For years, college hockey fans online have been discussing the PairWise Rankings as soon as they could begin calculating them. However, the unofficial start of the “bracketology” season is still when USCHO joins the party with their own PWR calculation and their bracketology column. (As a side note, see Does USCHO Own Pairwise, if you missed it, for an interesting look at whether USCHO owns the term Pairwise, with some of the big players in the story having left comments on the blog).
In games played through January 21, the Sioux are currently 5th in the Pairwise. Though many comparisons have been made between this season and past Hakstol seasons that started slow and ended with a hot run to the NCAA tournament, the PWR tells us this year is different.
The PWR Trend Chart shows the Sioux have never dipped lower than #9 this season, a guaranteed tournament berth if maintained until season end.
While the Sioux could definitely fall (see the caveat at the end of the column), right now we’re interested in how they can rise. A top four ranking could result in a favorable #1 tournament seed. To look at how a team can rise, you need to examine those comparisons that the team is currently losing, and figure out if and how each can be won. From the UND PWR details page, those are:
Clarkson holds only a 2-1 advantage in this comparison.
Clarkson takes the TUC and COP points, with plenty of games remaining in both. If the Sioux can flip either and hold onto their RPI advantage, this could be an easy point to grab.
Remaining COP games include two Clarkson games vs. CC and two UND games vs. SCSU.
Colorado College holds a daunting 4-1 lead in this comparison.
A good run by the Sioux combined with a downturn for CC could let UND snag two of RPI, COP, and TUC, but UND is not in the driver’s seat on this one.
Though Denver also holds a 4-1 lead in this comparison, UND has more direct control thanks to two remaining head-to-head games (at Grand Forks, Feb 15-16). Those provide the best opportunity for UND to gain ground in a hurry, though even a split would leave UND chasing two of the three TUC, RPI, and COP, just as with CC.
Miami holds a 2-0 lead.
It’s not guaranteed that Miami will hit the required 10 games vs. TUCs to bring that comparison criterion into play.
That leaves UND needing to take the RPI, which is quite doable.
Michigan holds a 3-0 lead in this comparison.
It’s TUC, COP, and RPI leads are more formidable than any of the other teams listed above. This one’s a long-shot.
Looking at individual comparisons, like I did above, is almost useless this early in the season. Because teams fall into and out of being a TUC, the fortunes of teams such as Mankato (#25) and Michigan Tech (#22) could easily double the size of UND’s lost comparison list.
Then why do we bother? It seems fun.