Just like that, half the season is over. It feels like yesterday that we were sweating out the two opening games of the IceBreaker (and trying to figure out who was who, with basically a whole new team). But here we are at the midseason break, after a pretty solid first half for BC - a 13-6-1 record, and a healthy lead in the Hockey East standings.
Despite leading Hockey East, BC’s 5-5 record in nonconference play has them sitting at 13th in the all-important Pairwise rankings heading in to the break. Let’s take a look at what this means for their tournament chances, and plot out their path to the field of 16.
As we mentioned yesterday, in recent years, seasons tend to shake themselves out such that there’s a small breakaway group, followed by a huge wad of teams that range from 2-seeds all the way to out of the tournament entirely. That whirlwind is where BC lies.
The top 4 teams - Minnesota-Duluth, Denver, Penn State and Harvard - have put themselves in a pretty comfortable position, per PlayoffStatus. They have a 99%, 97%, 95% and 88% chance to make the tournament, respectively. Duluth, Denver and Penn State have all even cemented themselves as having over a 50% chance of being a 1 seed - in Duluth’s case, a 90% probability.
After that, things get hairy. The teams from #7 BU down to #17 St. Lawrence have a range of tournament probabilities ranging from 39% to 69%. That's your big wad at this point. Below St. Lawrence, the probability drops off big time, with #18 St. Cloud already down to a 29% chance of qualification.
For BC, their probabilities are as follows: 13% chance of a one seed, 25% chance of a two seed, 22% chance of a three seed, 11% chance of a four seed, and 29% chance of missing out.
This is, of course, an inexact science, but using College Hockey News’ PWR editor tool, we can plot out a possible path to the tournament - a baseline to look out for of a combination of results that could/should put BC in.
Bear in mind that punching in this series of results just shows is how BC’s RPI will change in a vacuum. Obviously other teams are going to move up and down around them, so that makes this game very inexact. But...
Scenario #1: lower end
In this scenario BC loses both games in Pittsburgh (game 2 to RMU), loses both games of the Beanpot (game 2 to NU), goes 0-1-1 against both BU and Lowell, splits with Vermont at home, loses to Notre Dame, ties PC, and beats UNH, Merrimack, UMass and UConn. Knock on wood and all that, but this feels like sort of a worst case scenario. 5-8-3 in the back half.
This combination of results would drop BC’s RPI from its current .5601 to approximately .5415, putting them at #18 going in to the conference tournaments.
Scenario #2: a reasonable target
That first scenario would be kind of disappointing- an overall 18-14-4 record prior to conference tournament play. But it wouldn’t knock BC out of contention.
What about something a little more middle of the road?
A split in Pittsburgh; a split at the Beanpot; a split vs. BU; a win over Providence; wins over UMass and UConn; a loss to Notre Dame; a win at UNH; a win vs. Merrimack; a split vs Vermont; a split vs Lowell. This would be a 10-6 back half of the season, leaving BC with a 23-12-1 overall record prior to conference tournaments.
In a vacuum, this improves BC’s RPI to .5673 - a number that would certainly be good enough to make the tournament. In isolation it would move the Eagles to #8 in the PWR (obviously other teams around them will move up and down).
What’s the margin for error? It depends on which specific games BC wins, but something like this - an 8-8 finish to the season - Split in Pittsburgh; beat PC; swept by BU; beat UMass and UConn; lose to ND; beat UNH; split the Beanpot (with a loss to BU in the opener); beat Merrimack; split with UVM; swept by Lowell - puts BC in 18th.
The real key is that if BC wins between, say, 7 and 10 games, they need probably two of them to be quality wins against a BU, a Vermont or a Lowell. If they go something like 1-6 in those games, they leave very little margin for error.
Scenario #3: Scorched earth
Let’s say BC gets healthy and starts firing on all cylinders.
They split in Pittsburgh; beat PC; split with BU; beat UMass, UConn, ND and UNH; win the Beanpot; beat Merrimack; and go 2-1-1 in their final four games against UVM and UML. That leaves BC with a 25-9-2 final record prior to conference tournaments - and in isolation it would move BC up to 5th with a .5792 RPI.
The bottom line:
It’s obviously tough to handicap how things will play out, but the scenario for BC looks fairly straightforward: Take care of business like they’ve been doing against the lower half teams, and pick up at least a couple of quality wins. They don’t even necessarily need to have a winning record against BU/ND/UML/UVM, but they will need to win some of those eight games while taking care of the lower tier games. Do that, and the Eagles are in fine shape.