A first look at the 2016 at-large bid cutlines

If you’re new here, you might want to start with Welcome to collegehockeyranked.com. While anything related to college hockey rankings is fair game for this site, in most articles I try to provide insight as to where teams are likely to end up in the PairWise Rankings (PWR) that mimic the NCAA’s men’s ice hockey tournament selection process (and, thus, which teams are likely to be selected for the tournament).

In last year’s When to start looking at PWR, I noted that the early January PWR does give us some useful information as to what each team needs to do to make the tournament at-large. Top teams can still fall out of contention (though it takes a notable collapse for the top few), and it’s pretty unusual for a team ranked much lower than 25 at this time of year to climb to an at-large bid.

To test those larger trends against this year’s schedule and results, I ran simulations for the remaining scheduled regular season games to see where each team is likely to end up. The full methodology is described at the bottom of this article.

Before we jump into the data, I do want to remind you that starting simulations now (with over 450 scheduled games remaining) makes it pretty likely that some of the 1% events will happen. So, just telling you the average outcome for each team wouldn’t be particularly useful, because it would include an assumption about the team’s future performance that will prove wrong for some teams. Instead, I tell you where a team is likely to end up conditional on how many games they win (or, how many games a team needs to win to achieve an outcome such as making the NCAA tournament at-large).

Which teams are likely to get an at-large bid?

Around this time last year, I asked, “Is anyone safe?”, and answered,

Not completely. Even #1 Harvard could slip to the bubble if it wins only 6-7 of its remaining 14 scheduled games. That’s not particularly likely

Harvard went 5-10-1 in its next 16 games to fall to #22 in the PWR at the end of the regular season. The Crimson were still very much on the bubble until they secured a bid by winning the ECAC tournament. Though the assumption that Harvard would keep performing as it had to date (and thus win far more than 6-7 more games) proved wrong, the simulated prediction proved correct that Harvard would be on the bubble if that happened.

#1 Quinnipiac’s KRACH is so strong relative to its scheduled competitors that none of my simulations (which weight likely outcomes by KRACH) had them winning fewer than 6 games! However, knowing that past results aren’t a perfect predictor of future results, we can look at the positioning of the “win 6” and guess that they could get into trouble if they win just 2-4 of their remaining scheduled games.


If you’re feeling deja vu, let me add that #2 Harvard could find itself in trouble with only 6 wins in its remaining 16 scheduled games.


Down to about #11 Penn State, teams just need avoid a slump that approaches (or goes beneath) .500 to stay positioned for the at-large field.

1 Quinnipiac
2 Harvard
3 Nebraska-Omaha
4 St Cloud St
5 North Dakota
6 Providence
7 Cornell
8 Michigan
9 Yale
10 St. Lawrence
11 Penn State


From about #12 Boston University to about #19 Minnesota, teams need to win 60-80% of their remaining games.

12 Boston University
13 Notre Dame
14 Mass.-Lowell
15 Rensselaer
16 Boston College
17 Minnesota State
18 Union
19 Minnesota



The lowest rank at this time of year from which a team usually climbs to an at-large bid is in the mid-20s. It takes a hot streak, but someone usually does it.

20 Dartmouth
21 Denver
22 Bowling Green
23 Holy Cross
24 Robert Morris
25 Minnesota Duluth
26 Western Michigan

dartmouth westernmichigan

Is anyone out of contention?

#27 Michigan Tech to #45 Mercyhurst aren’t mathematically eliminated, but need something approaching a perfect remaining season to get an at-large bid. It’s a bit easier for teams near the top of the list (2-3 losses for most) than those at the bottom (almost no losses and a bit of a luck).

27 Michigan Tech
28 Miami
29 New Hampshire
30 Alaska Anchorage
31 Merrimack
32 Clarkson
33 Massachusetts
34 Wisconsin
35 Ferris State
36 Northern Michigan
37 Brown
38 Vermont
39 Princeton
40 Bentley
41 Bemidji State
42 Air Force
43 Ohio State
44 Connecticut
45 Mercyhurst



For #46 Lake Superior State and below it looks like the only path to the NCAA tournament is through the conference tournaments. Those include:

46 Lake Superior State
47 Colgate
48 RIT
49 Northeastern
50 Sacred Heart
51 Alaska
52 Maine
53 Michigan State
54 Army
55 Arizona
56 Canisius
57 Colorado College
58 Alabama-Huntsville
59 Niagara
60 American International



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.


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