NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math)

If you want to dive deeper into the numbers, you should go read my previous blog post on NCAA tournament possibilities or go look at the PWR possibilities table.

Background on how PWR matters for tournament selection

Because we get lots of new readers during the tournament season, here’s some background information that my posts generally assume you know:

  • The PWR rankings are not a poll or computer model, but are instead an implementation of the same process the NCAA uses to select its tournament participants. They have correctly predicted the NCAA tournament participants for a decade or two.
  • Each conference gets to send one tournament winner to the NCAA tournament. So, we don’t need to look at the PWR of a team that wins its conference tournament.
  • The remaining 10 slots are given to top teams as ranked by the process implemented in PWR. So, PWR ranks 1-10 are in for sure; but, for 11-16 to make it requires some of the autobids to have gone to teams ranked above them (e.g. if an autobid goes to the team ranked #3, then an extra slot is open for the team ranked #11, and so on).
  • Because of that structure, we think of teams that are going to finish in the 12-15 range as “on the bubble”. Teams’ prospects are dependent not only on their final ranking, but also on how many lower ranked teams wins conference tournaments. Bubble teams’ chances for an at-large bid increase as slots are freed up by more conference tournaments being won by teams that would have made the NCAA tournament at-large.

These guys seem in

#1 North Dakota
#2 Quinnipiac
#3 St Cloud St
#4 Providence
#5 Boston College
#6 Denver
#7 Michigan
#8 Mass.-Lowell
#9 Boston University

Can make it at-large

The percentages are the share of scenarios in which each listed team can make the tournament based on the described outcome.

#10 Yale (idle, in 99%)
#11 Harvard (73% if they lose, 98% if they win 1)
#12 Notre Dame (idle, in 93%)
#13 Minnesota-Duluth (17% if they win none, 50% if they win 1)
#14 Northeastern (15% if they lose, 30% if they win 1)
#15 Michigan Tech (1% if they lose, 14% if they win 1)
#16 Cornell (idle, in 1%)

Can make it by winning their conference tournament

#17 Minnesota
#19 Robert Morris
#20 St. Lawrence
#21 Dartmouth
#22 Penn State
#24 Minnesota St
#27 Bowling Green
#28 Air Force
#30 Ferris State
#31 Ohio State
#37 RIT
#40 Wisconsin
#41 Army
#43 Michigan State

How the “can make it at-large teams” can make it

The winner of Atlantic Hockey will be a team that would not get an at-large bid, taking away one spot. That leaves at most 15 spots for top PWR teams.

For each conference tournament won by a top PWR team, an additional at-large team can make it. So, the at-large group wants the conference tournaments to be won by the following:

Big Ten – Michigan
ECAC – Quinnipiac
Hockey East – Boston College, Providence, Mass.-Lowell
NCHC – North Dakota, St. Cloud St, Denver

Though Michigan Tech could make it at-large, it only does so if other at-large candidates stumble and clear the way, so there’s not much point to cheering for Michigan Tech to win the WCHA.

The at-large group are competing with each other for ranking position, so generally want the other at-large candidates to lose.

3 thoughts on “NCAA tournament possibilities (with less math)

  1. DrunkTrainPolka

    “Though Michigan Tech could make it at-large, it only does so if other at-large candidates stumble and clear the way, so there’s not much point to cheering for Michigan Tech to win the WCHA.”

    This does not make any sense to me… but that’s ok, I am cheering for them no matter what!


    1. jimdahl

      Sorry for the confusion.

      That sentence is the context of what bubble teams should be cheering for (for example, bubble teams are helped by Michigan winning the Big Ten so a different Big Ten winner doesn’t steal a spot that could have gone to an at-large team). In that context, I was saying that Michigan Tech winning doesn’t necessarily help other bubble teams, because it’s possible for Michigan Tech to miss the tournament entirely.

      Michigan Tech fans, however, should definitely be cheering for the Huskies to win their conference tournament, because that’s by far their best chance at an NCAA bid.


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