Pairwise Live Blog 2012

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

Follow this live blog all weekend as we discuss the up-to-the-minute ramifications of the games on the Pairwise.

The Pairwise is the system used by the NCAA to select and seed the NCAA Tournament. For more on how it works, check out our Pairwise Primer. Also, check out our You Are the Committee tool, which allows you to plug in projected winners of every game this weekend, and see how it would affect the Pairwise.

Saturday, 11:25 p.m. (ET) … As expected, BC and North Dakota both held on to win their third straight conference tournament titles. That means the field I have below is finalized, and the bracket I have is my final projection. We’ll find out how close I am Sunday at noon when the bracket is announced on ESPNU.

Saturday, 10:20 p.m. (ET) … Only two games still going on. BC leads Maine 3-1 in the third and North Dakota leads Denver 4-0 in the third. If those scores hold, this is what the field would look like (EDIT- this is now the final field):

1. Boston College
2. Michigan
3. Union
4. North Dakota
5. Miami
6. Ferris State
7. Minnesota-Duluth
8. Minnesota
9. Boston University
10. Maine
11. Denver
12. Massachusetts-Lowell
13. Cornell
14. Western Michigan
15. Michigan State
16. Air Force

Here’s what I think the bracket will look like:

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 7. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 10. Maine
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 6. Ferris State vs. 11. Denver
East Region, Bridgeport: 3. Union vs. 15. Michigan State / 5. Miami vs. 12. Massachusetts-Lowell
West Region, St. Paul: 4. North Dakota vs. 14. Western Michigan / 8. Minnesota vs. 9. Boston University

Saturday, 9:55 p.m. (ET) … Union hangs on for a 3-1 win over Harvard to take its first-ever ECAC tournament title and clinch the No. 3 overall seed. Western Michigan hangs on for a 3-2 win over Michigan to grab its first CCHA tournament title since 1986 and clinch an NCAA berth. By virtue of Union’s win, Michigan State has clinched the last at-large spot. So the field is now set, although the Hockey East and WCHA finals will cause a little bit of jockeying once they go final.

Saturday, 9:45 p.m. (ET) … Going around the country- Western Michigan leads Michigan 3-2 in the third, Union leads Harvard 2-1 in the third, BC leads Maine 3-1 after two, North Dakota leads Denver 3-0 in the second. If those scores all hold, BC, Michigan, Union and North Dakota would be the one-seeds, and Michigan State would be the last team in. More to come once games start going final.

Saturday, 9:20 p.m. (ET) … Air Force beats RIT 4-0 to win the Atlantic title and clinch a spot in NCAAs. Northern Michigan has been eliminated. Michigan State needs Union to beat Harvard in order to get in.

Saturday, 8:45 p.m. (ET) … Going around the country- Air Force leads RIT 3-0 in the third, Western Michigan leads Michigan 2-0 in the second, Union and Harvard are scoreless in the second, BC leads Maine 2-0 after one, and North Dakota leads Denver 2-0 in the first.

If all the teams leading hang on, Michigan State would need Union to beat Harvard in order to get in. A Harvard win would leave the Spartans as the first team out. At the top of the Pairwise, Union and North Dakota can both clinch a one-seed with a win. I’ll have more analysis of what happens if one or both of them lose later, if needed.

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. (ET) … Air Force leads RIT 2-0 after one. I believe an Air Force win would eliminate Northern Michigan. It would also be good news for Michigan State. If Air Force hangs on, the only way the Spartans would be eliminated is if both Western Michigan and Harvard win. For Western Michigan, an Air Force win would mean the Broncos either need a win or a Harvard loss to get in.

Saturday, 6:45 p.m. (ET) … Both consolation games have gone final, as Miami beats Bowling Green 4-1 and Cornell beats Colgate 3-0. Miami winning means all the scenarios from my 4:15 p.m. update are still in play. Cornell’s win clinches a tournament spot for the Big Red and eliminates Merrimack from contention. Northern Michigan is still alive, although its chances did take a hit with the Cornell win. See my 1:45 a.m. update for what the Wildcats need.

Saturday, 4:15 p.m. (ET) … Miami leads Bowling Green 2-0 after one in the CCHA consolation. The RedHawks can still potentially grab a one-seed if they win. One way for that to happen would be for Harvard to beat Union and BC to beat Maine. If Union wins, they’ll need Denver to beat North Dakota and Maine to beat BC in order to move into the top four. If Maine wins, they’ll need Harvard and Denver to win.

Saturday, 1:00 p.m. (ET) … I’ve gotten a couple questions about Michigan State. The Spartans are in a very interesting position. Believe it or not, the Atlantic Hockey title game has a big effect on MSU’s chances. If Air Force wins, the Spartans just need one of Cornell, Harvard or Western Michigan to lose. If RIT wins, though, things get a bit more dicey for the Spartans. Then they would need Western Michigan to lose and at least one of Cornell or Harvard to lose.

