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Who can make the NCAA tournament?

This post explains the data in the PWR tournament possibilities page. You can follow along there if you’d like to browse the raw data yourself:

NCAA Tournament Participation Probabilities

Who’s in?

The following 10 teams are guaranteed an invitation to the NCAA tournament on the basis of their PWR.

  • #1 St Cloud State
  • #2 Massachusetts
  • #3 Minnesota St
  • #4 Minnesota-Duluth
  • #5 Quinnipiac
  • #6 Denver
  • #7 Ohio State
  • #8 Northeastern
  • #9 Clarkson
  • #10 Arizona St

Who else can get in?

The winner of each conference tournament can get in:

Atlantic Hockey

  • American International (*)
  • Robert Morris (*)
  • Niagara (*)
  • RIT (*)

Big Ten

  • Notre Dame (*)
  • Penn St (*)

Hockey East

  • Massachusetts (in)
  • Boston College (*)
  • Boston University (*)
  • Northeastern (in)


  • Cornell
  • Brown (*)
  • Harvard
  • Clarkson (in)


  • St Cloud St (in)
  • Colorado College (*)
  • Denver (in)
  • Minnesota Duluth (in)


  • Minnesota St (in)
  • Bowling Green

Those marked with a (*) can only get in if they win their conference tournament. Those marked with (in) will make the tournament regardless of conference outcome. But, what about the rest?

There are 16 spots in the NCAA tournament. 10 participants are already known (see above). The winners of the Atlantic Hockey and Big Ten tournaments are not only guaranteed spots, but are the only teams from those conference tournaments that will get spots, so you can think of those two spots as reserved for one of the 4 AH teams and one of the 2 AH teams, respectively.

That leaves 4 spots total for a combination of the champions of the remaining 4 conferences and the 5 teams that can make it at-large (there is some overlap between those two groups). How many teams are selected at-large depends how many of the 4 remaining slots are taken by teams that aren’t already in by virtue of their PWR. For each of Hockey East, ECAC, NCHC, and WCHA that are won by a team that is already counted as being in, an additional spot is available for a different team to make it at-large.

The following teams can make it at-large:

  • Cornell (64% of scenarios in which they win 0, 97% in which they win 1)
  • Harvard (81% of scenarios in which they win 0, 94% in which they win 1)
  • Bowling Green (29% of scenarios in which they lose)
  • Providence (not playing, 65% of scenarios)
  • Union (not playing, <.1% of scenarios)

More predictions coming soon, and the perils of fan-made tools

Update Mar 21, 9am — USCHO has updated its PWR Predictor so it now produces results that match the predictions on this site and the results of CHN’s calculators. Results from that calculator from before today should be disregarded and recalculated.

There’s some chance the final PWR on this site and CHN will differ from that on USCHO, and someone will be wrong about who is going to make the NCAA tournament. Keep that in mind when considering forecasts from any source.

I’m a bit slow this year at posting analysis in what is usually the busiest week for discussing who will make the NCAA tournament. That’s because I wasn’t completely confident in my analysis; my forecasts did not agree with the results generated by the calculators at CollegeHockeyNews and USCHO, and I wanted to understand why before making predictions that I knew would be interpreted as fact.

I’m happy to say that I feel that I now understand the issues, and hope to provide some interesting analysis in the next couple days. To start, here’s a summary of all 49,152 remaining possible outcomes to the season:

College Hockey Tournament Possibilities

The biggest known difference between the online calculators centers around whether to treat the on-campus conference championships for the Big Ten and WCHA as home games for the hosts. That matters in RPI. Forecasts on this site, and now CollegeHockeyNews, treat them as home games. USCHO treats them as neutral site games.

That means that the forecasts on this site can only be tested and confirmed with the CHN calculator. It also means there’s some chance the final PWR on this site and CHN will differ from that on USCHO, and someone will be wrong. Keep that in mind when playing with these tools!

Will Arizona State make the NCAA tournament?

The number question I still get every week is, “Will Arizona St make the NCAA tournament?” The answer to that question is still, “very likely”, but it’s not quite “definitely”.

