How many teams will each conference put in the playoffs? (2017 edition)

In the college hockey community, speculation about who is likely to make the NCAA tournament begins to reach a fevered pitch this time of year. That also leads to inevitable boasting from fans of those conferences having a strong season.

Looking at the top 14 (or 16) of PWR gives an interesting benchmark of performance to date, but this is a situation in which it can be interesting to try to determine the effects of the known remaining regular season schedule. By simulating the rest of the regular season (assuming teams will continue to perform as they have to date), we can see how each conference is likely to fare at the end of the regular season.

How many teams will each conference put in the playoffs?

As mentioned above, a good quick first check is how many teams each conference currently has in the top 14. (The cut line of 14 is based on a historical guess, but also fits quite well with the current situation of two conferences with autobids not having any teams in the top 14).

Teams currently in the top 14 of PWR
Atlantic Hockey 0
Big Ten 3
ECAC 3
Hockey East 3
NCHC 5
WCHA 0

But, by simulating the rest of the regular season (assuming teams will continue to perform as they have to date), we can see how the remaining schedule might affect those numbers.

Likelihood of each conference’s number of teams in top 14 PWR at the end of the regular season
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Atlantic Hockey 41% 59%
Big Ten 2% 35% 57% 6%
ECAC 9% 91%
Hockey East 2% 37% 48% 13% 1%
NCHC 21% 50% 29% 1%
WCHA 100%

Comparing the two tables, Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East are more likely to make a small gain before the end of the regular season than stay at their current level. That’s not surprising, as Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East teams currently hold PWR spots 15 and 16-18, respectively. The NCHC is more likely than not to lose a team, with St Cloud St and North Dakota sitting at #12 and #14, respectively. In fact, the NCHC seems about as likely to end with just 3 teams in the top 14 as its current 5. The Big Ten, with teams in PWR spots 11 and 13, is also reasonably likely to lose a team.

Methodology

Forecasts include the results of games played through Tuesday 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.

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