Saturday, 11:45 a.m. (ET) … Cornell is in with a win or tie against Colgate in the ECAC consolation. If the Big Red tie, they can’t finish any worse than 14th, meaning they’d make the field even if Harvard wins the championship and moves the cut line up a spot. Cornell is out if it loses today.

In related news, Western Michigan would be out if it loses and both Harvard and Cornell make the field (i.e. Harvard wins and Cornell wins or ties). If the Broncos lose, they need one of Harvard or Cornell to lose in order to get in.

Saturday, 1:45 a.m. (ET) … Thanks to reader Matt Wellens for pointing out a way Northern Michigan gets in without Cornell losing on Saturday. If Western Michigan, Union and RIT all win on Saturday, the Wildcats are in. In this scenario, they jump ahead of Michigan State (who ends up out), so it wouldn’t matter what Cornell does.

If Cornell does lose in this scenario, Merrimack gets in ahead of Michigan State and Cornell for the last at-large spot. So, as crazy as it sounds, there is still a way for both Northern Michigan and Merrimack to get in despite both of them being on the outside looking in right now. Merrimack can get in with Union, Colgate and RIT wins, and help elsewhere. The simplest “help elsewhere” scenario is Western Michigan beating Michigan. Northern Michigan also makes it in that scenario.

Be sure to check out Jim Dahl’s blog on SiouxSports.com for a complete breakdown of where each team can finish heading into the final day. The biggest things to take from that are that BC is locked into the No. 1 overall spot, Michigan is locked into the No. 2 overall spot, and Union and North Dakota can both clinch a one-seed by winning on Saturday.

Saturday, 12:05 a.m. (ET) … Michigan beats Bowling Green 3-2 in double overtime. Bubble teams breath a sigh of relief as the Falcons’ cinderella run comes to an end. With the win, the Wolverines move up to second in the Pairwise. They appear to have locked up a one-seed.

Harvard is the only team left that can steal a bid aside from the Atlantic Hockey champ. Cornell and Western Michigan are in with a win tomorrow. Michigan State seems like a lock in most scenarios where Harvard doesn’t steal a spot.

Northern Michigan needs Cornell to lose and Union to win to get in, while Merrimack needs Cornell to lose, Union to win, RIT to win, and more. We’ll see if we can figure out what that “more” is before the end of the night.

Here’s what the bracket would look like if all the higher seeds win tomorrow:

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 8. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 9. Boston University
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 7. North Dakota vs. 11. Maine
East Region, Bridgeport: 3. Union vs. 15. Western Michigan / 5. Miami vs. 12. Massachusetts-Lowell
West Region, St. Paul: 4. Denver vs. 14. Michigan State / 6. Ferris State vs. 10. Minnesota

Friday, 11:10 p.m. (ET) … Maine beats BU 5-3 to set up a BC-Maine Hockey East final. The Black Bears are up to sixth in the Pairwise, while BU drops to 10th for the time being. Maine will likely be a two-seed with a win tomorrow, but has an outside shot at a one-seed. BU will likely finish somewhere in the 8-10 range, so it could be a two- or three-seed. More coming later.

Friday, 10:40 p.m. (ET) … North Dakota beats Minnesota 6-3 to set up a North Dakota-Denver WCHA final. The Fighting Sioux are fifth in the Pairwise right now, and it appears that a win tomorrow clinches a one-seed for them. A loss likely keeps them as a two-seed. Meanwhile, Minnesota is now eighth in the Pairwise and will be a two- or three-seed depending on what happens around the country tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Michigan and Bowling Green are in overtime and Maine leads BU 4-3 midway through the third. More on those games once they go final.

Friday, 9:55 p.m. (ET) … Harvard beats Cornell 6-1 to set up a Harvard-Union matchup in the ECAC title game. Bubble teams are starting to sweat a little, as the Crimson are now one win away from stealing a bid, and Bowling Green (another team that could steal a bid) leads Michigan 2-1 early in the third in the CCHA semis.

Cornell is most likely in with a win over Colgate in the ECAC consolation game. The Big Red could still get in even with a loss in that game, but it’s worth remembering that Harvard and Bowling Green can steal bubble spots.

In Atlantic Hockey, RIT beat Niagara 2-1 in overtime to set up an Air Force-RIT final. The winner of that game gets the autobid, while the loser is out. Believe it or not, Northern Michigan and Merrimack are both still alive. Both need Cornell to lose again tomorrow and have neither Harvard nor Bowling Green steal a spot, among other things. Mike McMahon has a great breakdown of what Merrimack needs over at The Mack Report.