Because Arizona St is done with regular season play, any movement in its PWR will be because of the movement of other teams. To understand what might happen, the place to start is with the teams around #10 Arizona St, because those are the teams that will either climb above or fall below the Sun Devils and change their ranking.

Arizona State’s PWR Rankings Details

PWR comparisons are usually won on the basis of RPI. Looking at the teams around Arizona St, there is significant potential for movement:

#5 Quinnipiac.5715
#6 Ohio St.5594
#7 Denver.5572
#8 Northeastern.5517
#9 Providence.5508
#10 Arizona St.5494
#11 Clarkson.5492
#12 Cornell.5473
#13 Western Michigan.5445
#14 Harvard.5434
#15 Notre Dame.5388

Note the big gaps between #5 Quinnipiac and #6 Ohio St, and between #14 Harvard and #15 Notre Dame. The range #10 Arizona State is likely to operate in is between #6 Ohio St and #14 Harvard. But remember that there’s a little bit more to PWR than RPI; if you look at ASU’s PWR details (linked above), you’ll see that the comparison with #6 Ohio St wouldn’t be flipped by Arizona St surpassing them in RPI, so Arizona St’s real likely range is #7-#14.

To understand what’s going to make ASU moves around within that range, it helps to start by looking at what is likely to happen this week.

Arizona State’s one-week PWR outlook

Unlike last week, when I noted that ASU had a lot more downside potential than upside (and indeed they fell 2 spots), their outlook this week is a pretty balanced bell curve around their current #10 ranking.


(Note that those predictions rely on KRACH weighting for likelihood of game outcomes, so that is not a share of possible outcomes or an assumption that each outcome is equally likely).

Where Arizona St will land after this weekend comes down to the performance of the teams listed above. If teams around Arizona St falter, the Sun Devils will climb. If teams around Arizona St succeed, ASU will fall. Arizona St fans should cheer for the following:

  • Boston College to defeat #9 Providence
  • Maine to defeat #8 Northeastern
  • UND to defeat #7 Denver
  • Yale to defeat #11 Clarkson
  • Union to defeat #12 Cornell

In the world of 1% outcomes, the simulations say that Dartmouth beating #14 Harvard is more important than #13 Western Michigan’s games, but I’m not sure why.

The more of those that occur, the better for Arizona St; the fewer, the worse.

Of course, more games will played after this weekend but before NCAA tournament selection. Because we’re in conference tournament play now, the games above have an additional impact on Arizona St’s fortunes beyond their immediate impact on PWR. Winning teams will get more games, whereas losing teams will not. That’s why I’m comfortable saying Arizona St is likely to make the NCAA tournament—if the teams around ASU lose this weekend, not only will Arizona St have a better PWR, but their potential to fall will diminish significantly because those teams who could most harm ASU’s PWR won’t have any more games; further, even if the teams around ASU do win this weekend, pushing the Sun Devils into a worse PWR, those teams will play again with some chance of losing and falling back below Arizona St.

Conference tournament play-in weekend PWR outlook

This weekend most teams are playing best of 3 conference tournament play-in series, with the exception of two Big Ten semifinal games. The range of likely outcomes isn’t particularly broader than usual, because the best a team can do is still two wins and the worst two losses. But, this weekend’s interesting twist is that the worst outcome would also result in no additional games until NCAA tournament selection, so some teams will start to lose control of their own PWR destiny this weekend.

Follow along with the one-week forecast:

Wins needed to likely have PWR rank on March 18, 2019

#1 St Cloud is probably going to be #1 a week from now, no matter what happens this weekend. The Huskies’ RPI of .6175 is simply unassailable, with #2 Massachusetts at a distant .5827.

The top 6—#1 St Cloud, #2 Mass, #3 Minn St, #4 Minn Duluth, #5 Quinnipiac, and #6 Ohio St—should all still be top 10 after this weekend. Their worst case scenarios for the weekend would also mean the end of their conference tournament play, so a top 10 finish this weekend would make it very likely that they would still be positioned to receive at-large bids to the NCAA tournament by the time conference tournaments are over.

