2017 NCAA tournament possibilities

This article will summarize the possible outcomes for each team, as displayed in the College Hockey Tournament Possibilities page.

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 teams are in

The top 8 are in, no matter what happens.

#1 Denver
#2 Minnesota-Duluth
#3 Harvard
#4 Western Michigan
#5 Minnesota
#6 Boston University
#7 Union
#8 Mass.-Lowell

Of those, the top 3 are set as Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Harvard; each could finish 1-3. Denver can clinch #1 by winning its conference tournament.

Fighting for the final top seed in the #4 position are Western Michigan, Minnesota, Boston University, Union, and Mass.-Lowell. Western Michigan can clinch #4 by winning its conference tournament.

These teams control their own destinies

#9 Cornell through #11 are all guaranteed an NCAA tournament appearance with a single win.

#9 Cornell (100% with 1 win, 94% with 0 wins)
#10 Notre Dame (100% with 1 win, 96% with 0 wins)
#11 North Dakota (100% with 1 win, 89% with 0 wins)

Watching from the sidelines

#12 Providence is the only idle team with a chance to make the tournament at-large. It does so in about 96% of scenarios, which largely come down to how many lower ranked teams win their conference tournaments.

Can make it at-large

#13 Penn State through #16 Boston College not only can all make it at-large, but all stand a chance even with no additional wins (though admittedly a slim chance for Air Force and Boston College).

#13 Penn State (97% chance with 2 wins, 72% chance with 1 win, 26% chance with 0 wins)
#14 Ohio State (85% chance with 2 wins, 50% chance with 1 win, 13% chance with 0 wins)
#15 Air Force (29% chance with 1 win, 4% chance with 0 wins)
#16 Boston College (22% chance with 1 win, <1% chance with 0 wins)

Need the conference tournament

The remaining teams that are still alive can only make the NCAA tournament by winning their conference tournaments.

#18 Wisconsin
#20 Quinnipiac
#25 Canisius
#26 Robert Morris
#28 Michigan Tech
#34 Army
#36 Michigan
#47 Michigan State
#37 Bowling Green

How the at-large teams make it

The winner of the WCHA 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 – Minnesota
ECAC – Harvard or Union
Hockey East – Mass.-Lowell or Boston University
NCHC – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, or Western Michigan

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