KRACH predicts the NCAA tournament

Everyone’s favorite college hockey ranking scheme, KRACH, has the feature that it can be used to predict the likelihood of a team winning a matchup against another team. So, it is possible to use KRACH likelihoods to determine the likelihood of each team advancing through each game of the NCAA hockey bracket.

KRACHWestGame 1Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
768.0431. St Cloud St91.92%66.64%48.55%34.19%
67.5264. American Int’l8.08%1.52%0.30%0.05%
284.913. Ohio St48.92%15.36%7.70%3.65%
297.5052. Denver51.08%16.47%8.43%4.08%
359.9521. Massachusetts63.42%36.72%14.74%7.83%
207.5864. Harvard36.58%16.18%4.62%1.84%
249.2973. Notre Dame47.69%21.90%7.05%3.11%
273.4192. Clarkson52.31%25.20%8.60%3.99%
392.3781. Minnesota St65.86%39.54%22.02%10.13%
203.3694. Providence34.14%14.96%5.97%1.88%
230.8413. Cornell44.51%18.94%8.12%2.77%
287.7612. Northeastern55.49%26.56%12.79%4.98%
438.3721. Minnesota Duluth70.53%45.04%26.81%13.03%
183.1974. Bowling Green29.47%12.56%4.82%1.42%
204.1913. Arizona St41.87%15.89%6.51%2.05%
283.4632. Quinnipiac58.13%26.51%12.96%5.00%

On paper, there’s a tremendous advantage to being the #1 seed overall. Not only does St Cloud St have, by about 2-1, the highest KRACH overall; but, they’re also matched up against the lowest KRACH-rated team in the tournament, Atlantic Hockey champ American International. That gap gives the Huskies a formidable 92% chance of winning their opening game, a 67% chance of making the Frozen Four, and a 34% chance of winning the National Championship.

The remaining three regions are reasonably balanced, with each having something between a 17%-22% chance of producing the national champ.

The 1 seeds are reasonably strong, as rated by KRACH, with a 65% chance overall that one of them becomes the national champ.

The NCAA tournament field is nearly going into the last day of conference tournaments

Though 7 conference tournament games remain, there’s not a lot of drama left around who will make the NCAA tournament.

You can always follow along on your own:
College Hockey Tournament possibilities

Who’s in?

These 12 teams are in for sure:

  • St Cloud St
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota St
  • Minnesota-Duluth
  • Quinnipiac
  • Denver
  • Ohio St
  • Northeastern
  • Clarkson
  • Arizona St
  • Cornell
  • Harvard

Who else can make it

Both participants in the NCHC and ECAC tournaments are already in.

The winner of the Big Ten tournament will also make it (and the loser will not):

  • Penn State or
  • Notre Dame

The winner of Atlantic Hockey will also make it (and the loser will not):

  • American International or
  • Niagara

That’s 14 teams in, and leaves 2 slots.

There are two more conference championships, Hockey East and the WCHA, whose winners can secure an invitation. These teams can lock up an invitation with a win:

  • Bowling Green
  • Boston College

But, we’re already counting their opponents, Minnesota St and Northeastern as in. So, if Minnesota State or Northeastern win, that leaves an additional slot and an opportunity for another team to make it at-large.

If BC loses, Bowling Green and Providence make it at large
If BC wins, Bowling Green makes it if they win, otherwise Providence makes it

What needs to happen for my team to make it?

Restated in terms of what they need to do to make it:

  • Penn State needs to win
  • Notre Dame needs to win
  • American International needs to win
  • Niagara needs to win
  • Boston College needs to win
  • Bowling Green needs to either win or have Northeastern defeat Boston College
  • Providence needs either Northeastern to defeat Boston College or Minnesota St defeat Bowling Green

What will be the conference representation in the NCAA tournament

The ECAC is likely to place the most teams into the NCAA tournament this year. Here’s a complete rundown of the possibilities.