It might appear that Ohio State really belongs in the group below this one, with its RPI of .5595 being much closer to #7 Denver’s .5572 than #5 Quinnipiac’s .5714. But, because Ohio State can lose at most one more game, it’s difficult for them to drop much below #10 at the worst (i.e. under a 1% chance). Even then, everything below them would have to go just wrong for the Buckeyes to miss out on an NCAA bid from there.

From #7 Denver down to #12 Cornell could end the weekend on the bubble, with a chance of making the NCAA tournament at-large, even with losses this weekend.

Those teams include:

  • #7 Denver
  • #8 Northeastern
  • #9 Providence
  • #10 Arizona St
  • #11 Clarkson
  • #12 Cornell

From #13 Western Michigan down to #22 Lake Superior St can keep their hopes of an at-large bid alive by winning this weekend, but will probably move out of position for an NCAA bid if eliminated.

Those teams include:

  • #13 Western Michigan
  • #14 Harvard
  • #15 Notre Dame
  • #16 Bowling Green
  • #17 Union
  • #18 North Dakota
  • #19 Penn State
  • #20 Mass.-Lowell
  • #21 Minnesota
  • #22 Lake Superior St

#23 Northern Michigan and below stand little chance of making the NCAA tournament at-large, so their only likely paths to the NCAAs are through a conference tournament championship and automatic bid.

First weekend of conference tournaments PWR outlook

With some conference tournaments beginning this weekend, the NCAA tournament outlook for most teams is pretty well known. But, a few teams in the middle are jockeying for bubble position, hoping to get an at-large bid should their conference tournament runs fall short. This article looks at what is likely to happen in the PWR rankings this weekend.

I’ll pull out the highlights, but you can follow along in the table that shows the likely outcomes for all teams:

Wins needed to likely have PWR rank on March 11, 2019

#1 St Cloud is almost certain to still be #1 next Monday, no matter what happens this weekend.

#2 Massachusetts through #7 Ohio State should still be the same set of teams, but perhaps reshuffled based on outcomes (even the teams not playing, #5 Quinnipiac and #7 Ohio State, could move a bit).

Those teams include:
#2 Massachusetts
#3 Minnesota-Duluth
#4 Minnesota St
#5 Quinnipiac
#6 Denver
#7 Ohio State

#8-#20 are fighting for bubble position and (where applicable) hoping to move on for additional opportunities to improve their PWR and at-large bid likelihood.

Those teams include:
#8 Arizona St
#9 Providence
#10 Clarkson
#11 Northeastern
#12 Cornell
#13 Harvard
#14 Western Michigan
#15 Notre Dame
#16 Penn St
#17 Bowling Green
#18 Mass.-Lowell
#19 Union
#20 North Dakota

#21 Minnesota and below are almost certain to remain outside the top 16, regardless of this weekend’s outcome, so facing long shots to make the NCAA tournament at large.

Which games this season had the most impact on PWR?

Inspired by a tweet earlier this week by @JoeMeloni, I thought it would be fun to look into the season’s most impactful games on the PWR.

I think this is going to be fun, because I think a lot of people think that the relative stability of the PWR (check out PWR historical charts) also implies that individual games are unlikely to effect huge movements in PWR. In reality, in every weekend’s forecasts I see teams that have the potential to move up or down 10+ spots in PWR based on the weekend’s performance. The relative stability instead comes from teams performing about the same over the course of the season (that is, a team with an 80% win percentage is most likely to win around 80% of its remaining games, thus maintaining a relative stable PWR; if that team instead wins 20% over a significant stretch, its PWR would plummet). That’s why this site’s PWR forecasts focus not just on a team’s most likely future PWR (which, frankly, is probably its current PWR), but on the team’s most probable future PWR depending on its own future performance (such as, what will its PWR be if it only wins half its remaining games instead of the expected 80%?)

