Ah, the Pairwise. How we hate your quirks. But alas, how we love them.
So, it turns out that the Eagles aren’t quite dead in the water if they come out of the Hockey East semifinals against BU without a win. Jim Dahl of College Hockey Ranked ran a script to simulate all of the many, many, many possible conference tournament scenarios, and if you scroll down on his forecast page to BC, you’ll see something surprising next to “Boston College -- Win 0:”
It turns out a tiny fraction of scenarios out there exist that will get the Eagles into the tournament despite losing to BU in the Hockey East semifinals.
In an ironic mathematical twist, all the efforts we spent trying to find the scenario by dropping Penn State and Ohio State out of the tournament — the two closest at-large teams ahead of us — were counter-productive. In order to advance to the NCAA tournament without winning another game, three things need to happen:
(1) Ohio State needs to defeat Penn State in the Big Ten Championship game (which means they both have to advance to the final, too)
(2) Air Force has to win the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
The reason centers on BC’s Pairwise comparison against Providence College. Because the Eagles have two wins against PC, and BC’s common opponents point is out of reach for the Friars, BC will win the comparison against the Friars no matter what — despite PC being a good margin ahead in RPI.
Ohio State, Penn State, and Air Force are all closer to Providence College (ahead of them) than they are to Boston College (behind them). BC only needs to pass one team, so if all three of Ohio State, Penn State, and Air Force pass the Friars, it would put BC and PC right next to each other in the Pairwise. And since the Eagles have already clinched that head to head matchup, as long as no other teams are tied with them, the Eagles would leapfrog Providence, putting them in 15th and into the tournament (provided there are no upset autobids in the other conferences).
The Pairwise is funny, isn’t it?