Sunday, February 8, 2009

PWR Update - It's a long way to the top...

For those of us living out in the diaspora, there's nothing quite like watching UW rack up a win over Minnesota in a bar full of alumni from both schools. I had the pleasure of watching Friday's game at our local alumni bar in DC, Hamilton's. We had invited the Minnesota alums to watch the game with us, but only a few decided to join us - and those that did come probably wished the outcome had been different. The Gophers were outscored and outdrinked, where they couldn't handle the UW crew's ability to put back $1 cans of PBR. Aside from being there in person at the game, I can't think of a finer way to watch a Badger victory.

(as an aside - as a resident of the District of Columbia, I'm planning on putting together a bit of a visitor's guide to the city for anyone making the trip - and it will be even more extensive should UW make the trip as well. Let me know in the comments if there's anything specific you'd like to know about DC)

For those who will be travelling out to DC for the Frozen Four, Hamilton's will be in full force - even more so if the team can make the trip. Of course, for them to make the trip, they'll need to first make the tournament.

After the completion of Saturday's games, UW sat at #14 in the PWR, last team in off of the bubble. However, Sunday afternoon featured a contest between Notre Dame and Ohio State, with Ohio State emerging with a very valuable 4-1 win - putting them ahead of UW and sliding the Badgers on the wrong side of the bubble.

The current PWR looks like this:

Rk Team PWR Rk W-L-T Win % Rk RPI
1 Boston University 24 1 21-5-1 .7963 1 .5992*
2 Vermont 22 9 16-6-4 .6923 4 .5747
3t Notre Dame 21 2 21-5-3 .7759 3 .5800
3t Michigan 21 8 21-9-0 .7000 5 .5696
5 Northeastern 20 4 19-6-2 .7407 2 .5809
6t Cornell 18 5t 15-4-4 .7391 6 .5632*
6t Denver 18 12 17-9-3 .6379 7 .5548
8t Princeton 17 5t 17-6-0 .7391 8 .5545*
8t Miami 17 11 16-8-4 .6429 9 .5533
10 Yale 16 3 17-5-1 .7609 10 .5497*
11 Minnesota-Duluth 14 14 15-9-6 .6000 11 .5425
12t Ohio State 12 10 18-9-3 .6500 12 .5424*
12t New Hampshire 12 19t 13-9-4 .5769 13 .5424
14 Minnesota 11 22 12-9-5 .5577 14 .5397
15 Wisconsin 10 16t 16-11-3 .5833 15 .5387
16t Boston College 9 21 12-9-4 .5600 16 .5386
16t North Dakota 9 16t 16-11-3 .5833 17 .5374
18 Air Force 7 7 19-7-2 .7143 19 .5232
19 Colorado College 6 16t 14-9-7 .5833 18 .5261
20t St. Lawrence 5 23t 14-11-3 .5536 20 .5225
20t St. Cloud State 5 28 15-13-2 .5333 21 .5210
22 Alaska 3 25t 12-10-6 .5357 22 .5178
23 Dartmouth 2 15 12-8-3 .5870 23 .5154
24 Minnesota State 1 31t 13-13-3 .5000 24 .5137
25 Mass.-Lowell 0 31t 13-13-0 .5000 25 .5126

The single biggest takeaway from this is the RPI. As I noted previously, the PWR rank is remarkably similar to the RPI rank. UW sits at #15 in both.

So, what's that mean?

The good news: Minnesota is ahead of UW by a miniscule .0010 points. The other teams immediately in front of UW are also well within striking distance.

The bad news: Wisconsin's margin for the rest of the season is razor-thin.

Now wait just a minute here...

Of course, a cursory glance at the WCHA standings shows UW sitting tied for first place:


WCHA

Overall

Team GP W-L-T Pts. GF-GA

GP W-L-T GF-GA
1Denver2213-7-22879-58

2917-9-3103-73

Wisconsin2213-7-22878-59

3016-11-3102-80
3North Dakota2011-6-32569-55

3016-11-3104-82
4Colorado College2210-8-42459-64

3014-9-781-78
5Minnesota-Duluth229-8-52361-53

3015-9-689-70
6St. Cloud State2210-11-12168-64

3015-13-2105-83

Minnesota209-8-32161-59

2612-9-585-77
8Minnesota State229-11-22068-71

2913-13-392-90
9Alaska-Anchorage227-11-41853-73

2610-12-470-84
10Michigan Tech221-15-6834-74

305-19-645-93

How can a team sitting tied for first with six games to play (4 of which are against either their co-leaders or their closest competitors) be squarely on the bubble?

It's hard to put the onus on any one game, but clearly the WCHA's relatively poor performance in the non-conference season is hurting everyone in this year's version of the PWR. Even more so, the specific games UW has lost have been particularly painful. Despite the ignomy of the 0-6-1 start, the losses to BC and UNH haven't hurt UW all that much - certainly not more than the rest of the losses. BC and UNH are largely in the same overall bubblicious position as the Badgers, and the rest of the WCHA's poor non-conference record means that losses to the Eagles and Wildcats aren't a drag on either UW's RPI (thanks to their overall success) or the COp criteria (thanks to the WCHA's poor overall record).

The NMU series is one that likely sticks out in the minds of most fans - as it should. That series also hasn't burned UW too badly in the COp criteria, but it's a huge drag on UW's RPI. Losing to bad teams hurts, plain and simple.

UW's also failed to close out a series or two that would have locked up some comparisons for good. The Saturday night loss to UMD is a perfect example. UMD is winning the individual comparison against UW because of it:

Minnesota-Duluth vs Wisconsin

.5425 1 RPI 0 .5387
8-6-2 .5625 1 TUC 0 .4333 6-8-1
7-6-5 .5278 0 COp 1 .5588 9-7-1
1-2-1
1 H2H 2
2-1-1


3 TOT 3

An extra head to head win would have both boosted UW's RPI, but also ensured that UW wins the comparison even if their RPI slipped below UMD's.

What that means:

As I said before, the margin of error is razor thin. UW needs to keep winning games, especially those coming up against DU and UND. Both have relatively strong RPIs. Losses to them won't hurt a lot, but the margin of error is so slim that may not matter. Wins would help tremendously.

The other thing to note is that the bottom of the standings are pretty tight - one game between two teams (Sunday's game between OSU and ND) shows how volatile things still are.