Without further ado, here are some of this season’s most significant games from a PWR perspective. To do further investigation yourself, verify the impacts of these changes, or just have fun exploring how volatile PWR really can be, check out the PWR Calculator I unveiled last season:

PWR Calculator

Biggest PWR impact if the game had gone the other way

#36 Dartmouth — Could be #45 (9 spots lower) if Dartmouth had instead lost the February 15 1-0 victory at Clarkson

#44 Nebraska-Omaha — Could be #35 (9 spots higher) if UNO had instead won an October 13, opening weekend, 4-5 loss at Union

#45 Michigan Tech — Could be #36 (9 spots higher) if Michigan Tech had won either of its 1-3 losses at Clarkson on Nov 16-17

Biggest PWR impacts for potential NCAA tournament teams

Ok, those were some big impacts for one game being different! But lower ranked teams tend to be more volatile, and those didn’t really have any impact on the NCAA tournament (which is what PWR is for). But, there are also plenty of examples of single game outcomes potentially having a significant impact on NCAA tournament selection.

#8 Arizona St — Could be #14 (6 spots lower, and firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble with no additional games to play) if the November 3 win over Penn St, 4-3, had instead gone the other way

#10 Clarkson — Could be #14 (4 spots lower, and pushed to the bubble) if Minnesota-Duluth had instead taken the December 29 holiday tournament game won by Clarkson, 3-1

#20 North Dakota — Could be #14 (6 spots higher, on the bubble, and arguably in control of their own destiny) if the Fighting Hawks had taken either game in the Nov 16-17 sweep by Western Michigan

#13 Harvard — Could be #8 (5 spots higher, and in solid position for an at-large bid) if the Crimson had instead taken the 6-7 season opening loss at Dartmouth. But, they could also be #18 (5 spots lower, and outside the bubble) if they had instead lost a 2-1 victory at Quinnipiac on January 12.

#19 Union — Could be #14 (5 spots higher and on the bubble) if they had instead won either of the October 26-27 home and away series vs Rensselaer

#14 Western Michigan — Could be #10 (4 spots higher and in good shape for an at-large bid) if they had won the season opener that they lost 2-6 hosting Bowling Green (winning the October game at Bowling Green wouldn’t have helped quite as much). But, they could also be #20 (6 spots lower, and off the bubble) if they had instead lost in the 5-4 victory hosting Michigan on October 20.

#16 Penn State — Could be #12 (4 spots higher and in a much better position on the bubble) if they had won the 3-4 home loss to Arizona St on November 3

#12 Cornell — Could be #8 (4 spots higher and in good shape for an at-large bid) if they won either game of their season opening series hosting Michigan St

#21 Minnesota — Could be #17 (4 spots higher and much closer to the bubble) if they had won either game of the November 2-3 home and away series vs Minnesota St

Most interesting PWR impacts on teams not involved in the game

Some noticeably different PWR outcomes are even possible for teams based on games completely outside their control.

#20 North Dakota — Could be #16 (4 spots higher and much closer to the bubble) if Nebraska-Omaha had won either game in its October 19-20 home series hosting Notre Dame

#45 Michigan Tech — Could be #41 (4 spots higher) if Northern Michigan had won either of its November 9-10 losses hosting Cornell

#37 Boston College — Could be #41 (4 spots lower) if Sacred Heart had won either of its season opening losses hosting Northeastern

Some games have impacts on non-participants that, while relatively smaller than those above, have significant playoff implications.

#9 Providence — Could be #12 (3 spots lower and much closer to the bubble) if Harvard had instead won in its 1-2 Beanpot loss to Boston College on February 4

#8 Arizona St — Could be #11 (3 spots lower and much closer to the bubble) if Massachusetts had instead prevailed in their 1-3 loss to Ohio State on October 20

#2 Massachusetts — Could be #1 if games outside their control had gone differently, for example if Northeastern had prevailed either of its games hosting Union on October 19-20

With one weekend before conference tournaments begin, who’s positioned for an at-large NCAA bid?