Big Ten0%0%100%0%0%0%
Atlantic Hockey0%100%0%0%0%0%
Hockey East0%0%6%72%22%0%

As you know from Who can make the NCAA tournament?, the winner of the Atlantic Hockey tournament is the only team from that conference that will make the NCAAs.

Similarly, the winner of the Big Ten tournament is the only team that will join Ohio State in representing the Big Ten, guaranteeing the Big Ten two representatives.

Arizona State will be the lone independent in the NCAA tournament.

The NCHC is guaranteed to get St Cloud St, Denver, and Minnesota Duluth in, and will most likely have 3 representatives. But, if (and only if) Colorado College wins the tournament, the Tigers will get an automatic bid, giving the NCHC 4 teams in the NCAAs.

The WCHA is only guaranteed one team, Minnesota State, and it is possible that the Mavericks will be the WCHA’s only representative. But, the WCHA is more likely to get 2 in by having Bowling Green join them (which could happen even if Minnesota State wins the conference tournament).

Hockey East is only guaranteed two teams, Massachusetts and Northeastern, but 3 or 4 is much more likely. Boston College or Boston University can make it by winning the conference tournament, and Providence can make it at-large.

The ECAC has the most possible different permutations of teams that could make the NCAAs, though landing 4 teams in the NCAAs is by far most likely. Quinnipiac and Clarkson are the only teams in for sure, but there is no situation in which they are the only two who make it. Brown can also make the NCAAs by winning the conference tournament. Cornell and Harvard can make it either by winning the conference tournament, or possibly by earning an at-large bid depending on other outcomes. The ECAC should see no fewer than 3 teams and no more than 5 in the NCAAs.

Who can make the NCAA tournament?

This post explains the data in the PWR tournament possibilities page. You can follow along there if you’d like to browse the raw data yourself:

NCAA Tournament Participation Probabilities

Who’s in?

The following 10 teams are guaranteed an invitation to the NCAA tournament on the basis of their PWR.

  • #1 St Cloud State
  • #2 Massachusetts
  • #3 Minnesota St
  • #4 Minnesota-Duluth
  • #5 Quinnipiac
  • #6 Denver
  • #7 Ohio State
  • #8 Northeastern
  • #9 Clarkson
  • #10 Arizona St

Who else can get in?

The winner of each conference tournament can get in:

Atlantic Hockey

  • American International (*)
  • Robert Morris (*)
  • Niagara (*)
  • RIT (*)

Big Ten

  • Notre Dame (*)
  • Penn St (*)

Hockey East

  • Massachusetts (in)
  • Boston College (*)
  • Boston University (*)
  • Northeastern (in)


  • Cornell
  • Brown (*)
  • Harvard
  • Clarkson (in)


  • St Cloud St (in)
  • Colorado College (*)
  • Denver (in)
  • Minnesota Duluth (in)


  • Minnesota St (in)
  • Bowling Green

Those marked with a (*) can only get in if they win their conference tournament. Those marked with (in) will make the tournament regardless of conference outcome. But, what about the rest?

There are 16 spots in the NCAA tournament. 10 participants are already known (see above). The winners of the Atlantic Hockey and Big Ten tournaments are not only guaranteed spots, but are the only teams from those conference tournaments that will get spots, so you can think of those two spots as reserved for one of the 4 AH teams and one of the 2 AH teams, respectively.

That leaves 4 spots total for a combination of the champions of the remaining 4 conferences and the 5 teams that can make it at-large (there is some overlap between those two groups). How many teams are selected at-large depends how many of the 4 remaining slots are taken by teams that aren’t already in by virtue of their PWR. For each of Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC, and WCHA that are won by a team that is already counted as being in, an additional spot is available for a different team to make it at-large.

The following teams can make it at-large:

  • Cornell (64% of scenarios in which they win 0, 97% in which they win 1)
  • Harvard (81% of scenarios in which they win 0, 94% in which they win 1)
  • Bowling Green (29% of scenarios in which they lose)
  • Providence (not playing, 65% of scenarios)
  • Union (not playing, <.1% of scenarios)

More predictions coming soon, and the perils of fan-made tools

Update Mar 21, 9am — USCHO has updated its PWR Predictor so it now produces results that match the predictions on this site and the results of CHN’s calculators. Results from that calculator from before today should be disregarded and recalculated.