Friday, 7:35 p.m. (ET) … Boston College beats Providence 4-2. This doesn’t really do anything except solidify BC as the top overall seed and eliminate another potential upset champion. Only Bowling Green and Harvard are left to potentially steal a bid, meaning everyone 13th or higher is safe. Miami, BU and UMass-Lowell are now mathematical locks to make the field.

Friday, 7:15 p.m. (ET) … Western Michigan smokes a hot Miami team, 6-2, to advance to the CCHA championship game. That’s a big boost to the Broncos’ NCAA hopes, although it doesn’t quite lock up a spot for them just yet. They’re 14th right now, and it would take a couple upset champions to knock them out. Meanwhile, the RedHawks drop to 10th in the Pairwise and appear to be locked into a two- or three-seed.  Also, Western’s win means Northern Michigan needs Cornell to lose tonight to stay alive for an at-large berth. If Cornell wins, I believe the Wildcats are eliminated.

Friday, 7:00 p.m. (ET) … Denver beats Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in double overtime on a Zac Larraza winner. As far as I can tell, UMD losing means Boston College is the No. 1 overall seed regardless of what the Eagles do this weekend. UMD will most likely be a two-seed, although there’s a chance of dropping to a three. Denver will likely be a two-seed if it wins Saturday or a three-seed if it loses.

Friday, 6:45 p.m. (ET) … We have our first two finals of the day, as Union beats Colgate 6-2 and Air Force beats Mercyhurst 5-2. Union is fourth in the Pairwise as of right now and appears to be a lock for at least a two-seed. Colgate losing means there is one less team that can steal a bubble spot. Out west, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth are battling in double overtime, tied 3-3.

Friday, 10:35 a.m. (ET) … Ten semifinal games on the docket today. Of the teams that are playing, BC, Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and North Dakota all appear to be mathematical locks to make the field already. Miami, BU, Maine, Denver and Union all look safe as well, although there may be a very small possibility of one of them being left out with a loss tonight and a bunch of upsets. For teams not playing, Ferris State is a mathematical lock and UMass-Lowell looks pretty safe.

Assuming those 12 teams all make it, that leaves three at-large spots up for grabs, barring upset champions. Cornell and Western Michigan can both greatly improve their chances of making it with a win tonight, although neither of them lock up a spot with a win alone. Likewise, neither can be knocked out with a loss.

Michigan State, Northern Michigan and Merrimack are all bubble teams not playing this weekend. As far as I can tell, Michigan State cannot be eliminated tonight. In fact, I believe the Spartans clinch a spot if all the higher seeds win tonight. Northern Michigan needs either Western Michigan or Cornell to lose in order to stay alive. If both win tonight, I can’t find a way to get the Wildcats in. Merrimack needs Maine to beat BU, Harvard to beat Cornell, and Union to beat Colgate. If any one of those don’t happen, the Warriors are done. Western Michigan losing would be helpful as well.

It’s worth noting that if MSU, Northern and Merrimack finish in a three-way tie for the last at-large spot (which could happen), they would split the comparisons with each other, but MSU would have the highest RPI and thus make the field.

Thursday, 11:15 p.m. (ET) … Before we call it a night, let’s see what the bracket would look like if the higher seed won every remaining game (which, by the way, I don’t expect to happen).

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 8. Miami vs. 9. Massachusetts-Lowell
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 6. Ferris State vs. 12. Denver
West Region, St. Paul: 3. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 15. Western Michigan / 5. Minnesota vs. 11. Maine
East Region, Bridgeport: 4. Boston University vs. 14. Michigan State / 7. Union vs. 10. North Dakota

It’s far from perfect in terms of bracket integrity, but it looks good attendance-wise and avoids any intra-conference matchups in the first round. The only liberty I took was swapping the Ferris-Denver and Union-North Dakota games to bring Union east and help Bridgeport’s attendance. Putting Ferris in Green Bay saves a flight, too.

Thursday, 10:36 p.m. (ET) … North Dakota moves on to the WCHA semifinals after beating St. Cloud State, 4-1. Bubble teams have to be happy with tonight’s results, as that’s two fewer teams that can steal a bid. North Dakota will likely be a two-seed if it beats Minnesota tomorrow. If not, it will likely stay a three. The Fighting Sioux appear to be a lock to make the field at this point.

Thursday, 6:10 p.m. (ET) … Denver pulls out an OT win over Michigan Tech. That’s one less team the bubble teams have to worry about. Denver is looking OK. A loss on Friday could still drop the Pioneers down to 13 at the lowest, it seems. So, barring three conference upsets, they should be OK. Thing is, St. Cloud winning it all bumped Denver up to 11 in scenarios I ran, so Denver would be safe regardless.

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