With just one weekend of play remaining until the first conference tournament begins, we know a lot more about who is likely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament than we did even just a couple weeks ago.

Follow along, if you’d like:
Wins needed to likely end regular season at PWR rank

Remember that any team that wins its conference tournament gets an autobid. Because we don’t know how many tournament slots will go to autobids that wouldn’t have made the tournament at-large, we can’t be sure what PWR ranking will be required to make the tournament at-large, but it’s likely to be in the 13-14 range. So, we’re primarily looking for the likelihood of teams that don’t win their conference tournaments finishing around #13-14 (or higher), but will call anything in the 12-15 range “the bubble” because of the uncertainty.

Near locks

#1 St Cloud State through #8 Arizona State are probably in, no matter how they perform. Note that there are some unlikely scenarios in which teams like #7 Ohio State, #5 Denver, and even #3 Minnesota-Duluth can fall to the teens by the end of the regular season, which would open the door for missing the tournament with a subsequently poor performance in the conference tournament and some extremely bad luck. But, that’s unlikely.

#8 Arizona State is actually a bit safer than those teams by virtue of not having a conference tournament in which they could perform poorly and push themselves lower.

Those teams include:
#1 St Cloud St
#2 Massachusetts
#3 Minnesota-Duluth
#4 Minnesota St
#5 Denver
#6 Quinnipiac
#7 Ohio St
#8 Arizona St

Likely in control of their own destiny

#9 Northeastern through #14 Harvard can come close to locking up an at-large bid with a strong finish, but would still be on the bubble even with a disastrous finish. Then, it would come down to conference tournament performance and quite a bit of luck around other teams’ performances to determine who gets the at-large bids.

Those teams include:
#9 Northeastern
#10 Providence
#11 Western Michigan
#12 Clarkson
#13 Cornell
#14 Harvard

I debated a bit whether to include Harvard in this list or the next, they’re right on the margin. There are scenarios, though not the most likely, in which even with a pair of wins Harvard could end the regular season around #13.

At-large bids are possible

#15 Bowling Green through #19 Penn State could make the tournament at-large with a near perfect close to the season, a decent conference tournament performance, and some luck.

Those teams include:
#15 Bowling Green
#16 Mass.-Lowell
#17 Notre Dame
#18 North Dakota
#19 Penn State

Probably need to win their conference tournament

None of #20 Lake Superior, or below, can end the regular season in the top 16. So, it would take an improbably strong conference tournament performance and some luck to get an at-large bid (remember that winning the conference tournament guarantees an autobid, so the at-large bid would only come into play with a loss in the conference tournament, which would likely also have pushed down the PWR ranking a bit).

Will Arizona State make the NCAA hockey tournament?

#9 Arizona State has been the talk of the NCAA hockey tournament prognostication community in 2019. In their third year in D-I, the Sun Devils (19-10-1) are aiming to be the first independent team to earn an at-large tournament bid since Alaska-Anchorage in 1992. They are #9 in the PairWise Rankings (PWR) that mimic the NCAA’s tournament selection process. Their potential movement from that position is limited by having just 4 regular season games remaining and by not playing in a conference tournament (which, by the nature of tournament design, tend to be a drag on the PWR of teams that don’t win).

With so much NCAA hockey left to be played, the Sun Devils do not control their own fate. Arizona St could make, or miss, the tournament in any of their remaining potential season outcomes–from winning none of their 4 remaining games to winning all. But, their own performance across those 4 games does have a huge influence over which fate is most likely. Based on PWR simulations through the end of the regular season, here’s how Arizona State is likely to fare based on its own performance in its remaining games (summarized from Arizona St’s PWR Forecast page):

4 wins gives Arizona St just short of a mathematical lock on an at-large NCAA tournament invitation, with a likely end of season PWR between 6 and 9.

3 wins probably lands Arizona St between 7 and 11 at the end of their season, with the midpoints of 8-10 most likely. That would be very nearly a lock for the Sun Devils, as a huge downward plunge is very unlikely while idle, and it would take bad luck in the conference tournament results for the top 12-13 not to make the NCAAs.

