Skip to content

Back To Class: Forget the polls, Pairwise is your master now

Feb 4, 2013, 6:45 AM EDT

Jeremy Langlois

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET as No. 7 North Dakota takes on No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha.

The college season is beginning to wind down and when match-ups come up, most college sports fans will judge the games based on where each team is ranked in the polls. I’m here to tell you that at this point of the year, you’re being lied to.

Watching the polls in February and March, whether it’s the USA Hockey/USA Today poll or the USCHO.com poll, is a pointless process and proof you’ve been conditioned by college football or basketball to buy into these arbitrary rankings. Since the season is winding down, it’s time for college hockey fans to put those voted-on rankings away and focus all attention on the Pairwise Rankings (PWR).

The Pairwise is what the NCAA uses to pick the at-large teams for the NCAA tournament. If your team is amongst the top 16 teams, you’ve got a chance. If they’re in the top 11, you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the tourney. Unlike the BCS in college football, Pairwise uses all math and no polls to determine how teams shake out. Eliminating the human element, aside from the players on the ice actually winning and losing and tying games, helps makes the process virtually inarguable.

Take a look at how the Top 20 would be right now if you went by PWR according to CHN (USCHO.com also does their own):

1.    Quinnipiac
2.    Minnesota
3.    Miami
4.    Boston College
5.    New Hampshire
6.    Western Michigan
7.   Yale
8.    St. Cloud State
9.    Niagara
10.   North Dakota
11.   Boston University
12.   Denver
13.   Minnesota State
14.   Alaska-Fairbanks
15.   Dartmouth
16.   Notre Dame
17.   Colgate
18.   UMass-Lowell
19.   Union College
20.   Northern Michigan

When you compare that to how the polls look when they come out later today, you’ll likely see some big differences and that’s because people are who they are.

Polls are based on human opinions and often times those voting in the polls don’t see everyone they’re casting (or not casting) votes for. PWR, thankfully, eliminates that and focuses on whether or not teams are under consideration (TUC) and what a team’s record is against TUCs. Check out College Hockey News’ explanation of the whole thing if you’re feeling lost, it’s worth your time.

***

Games to look out for this weekend: Aside from our Friday night game which shapes up to be a great WCHA battle, that conference has another killer tilt with Minnesota facing conference-leading St. Cloud State. Their weekend battle is one not to be missed. In the CCHA, Miami and Western Michigan face off for a pair in Kalamazoo to see who can take charge there.

Quinnipiac owns the ECAC: The Bobcats ran their unbeaten streak to 19 games after tying Brown and handing rival Yale their lunch on their ice to the tune of 6-2. Quinnipiac was down 2-0 right off the bat but came romping back through to turn it into a laugher. QU is now seven points up on second-place Yale and 10 up on Dartmouth and Union.

The Niagara situation: The Purple Eagles are the best team in Atlantic Hockey. At 17-4-5 they’re taking care of their business and they’ve got a heck of a goalie leading the way for them. They’re now also up to ninth in the PWR which puts the whole Pairwise situation in a different place.

In the past, teams had to try and aim for at least 15th in the PWR because a less-than great Atlantic team would get one of the spots in the tourney. If Niagara stays strong and rolls through the conference tourney on their way to an auto-bid, it’s possible that winding up 16th in PWR might just land you a spot in the NCAA tournament.

(Photo: ECAC Hockey)

Latest Posts
  1. Struggling Coyotes ‘not anywhere good enough,’ says GM

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT

    Don Maloney AP

    “So we need to get better or things are going to change around here probably sooner rather than later.”

  2. Will the Sabres return Reinhart to junior?

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT

    Sam Reinhart AP

    We should find out after tonight’s game.

  3. Weiss (groin) heading back to Detroit, unable to play for Grand Rapids

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers Getty Images

    If you’re curious what a buyout would cost the Wings, click on the post.

  4. Kings will have full complement of players tonight vs. Pens

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three Getty Images

    After playing a man short on Tuesday in Philly.

  5. Fasth ready to return, Gazdic starts conditioning stint

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    Viktor Fasth Getty Images

    Some good news for Edmonton on the injury front.

  6. Stars’ other big summer addition – Hemsky – off to ugly start

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Ales Hemsky Getty Images

    If he could get going, Dallas wouldn’t be as reliant on its top line.

  7. PHT Morning Skate: Fighting majors way down this season

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:01 AM EDT

    Eric Staal, Nick Bonino AP

    The numbers are even more striking when you compare Oct. 2014 to Oct. 2003

  8. Smith, Predators halt Oilers’ winning streak

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT

    Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg AP

    Nashville continues its strong start to 2014-15.

  9. Red Wings’ Weiss still dealing with groin injury

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

    Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers Getty Images

    He sat out the third period for Grand Rapids because of soreness.

  10. Video: Will dirty hits continue to go down?

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT

    John Moore AP

    Interesting discussion between Bob McKenzie and Mike Milbury.

  11. NHL explains why officials waved off Predators’ goal

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

    waveoff

    Some controversial calls on a light Wednesday night.

  12. Video: McKenzie’s Alfredsson update isn’t promising

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT

    Detroit Red Wings v Columbus Blue Jackets Getty Images

    “No news is bad news” for the veteran forward.

  13. Video: Doc Emrick’s heartfelt words about Gordie Howe

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT

    Antti Niemi AP

    Also: a fun story from Mike Milbury’s playing days.

Featured video

Illegal hits are down -- but will it last?

Sign up for Fantasy hockey

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. E. Staal (3262)
  2. C. Crawford (3099)
  3. P. Stastny (2447)
  4. M. Gaborik (2443)
  5. E. Kane (2349)
  1. A. Kopitar (2195)
  2. V. Hedman (2102)
  3. D. Heatley (2027)
  4. J. Franzen (1902)
  5. N. Foligno (1879)