Tournament cutlines, revisited

It’s been about a month since my First look at the tournament cutlines. Since then, things have firmed up just a little bit, so it’s worth revisiting.

First a couple of things to keep in mind while looking at the pictures: 1) there are still about 250 games remaining in the regular season alone, so we should fully expect some of the “1% likelihood” events to happen; and 2) teams have wildly different numbers of games remaining in their regular season, from 6 to 12, so their potentials to make big moves will also differ accordingly.

Is anyone a lock?

Mathematically, still no. But the top four teams would need to win just one or two of their remaining games to fall out:
#1 Minnesota State
#2 North Dakota
#3 Boston University
#4 Nebraska-Omaha

#5 Minnesota-Duluth and #6 Bowling Green could each fall out with a particularly bad performance—winning about 1/3 of their remaining games.



Who controls their own destiny?

Teams that should make it if they continue to do we’ll are from #7 Michigan Tech down to about #18 Merrimack, which approaches the bubble with a bit over .500 in its remaining games. Those include:
#8 Miami
#9 Denver
#10 Providence
#11 Harvard
#12 Boston College
#13 Mass.-Lowell
#14 Michigan
#15 Quinnipiac
#16 Vermont
#17 Yale


#19 Minnesota approaches the bubble by winning about 2/3 of its remaining regular season games.


#20 Colgate needs to win about 3/4 to climb to the bubble. Teams down through about #23, Western Michigan, have a similar outlook.

That includes:
#21 St. Lawrence
#22 Penn State
#23 Western Michigan

#24 Robert Morris has a tough, but mathematically possible, road to the bubble.


Down through #31 Dartmouth have a similar outlook. That group includes:
#24 Robert Morris
#26 Cornell
#27 Northeastern
#29 Northern Michigan
#30 Union

Note that I left out #25 St Cloud St and #28 Bemidji St, each of which stand a slightly better (though still difficult) chance than their neighbors at climbing to the bubble.



Who needs to win their conference tournament?


From #32 Alaska down are unlikely to make the bubble at-large, even if they win out. That group includes
#33 Clarkson
#34 Michigan State
#35 Connecticut
#36 Ohio State
#37 Notre Dame
#38 Bentley
#39 Ferris St
#40 Mercyhurst
#41 Canisius
#42 Rensselaer
#43 Maine
#44 New Hampshire
#45 Alabama-Huntsville
#46 Massachusetts
#47 Colorado College
#48 RIT
#49 Alaska-Anchorage
#50 Holy Cross
#51 Lake Superior
#52 Air Force
#53 Sacred Heart
#54 Brown
#55 Wisconsin
#56 Princeton
#57 Army
#58 American Int’l
#59 Niagara

How are last month’s predictions holding up?

Finally, let’s do a results check on last month’s predictions. The two movements that seem most surprising looking back are Harvard and Bemidji State.

I noted that no one was a lock, and that even #1 Harvard could fall to the bubble if they won only about half of their remaining games. Since then, Harvard has gone 2-6 and has fallen to #11. The current forecast matches the original pretty well—that Harvard would now need to win about 5 of its remaining 9 games to end the regular season on the bubble.

I noted that Bemidji State was the cutoff for being unlikely to advance without a major run. A 5-2-1 run since then has helped propel Bemidji State from #37 to #28. The forecasts now show that they stand a slightly better chance of making the tournament than seemed possible a month ago, but that they’d still need a run of winning at least 8 if not 9 of their remaining 10 to hit the bubble.


Forecasts include the results of games played through Sunday of this week, unless otherwise noted.

Each forecast is based on at least one million monte carlo simulations of the games in the described period. For each simulation, the PairWise Ranking (PWR) is calculated and the results tallied. The probabilities presented in the forecasts are the share of simulations in which a particular outcome occurred.

The outcome of each game in each simulation is determined by random draw, with the probability of victory for each team set by their relative KRACH ratings. So, if the simulation set included a contest between team A with KRACH 300 and team B with KRACH 100, team A will win the game in very close to 75% of the simulations. I don’t simulate ties or home ice advantage.


7 thoughts on “Tournament cutlines, revisited

  1. EatMe

    Why did you waste the time and space to run the probabilities of Alaska making the field? They’re on NCAA probation.

    1. jimdahl

      As far as I know, other teams are still compared to Alaska for pairwise tournament selection purposes.

      That’s consistent with how USCHO and College Hockey News (each of which have historically demonstrated good connections to the selection committee) are treating them so far (see and

      If that’s correct, my guess is that if Alaska finished in position for an at-large bid that they’d just be skipped and the next team taken.

      1. Patrick J.

        It’d be my understanding UAF would be included in the PWR… its an evaluation tool. UAF didn’t forfeit the season… they’re just ineligible.

    1. jimdahl

      I am digging through the data and will report on what seems interesting.

      I don’t always do the full cutline report every week because they don’t change that much each week this early. More precisely, their movements are predictable. For example, you can look the Bemidji State curves above and with the knowledge that they were swept, eliminate the “Win 10” and implied win 9 scenarios, and that’s pretty much what they look like this week.

      I’m always happy to answer specific questions, too.

      1. Chris Eckes

        Thanks Jim. I noticed that Minnesota moved up from #20 to #14 in the PWR last weekend, presumably on a lot of unexpected losses from eastern teams. Do the Gophers chances look “more solid” now than they did a week ago, or is it still pretty shaky ground for Minnesota?

        1. jimdahl

          Minnesota definitely controls its own destiny.

          In the post above I included them in the “needs to do better than .500” group, predicting the Gophers needed about 8 wins of 12 games to finish the regular season on the bubble. Having since secured 2 additional wins, I still think it’s about right that they now need about 6 of the last 10.

          As you climb it becomes harder to climb and easier to fall. This weekend, for example, anything short of a sweep is likely to result in a bit of a fall; while a sweep is only like to result in a climb to #11-#13 (#12 most likely).

          Maybe I’ll put together a one week outlook this week, to help give some flavor for those movements.


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