2 wins probably lands Arizona St between 9 and 13 at the end of their season, with the midpoints of 10-12 most likely. In this scenario, the Sun Devils are still most likely to make the NCAAs. They need just a little bit of luck to make sure that they either land near the middle or top of that range or that most conference tournaments are won by high ranking teams (thus ensuring that #12-#13 in PWR get at-large bids).

With just 1 more win, Arizona State could find itself anywhere from #11-#17 at the end of their season (the range of possible outcomes is larger in this scenario, which is more dependent on other teams’ performance in the tight RPI range of teams 12-18). Making the tournament in this scenario is still entirely possible, as Arizona St has a greater than 65% of finishing #14 or higher even with just 1 more win. But, they would be firmly on the bubble with their fate in the hands of the cutline (that is, the lowest PWR rank that gets an at-large bid varies based on how many conference tournament autobids are won by lower ranking teams).

There are even remote scenarios in which Arizona State makes the tournament with no additional wins. In 1% of 0 win scenarios, the Sun Devils end up with a #13 PWR. In 4.6%, they end up #14. Those are long shot outcomes with no wins, on which the Sun Devils would need particular conference tournament results to get in from #13-#14, but are quite possible.

More math, please!

The above describes the most likely outcomes, based on simulations of all 181 games left in all teams’ regular seasons, so most accurately captures the effects that other teams’ outcomes might have on the Sun Devils. But, to better understand why Arizona State’s PWR will move based on its own outcomes, we can dive deeper into the PWR, and in particular RPI.

Playing with the PWR Calculator, winning any two of its remaining games (but losing the other two) lands Arizona State at #11.

Looking at the Arizona St PWR Details page, that outcome is reasonably predictable. Arizona St’s won comparisons to each Western Michigan and Mass.-Lowell can be flipped by flipping RPI alone, which is pretty close for all three:

  • Arizona St .5581
  • Western Michigan .5548
  • Mass.-Lowell .5531

To give you some idea of the magnitude of those numbers, the Arizona St RPI Details page reveals the approximate potential effects on Arizona State’s RPI of their remaining games:

  • Each win vs American International +.0027
  • Each win at Minnesota +.0034
  • Each loss vs American International -.0065
  • Each loss at Minnesota -.0047

(If you’re double-checking me on a cocktail napkin, you might note that the numbers above would result in Arizona State’s RPI being just slightly, .001, higher than Mass.-Lowell’s in its win 2 vs. American Int’l/lose 2 at Minnesota scenario. That’s because the RPI effects table isolates individual games so can’t be used to precisely calculate the effect of multiple outcomes and their effects on other teams; but, the PWR Calculator does an exact calculation for a scenario of any complexity and confirms that, all other things unchanged, Arizona State’s RPI would come out slightly below Mass.-Lowell’s once all the side effects of those games are included).

Again, starting with the PWR Calculator, winning 3 or 4 wouldn’t result in a climb for Arizona State (with no other games played) because there’s no easily flippable comparison above Arizona St. Though #8 Cornell only has a .5598-.5581 RPI lead, it wins the comparison 4-0, so flipping RPI alone wouldn’t flip the comparison. The comparison to #7 Denver hinges on RPI, but the Pioneers’ RPI of .5711 has a formidable gap over Arizona State’s .5581 (the game contribution RPIs from the section above show that 4 wins can move Arizona State’s RPI close to Denver’s, but it turns out not close enough).

Going back to the PWR Calculator, if Arizona State only wins 1, they will fall to #14 (with no other games played). That’s not surprising looking at it’s PWR Details page, because the Sun Devils are sitting atop a heap of 1-0 comparisons won by a reasonably tight RPI (#15 Bowling Green has an RPI of .5411).

Finally, one last visit to the PWR Calculator reveals that with no additional wins, Arizona State would fall to #18 (if no other NCAA teams played any additional games). Remember from our earlier look at Arizona St’s PWR details page that #12 Clarkson through #18 Notre Dame are separated by only .0107 in RPI, and that Arizona State’s PairWise Comparison win over each would flip away from the Sun Devils with a flip in RPI ranking.

