR - and more palatable outcomes to Wisconsin's recent flop with NMU. Todd writes:

For the heck of it, I changed the Badgers series against Northern Michigan from a pair of losses to a split. Instead of 20th, the Badgers would be 15th.

If UW had held on to a tie in overtime against the Wildcats after losing a three-goal, third-period lead on Jan. 3, the Badgers would be 16th.

If they had swept Northern Michigan, the Badgers would be sitting 11th in the PairWise.

Todd's absolutely right. Wins in those games, and Wisconsin would be much higher in the PWR. However, at this time, the reason for UW's subsequent drop is not, as of right now, the feared loss of the COp comparison with other teams that have played NMU. Instead, UW's drop from those games seems to be almost entirely due to the hit in the RPI that UW took due to that series.

UW currently sits at 20th in the RPI, pulling in a rating of .5301. Had UW swept NMU, their RPI would be .5544, placing UW 10th in the nation.

Over time, the PWR tends to mirror the RPI, but it does so with particular certainty early in the season. Currently, there are a number of teams that have yet to play 10 or more games against teams under consideration. Thus, the TUC factor does not kick in to the overall comparison - and given that RPI is the tiebreaker in all PWR comparisons, the RPI drives the ranking.

For UW, the good news is that simply winning will improve their RPI, and thus they will climb in the PWR. Furthermore, a number of teams in front of UW right now are fellow WCHA teams. These comparisons are also skewed, as not all the teams have met. For example, UW is losing their comparison against CC - but the two teams have yet to play head to head, and CC has yet to play UAA (thus UW's 4-0 record against the Seawolves is not factored into the Common Opponents criteria). In the end, the rank of WCHA teams in the PWR will mirror the conference standings quite closely.

The PWR, like the WCHA points race, is very close at this point. Six points separate 2nd place from 8th place. Likewise, a minor increase in a team's RPI could send a team shooting up the RPI, and thus up the PWR.

Despite being at the bottom of the ladder right now, UW still very much controls their own destiny.