There’s some chance the final PWR on this site and CHN will differ from that on USCHO, and someone will be wrong about who is going to make the NCAA tournament. Keep that in mind when considering forecasts from any source.

I’m a bit slow this year at posting analysis in what is usually the busiest week for discussing who will make the NCAA tournament. That’s because I wasn’t completely confident in my analysis; my forecasts did not agree with the results generated by the calculators at CollegeHockeyNews and USCHO, and I wanted to understand why before making predictions that I knew would be interpreted as fact.

I’m happy to say that I feel that I now understand the issues, and hope to provide some interesting analysis in the next couple days. To start, here’s a summary of all 49,152 remaining possible outcomes to the season:

College Hockey Tournament Possibilities

The biggest known difference between the online calculators centers around whether to treat the on-campus conference championships for the Big Ten and WCHA as home games for the hosts. That matters in RPI. Forecasts on this site, and now CollegeHockeyNews, treat them as home games. USCHO treats them as neutral site games.

That means that the forecasts on this site can only be tested and confirmed with the CHN calculator. It also means there’s some chance the final PWR on this site and CHN will differ from that on USCHO, and someone will be wrong. Keep that in mind when playing with these tools!

Will Arizona State make the NCAA tournament?

The number question I still get every week is, “Will Arizona St make the NCAA tournament?” The answer to that question is still, “very likely”, but it’s not quite “definitely”.

Because Arizona St is done with regular season play, any movement in its PWR will be because of the movement of other teams. To understand what might happen, the place to start is with the teams around #10 Arizona St, because those are the teams that will either climb above or fall below the Sun Devils and change their ranking.

Arizona State’s PWR Rankings Details

PWR comparisons are usually won on the basis of RPI. Looking at the teams around Arizona St, there is significant potential for movement:

#5 Quinnipiac.5715
#6 Ohio St.5594
#7 Denver.5572
#8 Northeastern.5517
#9 Providence.5508
#10 Arizona St.5494
#11 Clarkson.5492
#12 Cornell.5473
#13 Western Michigan.5445
#14 Harvard.5434
#15 Notre Dame.5388

Note the big gaps between #5 Quinnipiac and #6 Ohio St, and between #14 Harvard and #15 Notre Dame. The range #10 Arizona State is likely to operate in is between #6 Ohio St and #14 Harvard. But remember that there’s a little bit more to PWR than RPI; if you look at ASU’s PWR details (linked above), you’ll see that the comparison with #6 Ohio St wouldn’t be flipped by Arizona St surpassing them in RPI, so Arizona St’s real likely range is #7-#14.

To understand what’s going to make ASU moves around within that range, it helps to start by looking at what is likely to happen this week.

Arizona State’s one-week PWR outlook

Unlike last week, when I noted that ASU had a lot more downside potential than upside (and indeed they fell 2 spots), their outlook this week is a pretty balanced bell curve around their current #10 ranking.


(Note that those predictions rely on KRACH weighting for likelihood of game outcomes, so that is not a share of possible outcomes or an assumption that each outcome is equally likely).

Where Arizona St will land after this weekend comes down to the performance of the teams listed above. If teams around Arizona St falter, the Sun Devils will climb. If teams around Arizona St succeed, ASU will fall. Arizona St fans should cheer for the following:

  • Boston College to defeat #9 Providence
  • Maine to defeat #8 Northeastern
  • UND to defeat #7 Denver
  • Yale to defeat #11 Clarkson
  • Union to defeat #12 Cornell

In the world of 1% outcomes, the simulations say that Dartmouth beating #14 Harvard is more important than #13 Western Michigan’s games, but I’m not sure why.

The more of those that occur, the better for Arizona St; the fewer, the worse.

Of course, more games will played after this weekend but before NCAA tournament selection. Because we’re in conference tournament play now, the games above have an additional impact on Arizona St’s fortunes beyond their immediate impact on PWR. Winning teams will get more games, whereas losing teams will not. That’s why I’m comfortable saying Arizona St is likely to make the NCAA tournament—if the teams around ASU lose this weekend, not only will Arizona St have a better PWR, but their potential to fall will diminish significantly because those teams who could most harm ASU’s PWR won’t have any more games; further, even if the teams around ASU do win this weekend, pushing the Sun Devils into a worse PWR, those teams will play again with some chance of losing and falling back below Arizona St.

Conference tournament play-in weekend PWR outlook

This weekend most teams are playing best of 3 conference tournament play-in series, with the exception of two Big Ten semifinal games. The range of likely outcomes isn’t particularly broader than usual, because the best a team can do is still two wins and the worst two losses. But, this weekend’s interesting twist is that the worst outcome would also result in no additional games until NCAA tournament selection, so some teams will start to lose control of their own PWR destiny this weekend.

Follow along with the one-week forecast:

Wins needed to likely have PWR rank on March 18, 2019

#1 St Cloud is probably going to be #1 a week from now, no matter what happens this weekend. The Huskies’ RPI of .6175 is simply unassailable, with #2 Massachusetts at a distant .5827.

The top 6—#1 St Cloud, #2 Mass, #3 Minn St, #4 Minn Duluth, #5 Quinnipiac, and #6 Ohio St—should all still be top 10 after this weekend. Their worst case scenarios for the weekend would also mean the end of their conference tournament play, so a top 10 finish this weekend would make it very likely that they would still be positioned to receive at-large bids to the NCAA tournament by the time conference tournaments are over.

It might appear that Ohio State really belongs in the group below this one, with its RPI of .5595 being much closer to #7 Denver’s .5572 than #5 Quinnipiac’s .5714. But, because Ohio State can lose at most one more game, it’s difficult for them to drop much below #10 at the worst (i.e. under a 1% chance). Even then, everything below them would have to go just wrong for the Buckeyes to miss out on an NCAA bid from there.

From #7 Denver down to #12 Cornell could end the weekend on the bubble, with a chance of making the NCAA tournament at-large, even with losses this weekend.

Those teams include:

  • #7 Denver
  • #8 Northeastern
  • #9 Providence
  • #10 Arizona St
  • #11 Clarkson
  • #12 Cornell

From #13 Western Michigan down to #22 Lake Superior St can keep their hopes of an at-large bid alive by winning this weekend, but will probably move out of position for an NCAA bid if eliminated.

Those teams include:

  • #13 Western Michigan
  • #14 Harvard
  • #15 Notre Dame
  • #16 Bowling Green
  • #17 Union
  • #18 North Dakota
  • #19 Penn State
  • #20 Mass.-Lowell
  • #21 Minnesota
  • #22 Lake Superior St

#23 Northern Michigan and below stand little chance of making the NCAA tournament at-large, so their only likely paths to the NCAAs are through a conference tournament championship and automatic bid.

First weekend of conference tournaments PWR outlook

With some conference tournaments beginning this weekend, the NCAA tournament outlook for most teams is pretty well known. But, a few teams in the middle are jockeying for bubble position, hoping to get an at-large bid should their conference tournament runs fall short. This article looks at what is likely to happen in the PWR rankings this weekend.

I’ll pull out the highlights, but you can follow along in the table that shows the likely outcomes for all teams:

Wins needed to likely have PWR rank on March 11, 2019

#1 St Cloud is almost certain to still be #1 next Monday, no matter what happens this weekend.

#2 Massachusetts through #7 Ohio State should still be the same set of teams, but perhaps reshuffled based on outcomes (even the teams not playing, #5 Quinnipiac and #7 Ohio State, could move a bit).

Those teams include:
#2 Massachusetts
#3 Minnesota-Duluth
#4 Minnesota St
#5 Quinnipiac
#6 Denver
#7 Ohio State

#8-#20 are fighting for bubble position and (where applicable) hoping to move on for additional opportunities to improve their PWR and at-large bid likelihood.

