Half the conferences end regular season play this weekend, so I’ll mostly be taking a short-term focus for a couple weeks as we transition from the regular season to conference tournaments. I will, however, comment on the long-term implications when possible1.
The top 5 are starting to look like locks for the NCAA tournament. It would take catastrophic results, really bad luck, and a lot of conference tournaments being won by low PWR teams for any of #1 Quinnipiac, #2 St Cloud St, #3 Boston College, #4 North Dakota, or #5 Providence to miss out on an at-large bid. #6 Michigan is just too close and has too many games remaining to make the call yet.
A new #1 this weekend?
Despite winning only half its games in 2016, Quinnipiac has stayed atop the PairWise Rankings throughout. If they drop a game this weekend against Brown or Yale, St. Cloud St and North Dakota remain positioned to take over if they can secure their own wins. Despite sneaking ahead of North Dakota by the slimmest of RPI margins, Boston College is not a threat to take #1 this weekend.
Who’s safe this weekend?
The top 12 are generally secure this weekend, with no one particularly likely to fall below #14, regardless of the weekend’s results. Those include:
#2 St. Cloud St
#3 Boston College
#4 North Dakota
#9 Notre Dame
#10 Boston University
Action on the bubble
#13 Mass.-Lowell through #19 Rensselaer, #21 Dartmouth, and #25 Minnesota-Duluth are all in play to come out of the weekend on either side of 14 (though climbing to 14 is mathematically possible for #20 St. Lawrence, it would take some luck). Those include:
#15 Penn State
#18 Michigan Tech
The long shots
Teams between #20 St. Lawrence through #26 Clarkson (except those mentioned above) are fighting to break into the teens this weekend, positioning themselves for a climb to the bubble in coming weeks. Those include:
#20 St. Lawrence
#23 Robert Morris
#24 Minnesota St
It will be difficult for teams at #27 Bowling Green and below to move into position for an at-large bid.
Forecasts include the results of games played through Sunday of this week.
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.
1Technical note—I can’t reliably use simulations to forecast across the line between regular season games, of which there are 87 remaining, and conference playoffs, which feature 31 best of 3 series with reseeding and 21 regular games. The total 1.5*10^51 scenarios is too many outcomes to exhaustively search, and sampling via monte carlos doesn’t work particularly well when the games’ participants aren’t known across the reseedings and elimination games.