What’s the importance of opening losses?

As is to be expected, there’s much teeth-gnashing in Sioux fandom about an unusual season-opening two losses.  The most valid concern is what those games revealed about the talent and potential of the team for the rest of the season.  I’ll leave that question to more qualified commentators and the forum denizens (a lot of whom are also more qualified than I).

Instead, I found myself wondering what the actual impact of these two losses would be, all other things being equal, on the PairWise Ranking (PWR) used to seed the NCAA tournament.  College hockey has a pretty long season, which reduces the importance of any individual game, but PWR can make inter-conference matchups unusually important.

Opening 2007-08 with two losses

Remembering that the 2007-08 season began with a win and a tie vs. Michigan St and Boston College, I ran the numbers to see what effect changing those to losses would have on the end-of-season PWR.

Actual PWR PWR with modified results
Michigan (24) Michigan (24)
Miami (23) Miami (23)
North Dakota (22) New Hampshire (22)
New Hampshire (21) Colorado College (21)
Colorado College (20) North Dakota (20)
Boston College (18) Denver (18)
Denver (18) Michigan St (18)
St Cloud (17) Boston College (17)
Michigan St (16) St Cloud (16)
Clarkson (16) Clarkson (16)
Minnesota (14) Minnesota (14)
Wisconsin (11) Notre Dame (10)
Notre Dame (10) Mankato (10)
Mankato (10) Harvard (10)

Those small seeming changes cause the Sioux to lose two more comparisons and drop two spots. (Of course, they also somewhat save face for the selection process by knocking Wisconsin out in favor of Mankato).

A look forward to the 2008-09 PWR

Oct. 14, 2008 updated — Hat tip to NodakVindy for correctly pointing out that the list should include all opponents of BU & Mass.

Given the volatility of PWR itself, it’s pretty hard to predict the effects of two games on PWR at this point.

At a minimum, we know UND will have an additional 0-1 added to its common opponents’ comparison for each opponent of Massachusetts and Boston University (0-2 for opponents of both). That can be particularly important when comparing to out-of-conference teams who won’t have a lot of opponents in common with the Sioux.

Rated from most damage to least, here’s how the weekend’s losses will play into UND’s COP comparisons with teams that have played or will play BU or Massachusetts.

Team UND’s Scheduled COPs UND record to date vs. COPs
(percent of COP)
American Int’l 1 0-1 (100%)
Vermont 2 0-2 (100%)
Providence 2 0-2 (100%)
Merrimack 2 0-2 (100%)
Mass.-Lowell 5 0-2 (40%)
Holy Cross 3 0-1 (33%)
Harvard 3 0-1 (33%)
Rensselaer 6 0-2 (33%)
St. Lawrence 6 0-2 (33%)
Maine 6 0-2 (33%)
Northeastern 6 0-2 (33%)
Boston University 4 0-1 (25%)
Michigan State 8 0-2 (25%)
Boston College 8 0-2 (25%)
New Hampshire 8 0-2 (25%)
Connecticut 5 0-1 (20%)
Massachusetts 6 0-1 (17%)
Cornell 7 0-1 (14%)
Michigan 10 0-1 (10%)
Bemidji State 13 0-1 (8%)

The losses could also play into UND’s TUC comparisons, if either ends up a TUC, and of course any loss has a small effect on win percentage and RPI.

Bottom Line

It’s quite possible that last weekend’s results will lead to UND losing a comparison or two that it would have won with a split or a sweep. But with 36 scheduled games remaining, the Sioux will have plenty of opportunity to undo that damage. The big open question is certainly the one I opened this article with — what, if anything, did last weekend’s games reveal about the team? Fortunately for us, UND has not announced an intent to forfeit the rest of the season, so we should have 18 more weekends of Sioux hockey to enjoy and find out.

One thought on “What’s the importance of opening losses?”

  1. FYI — I updated the post to include the number of games UND has scheduled against COPs of each Massachusetts and BU. It really drives home how it doesn’t matter vs. a team like Denver, with whom we’ll have 26 common opponents, but does for comparisons to teams like Harvard, where the loss to BU represents one third of that measure. In a 3, or even 10, game season — like many of the PWR comparisons rely on — a loss or two can represent a substantial percent.

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