Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Amatuer Look Inside the PWR

For some reason, I’ve been intrigued by the Pairwise Rankings (PWR) this season. In past seasons, I’ve just read what others have written, and not put any thought into it. What the Badgers missed the NCAA tourney by 0.0002 pts in the RPI!?!? Let’s burn the NCAA offices likes we are in the streets of Cairo! A few weeks ago the PWR finally made sense to me, at least as much sense as an imperfect, but transparent, ranking system can make. Then the NCAA decided to changed the Team Under Consideration (TUC) criteria from the top 25 teams in the RPI, to any team that has an RPI greater than 0.5000. In its first week, that jumped the number of TUCs to 34, last week at this time it was 32, right now it’s 33. This week, Bemidji State dropped out as a TUC, hurting the Badgers vs TUCs.

So, as the season progresses, the PWR will be a constantly shifting maze of numbers, not only as teams win and lose, but as some teams drop out as a TUC or jump back in as a TUC at the bottom. For many this is nothing new, but I’m going to try to take a look each week on how the weekend’s games impacted the PWR and the Badgers, as best I can.

There are five weeks of regular season games left to add into the PWR, these games are known so when looking at Common Opponents or TUCs, it’s pretty obvious what is still at stake to flip any comparison. My analysis is only good until the conference tournaments start (if it’s good at all), and the last pieces of data are added to the mix. I know it’s not perfect, but this is something to talk about as the NCAA tourney approaches.

Overall, the Badgers are 6th in the RPI, meaning they beat all but 5 teams in that part of the comparison. In addition, the Badgers are actually doing quite well when comparing common opponents. Bucky went 8-1-1 in non-conference action this season, and while they didn’t play the toughest schedule, they took care of business outside of an opening loss to Boston U. Where Bucky didn’t do so well is their record vs TUCs. Right now they sit at 6-8-3, for a 0.4412 win %. Going 1-6-1 against DU, UMD and UND alone is a killer, but the good news for the Badgers, their next eight games (and likely the entire WCHA playoffs) is against TUCs so they can significantly improve that record. Bemidji State winning more and getting back in as a TUC would help as well, along w/ Michigan State staying above the 0.5000 RPI line. This causes the Badgers to lose the vast majority of the TUC comparison, but due to a strong RPI and COP, the Badgers currently are winning 25 comparisons, and losing 7.

If BSU was still a TUC, the Badgers would be 0.5000 vs TUCs and flip that part of the overall comparison against 8 other teams w/ two additional ones being tied. It wouldn’t change the overall PWR, but it helps to lock down more comparisons moving forward. So let’s cheer for the Beavers down the stretch!

Of the seven they are losing, I don’t see the Badgers having much chance of flipping five of those comparisons. Adding head to head in the PWR equation (which is equal to one comparison point for a win), the Badgers would need a miracle to pass DU or UND. They would still need a miracle against Duluth, but aren’t too far behind them in TUC and the Common Opponent (COP), but I don’t see them beating their RPI to overcome the two head to head points Duluth has on UW. Yale is way ahead in RPI and while they took two losses to TUCs this weekend, they are way ahead of the Badgers there as well. The Badgers can only lose the COP comparison when the common opponent of CC is added at the end of the regular season. Boston College sweeps the Badgers and I don’t see that changing. BC cannot readily lose the COP to UW, and I don’t see their RPI falling off, no matter what happened vs TUCs.

The Badgers are also currently losing to Merrimack and RPI (the school, not the stat). RPI just beat Yale and is right behind UW in the RPI (confused yet?). While the Badgers win that part, they lose both the TUC and COP. The easiest way for UW to flip this comparison is to take 3+ pts from CC, which would flip the COP, and stay ahead of RPI in the RPI. RPI is strong in the vs TUCs, though three of those wins are against teams at the bottom. If those teams fall off, and the Badgers win a lot down the stretch, they could flip that part too. Merrimack is a similar story. The Badgers win the RPI, but lose the TUC and COP. Merrimack has three games left against UMASS who Bucky swept. A 1-1-1 record or worse by Merrimack flips the COP, or again, Bucky just wins a lot to flip the TUC w/ some hard work on the ice.

Of the 25 comparisons won, barring epic collapse by UW, 14 of them appear won. In each of these comparisons, UW wins the RPI and COP, and some of them the TUC as well. In most cases, UW is so far ahead in the RPI they won’t be caught, and in many cases the COP part has either been decided (less conference playoff games) or the Badgers’ record cannot be overcome no matter future outcomes (in the regular season at least). As of today these teams include: UAA, Boston U, Brown, Dartmouth, Ferris, Mich State, Mankato, Niagara, N. Michigan, OSU, Princeton, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris & W. Michigan. Again, many of these teams are at the bottom of the RPI, and they might not even be on the list next week or seven weeks from now.  I counted about a half dozen teams w/ in 0.01 of 0.5000 who could jump up in the future.

There are seven comparisons the Badgers are winning this week that could flip to a loss in the coming weeks. New Hampshire is currently 0.0007 points behind UW in the RPI and has a good lead in the TUC comparison. Last week, UW lost this comparison. UW currently has the COP won, but if UNH beats UMASS or Boston U in the Hockey East playoffs that part would flip. Michigan was beating UW in their comparison a few weeks ago as well. UW leads in RPI right now, and has a large lead in COP, but still has six games coming up against common opponents. Michigan currently wins the TUC. A strong finish by Michigan could flip this comparison.

The five other teams: Alaska, Maine, Miami (OH), Notre Dame and Union, are farther away from flipping the comparison, but the possibility still exists; some of them are probably long shots. Everyone but Maine beats UW in the TUC, but Maine beats UW in COP. Maine swept UND, while the Badgers were swept. Only Notre Dame and Union are close in RPI (UW is ahead of all five schools), but Union has an easier schedule and could flip that if they keep winning. The COP comparison, which UW is currently winning, could flip with Miami, Alaska and Union depending upon how each team does coming up. In general, if UW takes care of business down the stretch, they should be able to lock down each of these matchups, including flipping the TUC comparison to sweep the comparisons and add them to locks.

Lastly, the Badgers next four opponents are all TUCs. Currently the Badgers win each comparison, winning all three pieces against St Cloud, and only losing the TUC part to minnesota, UNO and CC. In addition, the Badgers have a Head to Head point against goldie. Getting swept by any of these teams would probably lose that comparison. Sweeping any of these teams would put another comparison in the lock box. As I stated earlier, the better Bucky does in these eight games (and the WCHA playoffs) the more they raise their TUC and help themselves in some critical COP comparisons. It still applies, split on the road and sweep at home, and everything else falls into place.

I hope to update this each week, hopefully w/ less weighty information. The base has been laid, so in the future we can just discuss important changes, and if the Badgers keep winning, add more teams to the PWR lock box. I think the Badgers are in really good shape. I think at worst they are a #3 seed unless they collapse, but it looks unlikely they can reach a #1 seed. Still, I never fathomed, with 5 weeks to go in the regular season, typing out a PWR breakdown w/ the Badgers in such good shape. Keep up the good work Badgers!

I’ve been referring to Sioux Sports for my PWR info. I like this better than CHN or USCHO. The Sioux fan base did something good, never thought it was possible.

BTW, the Women’s team is #1 in their PWR, and I don’t see much reason to discuss Mark Johnson’s dominators’ playoff chances, since Lake Erie is damn near a lock right now.