Those teams include:
#8 Arizona St
#9 Providence
#10 Clarkson
#11 Northeastern
#12 Cornell
#13 Harvard
#14 Western Michigan
#15 Notre Dame
#16 Penn St
#17 Bowling Green
#18 Mass.-Lowell
#19 Union
#20 North Dakota

#21 Minnesota and below are almost certain to remain outside the top 16, regardless of this weekend’s outcome, so facing long shots to make the NCAA tournament at large.

Which games this season had the most impact on PWR?

Inspired by a tweet earlier this week by @JoeMeloni, I thought it would be fun to look into the season’s most impactful games on the PWR.

I think this is going to be fun, because I think a lot of people think that the relative stability of the PWR (check out PWR historical charts) also implies that individual games are unlikely to effect huge movements in PWR. In reality, in every weekend’s forecasts I see teams that have the potential to move up or down 10+ spots in PWR based on the weekend’s performance. The relative stability instead comes from teams performing about the same over the course of the season (that is, a team with an 80% win percentage is most likely to win around 80% of its remaining games, thus maintaining a relative stable PWR; if that team instead wins 20% over a significant stretch, its PWR would plummet). That’s why this site’s PWR forecasts focus not just on a team’s most likely future PWR (which, frankly, is probably its current PWR), but on the team’s most probable future PWR depending on its own future performance (such as, what will its PWR be if it only wins half its remaining games instead of the expected 80%?)

Without further ado, here are some of this season’s most significant games from a PWR perspective. To do further investigation yourself, verify the impacts of these changes, or just have fun exploring how volatile PWR really can be, check out the PWR Calculator I unveiled last season:

PWR Calculator

Biggest PWR impact if the game had gone the other way

#36 Dartmouth — Could be #45 (9 spots lower) if Dartmouth had instead lost the February 15 1-0 victory at Clarkson

#44 Nebraska-Omaha — Could be #35 (9 spots higher) if UNO had instead won an October 13, opening weekend, 4-5 loss at Union

#45 Michigan Tech — Could be #36 (9 spots higher) if Michigan Tech had won either of its 1-3 losses at Clarkson on Nov 16-17

Biggest PWR impacts for potential NCAA tournament teams

Ok, those were some big impacts for one game being different! But lower ranked teams tend to be more volatile, and those didn’t really have any impact on the NCAA tournament (which is what PWR is for). But, there are also plenty of examples of single game outcomes potentially having a significant impact on NCAA tournament selection.

#8 Arizona St — Could be #14 (6 spots lower, and firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble with no additional games to play) if the November 3 win over Penn St, 4-3, had instead gone the other way

#10 Clarkson — Could be #14 (4 spots lower, and pushed to the bubble) if Minnesota-Duluth had instead taken the December 29 holiday tournament game won by Clarkson, 3-1

#20 North Dakota — Could be #14 (6 spots higher, on the bubble, and arguably in control of their own destiny) if the Fighting Hawks had taken either game in the Nov 16-17 sweep by Western Michigan

#13 Harvard — Could be #8 (5 spots higher, and in solid position for an at-large bid) if the Crimson had instead taken the 6-7 season opening loss at Dartmouth. But, they could also be #18 (5 spots lower, and outside the bubble) if they had instead lost a 2-1 victory at Quinnipiac on January 12.

#19 Union — Could be #14 (5 spots higher and on the bubble) if they had instead won either of the October 26-27 home and away series vs Rensselaer

#14 Western Michigan — Could be #10 (4 spots higher and in good shape for an at-large bid) if they had won the season opener that they lost 2-6 hosting Bowling Green (winning the October game at Bowling Green wouldn’t have helped quite as much). But, they could also be #20 (6 spots lower, and off the bubble) if they had instead lost in the 5-4 victory hosting Michigan on October 20.

#16 Penn State — Could be #12 (4 spots higher and in a much better position on the bubble) if they had won the 3-4 home loss to Arizona St on November 3

#12 Cornell — Could be #8 (4 spots higher and in good shape for an at-large bid) if they won either game of their season opening series hosting Michigan St

#21 Minnesota — Could be #17 (4 spots higher and much closer to the bubble) if they had won either game of the November 2-3 home and away series vs Minnesota St

Most interesting PWR impacts on teams not involved in the game

Some noticeably different PWR outcomes are even possible for teams based on games completely outside their control.

#20 North Dakota — Could be #16 (4 spots higher and much closer to the bubble) if Nebraska-Omaha had won either game in its October 19-20 home series hosting Notre Dame

#45 Michigan Tech — Could be #41 (4 spots higher) if Northern Michigan had won either of its November 9-10 losses hosting Cornell

#37 Boston College — Could be #41 (4 spots lower) if Sacred Heart had won either of its season opening losses hosting Northeastern

Some games have impacts on non-participants that, while relatively smaller than those above, have significant playoff implications.

#9 Providence — Could be #12 (3 spots lower and much closer to the bubble) if Harvard had instead won in its 1-2 Beanpot loss to Boston College on February 4

#8 Arizona St — Could be #11 (3 spots lower and much closer to the bubble) if Massachusetts had instead prevailed in their 1-3 loss to Ohio State on October 20

#2 Massachusetts — Could be #1 if games outside their control had gone differently, for example if Northeastern had prevailed either of its games hosting Union on October 19-20

With one weekend before conference tournaments begin, who’s positioned for an at-large NCAA bid?

With just one weekend of play remaining until the first conference tournament begins, we know a lot more about who is likely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament than we did even just a couple weeks ago.

Follow along, if you’d like:
Wins needed to likely end regular season at PWR rank

Remember that any team that wins its conference tournament gets an autobid. Because we don’t know how many tournament slots will go to autobids that wouldn’t have made the tournament at-large, we can’t be sure what PWR ranking will be required to make the tournament at-large, but it’s likely to be in the 13-14 range. So, we’re primarily looking for the likelihood of teams that don’t win their conference tournaments finishing around #13-14 (or higher), but will call anything in the 12-15 range “the bubble” because of the uncertainty.

Near locks

#1 St Cloud State through #8 Arizona State are probably in, no matter how they perform. Note that there are some unlikely scenarios in which teams like #7 Ohio State, #5 Denver, and even #3 Minnesota-Duluth can fall to the teens by the end of the regular season, which would open the door for missing the tournament with a subsequently poor performance in the conference tournament and some extremely bad luck. But, that’s unlikely.

#8 Arizona State is actually a bit safer than those teams by virtue of not having a conference tournament in which they could perform poorly and push themselves lower.

Those teams include:
#1 St Cloud St
#2 Massachusetts
#3 Minnesota-Duluth
#4 Minnesota St
#5 Denver
#6 Quinnipiac
#7 Ohio St
#8 Arizona St

Likely in control of their own destiny

#9 Northeastern through #14 Harvard can come close to locking up an at-large bid with a strong finish, but would still be on the bubble even with a disastrous finish. Then, it would come down to conference tournament performance and quite a bit of luck around other teams’ performances to determine who gets the at-large bids.

Those teams include:
#9 Northeastern
#10 Providence
#11 Western Michigan
#12 Clarkson
#13 Cornell
#14 Harvard

I debated a bit whether to include Harvard in this list or the next, they’re right on the margin. There are scenarios, though not the most likely, in which even with a pair of wins Harvard could end the regular season around #13.

At-large bids are possible

#15 Bowling Green through #19 Penn State could make the tournament at-large with a near perfect close to the season, a decent conference tournament performance, and some luck.

Those teams include:
#15 Bowling Green
#16 Mass.-Lowell
#17 Notre Dame
#18 North Dakota
#19 Penn State

Probably need to win their conference tournament

None of #20 Lake Superior, or below, can end the regular season in the top 16. So, it would take an improbably strong conference tournament performance and some luck to get an at-large bid (remember that winning the conference tournament guarantees an autobid, so the at-large bid would only come into play with a loss in the conference tournament, which would likely also have pushed down the PWR ranking a bit).