Monday, January 30, 2017

Pohl talk: Both Gopher men and women remain in top-10 + Pairwise Implications

Let's start with the fact that polls in college hockey don't decide anything.

This isn't football. To make matters worse, there are rankings (Pairwise) which do decide who makes the NCAA Tournament. As the year winds down and there are fewer games, those make more and more sense.

What polls are good for is discussion and figuring out the perception 50 people who aren't me have of the country.

In that case, both the Gopher men and women remain in the top-10.

The Minnesota men's team went down a spot in both the USCHO and USA Today polls, going from sixth to seventh after losing 3-2 Friday to UMD (the new number one) and winning 4-0 Saturday against Bemidji State. That may have been a course correction, though. The Gophers went up a spot despite splitting at Wisconsin the previous week based on everyone else around them losing.

(The Badgers, for what it's worth, jumped back into the USCHO poll for the first time since October 2014 on the heels of three straight wins against top-10 teams. Including #18 UW, who are tied with Minnesota atop the Big Ten, 4 of the 6 B1G teams are ranked.)

The Minnesota women's team stayed at #4 - one of three WCHA teams among the top-four - following the Gophers' first sweep since late November. Minnesota defeated St. Cloud State 2-1 and 5-0 in St. Cloud. It did so without forwards Cara Piazza and Kate Schipper in the lineup.

So there is perception. Reality? Pretty close to perception.

The Minnesota men are seventh in the Pairwise, two spots behind this weekend's opponent Penn State. Gopher women are fifth, which is the difference between hosting a home NCAA tournament game and having to go on the road.

From a Pairwise standpoint, winning Friday against UMD could have made for some major moves. It would have flipped several comparisons to put the Gophers fourth and solidified others. For example, a win would have put the Gophers ahead of a team like Western Michigan or Denver in the "common opponents" comparison (the other two are RPI percentage and head-to-head). Instead, the Broncos will hold that one for the rest of the season, meaning Minnesota can only jump ahead through a better RPI.

Same can be said for North Dakota. Two wins lat weekend would have clinched a comparison against the Fighting Hawks regardless of RPI as both the common opponents and head-to-head (Minnesota went 1-0-1) would go the Gophers' way. Now it depends on whether St. Cloud State can get a win or two this weekend and Minnesota to sweep Michigan State.

But these are all hypothetical, not reality.

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