I jumped to the bottom to find out if they’d make the tournament or not!

Probably. Like over a 99% likelihood if they win 3 or 4 of their remaining games. More likely than not if they win 2. A real tossup if they win 1. And in the neighborhood of 3% if they win 0.

Interesting PWR games of the week-North Dakota, Providence, and Cornell

Who doesn’t find themself looking at the PairWise Ranking (PWR) each week? (Ok, very few of us do, but I have a feeling you might be among the select few). While a lot of the tools and analysis here focus on the end of season and who’s going to make the NCAA tournament, it’s also sometimes fun to look at the week-to-week ebb and flow.

You can always use the PWR calculator to find out for yourself what would happen with just a few games’ results determined, e.g. what would St. Cloud St’s PWR be if its weekend results were already in. But, using the same simulations I use for end-of-season projections, focusing on just one week’s results, can provide a more nuanced answer to the same question. If the calculator tells you “what would St. Cloud St’s PWR be with nothing changed but this weekend’s results being set”, the simulations tell you “what is St. Cloud St’s PWR likely to be after all teams’ games this weekend are completed?” Got it?

One more programming note–it’s not uncommon to see teams in the 40s have one week upside potential in the range of 10 spots. Those generally require an improbable sweep of a much higher ranked team, and even if completed, don’t result in the team being anywhere near the bubble. I include a game as interesting only if it involves a team that has a notable chance of making the NCAAs at large.

Upside potential: #20 North Dakota

A stretch of tough competition provides PWR opportunities for #20 North Dakota. After the Fighting Hawks earned a much needed split against #1 St Cloud St last weekend, they are now at the bottom of a PWR hill going into a pair of games at #6 Denver this weekend. By the current rankings, UND “should” lose those road games at a ranked opponent, so any success will push the Hawks upward, while failure won’t result in much of a fall (though UND can’t afford to squander such an opportunity to climb at this point).

A pair of wins would most likely shoot UND into the #12-#16 range, with a break into the single digits unlikely, but mathematically possible. A split would most likely result in a modest climb to the #16-#19 range. Going into games you’re expected to lose results in very little downside risk, as even getting swept would likely leave the Hawks in the #19-#22 range.

Using the PWR Calculator, you can see that if no other games were played this weekend, a pair of wins would land UND at #12, a split at #17, and a pair of losses at #20.

Downside potential: #10 Providence, #9 Cornell

#10 Providence faces the opposite situation from UND, hosting #39 Vermont for a pair of games this weekend. The Friars are at the most treacherous PWR ranking, where RPIs start to become pretty compressed, numerous PWR comparisons are won by 1, and your resume doesn’t really look that different from the team 10 spots below you. Providence is supposed to win; a sweep won’t help their ranking, but underperforming could result in a sharp fall.

A pair of wins would most likely keep Providence in the #9-#12 range. A split would likely result in a modest fall to the #12-#16 range. Getting swept in a pair of games the Friars are supposed to win could be catastrophic, most likely resulting in a PWR anywhere in the #14-#20 range.

Using the PWR Calculator, you can see that if no other games were played this weekend, a pair of wins would land PC at #9, a split at #14, and a pair of losses at #17.

The narrative for #9 Cornell is the same as Providence’s, but with a pair of road games at #19 Union and #49 Rensselaer.

A pair of wins would most likely keep Cornell in the #7-#10 range. A split would likely result in a modest fall to the #9-#15 range. Getting swept in a pair of games they’re supposed to win would result in a fall for the Big Red, likely to anywhere in the #13-#19 range.

Using the PWR Calculator, you can see that if no other games were played this weekend, a pair of wins would land Cornell at #8, winning either but losing the other at #11, and a pair of losses at #17. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between losing to #19 Union or #49 Rensselaer.

How it works

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.

The calculator uses the same PWR formula that mimics the NCAA’s tournament selection process that is used to produce the PWR tables on this and many other sites. But, in addition to running the formula against the games that have already been played, it lets you test scenarios by seeing what the PWR would be with different results for existing games, new results for not-yet-played games, or entirely fictitious games.

A first look at which teams are likely to make the NCAA hockey tournament

With most teams having just 10-12 regular season games remaining, we can draw some conclusions about who’s likely to make the NCAA tournament. In this article, I’ll look at the regular season forecasts (see First 2019 PWR forecast available for an explanation, if you’re not familiar) to discuss how teams need to perform in their remaining games to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

You can also always browse the weekly forecast yourself at PWR by wins forecast.

Who’s a lock?

No one is mathematically a lock at this point, but in 1,000,000 simulations of the rest of the regular season, there wasn’t a single one in which #1 St. Cloud St won fewer than 2 games or dropped below #13 PWR. Of course, those simulations include assumptions about the Huskies’ strength based on their performance so far, so it’s possible that an unprecedented collapse could result in a tournament miss. But, based on their performance to date, I’ll say St. Cloud St is the one team positioned to be assured a tournament berth.

Who’s in barring a collapse?

Even #2 Massachusetts doesn’t have quite as guaranteed a path. Winning just 4 games could result in a regular season PWR in the 10-15 range, which is right on the bubble of making an at-large NCAA tournament berth.

Down through about #7, Northeastern, teams will finish on or above the bubble by winning half their remaining games. Those teams include:

#2 Massachusetts
#3 Denver
#4 Minnesota-Duluth
#5 Ohio State
#6 Quinnipiac
#7 Northeastern

Who controls their own destiny?

From #8 Minnesota State down to #30 Wisconsin control their own destiny. That is, they can each end up on the bubble, or better, with a sufficiently good performance over the rest of the regular season. The lower the current ranking, the better a performance is required. For example, Wisconsin would really need to win out 11 or 12 of its remaining 12 games for the Badgers to be well positioned for an at-large berth.

Those teams include:

#8 Minnesota State
#9 Cornell
#10 Clarkson
#11 Arizona St
#12 Bowling Green
#13 Western Michigan
#14 Notre Dame
#15 Union
#16 Providence
#17 Harvard
#18 Penn St
#19 Mass.-Lowell
#20 Lake Superior St
#21 North Dakota
#22 Northern Michigan
#23 Yale
#24 Boston U
#25 Minnesota
#26 Michigan St
#27 Michigan
#28 New Hampshire
#29 Miami
#30 Wisconsin

Who won’t make the tournament at large?

From #31 Bemidji St down, there aren’t many possibilities of climbing to the bubble. A few seem to have the possibility of climbing to the bottom of the bubble, the 13-15 range, if they win out; but, even such a performance would still be pretty unlikely to result in an at-large tournament berth with a loss in the conference tournament. If you wanted to make a super long shot bet on one of these, #31 Bemidji St, #32 Dartmouth, #33 RIT, #34 Maine, #39 Boston College, and #41 Nebraska-Omaha stand the best chance.

But, all of these teams should really plan to win their conference tournament if they want to make the NCAAs:

#31 Bemidji St
#32 Dartmouth
#33 RIT
#34 Maine
#35 Michigan Tech
#36 Colorado College
#37 Air Force
#38 American International
#39 Boston College
#40 Princeton
#41 Nebraska-Omaha
#42 Niagara
#43 Vermont
#44 Mercyhurst
#45 Colgate
#46 Rensselaer
#47 Brown
#48 Connectictu
#49 Alaska
#50 Merrimack
#51 Army
#52 Canisius
#53 Bentley
#54 Robert Morris
#55 Sacred Heart
#56 Ferris St
#57 Alabama-Huntsville
#58 Holy Cross
#59 St. Lawrence
#60 Alaska Anchorage

What next?

I’ll keep updating the forecasts weekly, so you can always browse them yourself. I’ll also try to post interesting interpretations here, with increasing frequency as we near the end of the regular season. Meanwhile, you can explore more of the data yourself: