Monday, January 24, 2011

Scoreboard Watching (Again)

Coming off of four straight wins, are you re-energized when it comes to the Icers' fortunes? Me too. So I figured it was time to take another look at the ACHA tournament bubble. We have new rankings since last time I did this, so the teams have been reshuffled a little. Also, I'm only including games played since the cutoff of January 16th for the latest ranking. Anything before that is accounted for in the poll, so no point in overthinking things.

Since last time, No. 6 Rhode Island has removed themselves from the bubble. Despite their slip against West Chester, they bounced back with a sweep of Delaware, then Cortland, and other than PSU, they don't face anything terribly challenging the rest of the way.

I was tempted to replace URI with Arizona State, but despite dropping to No. 7, I'm not sure that their remaining schedule is tough enough to bump them down past No. 12. They do play Minot State tonight and tomorrow, but past those, two games against Arizona this weekend are their toughest left before the cutoff. If they completely tank in those games, I'll consider adding them next week.

Finally, I didn't find it worth considering autobids (beyond the fact that autobids from garbage conferences limit the field to 12 good teams). Minot, Oklahoma, Oakland and Penn State are ineligible for them. Iowa State, Robert Morris (IL) and Illinois play in the CSCHL, where the bid has all but gone to either Ohio or Lindenwood.

8. Minot State (20-2-2)

January 21st/22nd at Arizona, W 7-2/W 4-3 (OT)
January 24th/25th at Arizona State, 10:00 p.m./10:30 p.m.
February 1st at Dakota College at Bottineau (Non-ACHA), 8:30 p.m.
February 12th/13th vs. Minnesota-Crookston (ACHA D2), 8:30 p.m./3:00 p.m.

Do you see Minot doing poorly enough in those last three games to drop significantly? Me neither. Unless they get swept by ASU and look putrid in the process, the Beavers might be off of this post next week too.

9. Oklahoma (22-11-1)

January 17th at North Dakota State, W 6-2
January 21st/22nd vs. Davenport,  L 4-8/L 3-6
January 28th/29th at Liberty, 7:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
February 3rd/6th vs. Eastern Washington (ACHA D2), 8:00 p.m./1:00 p.m.
February 4th/5th vs. Oakland, 8:00 p.m./5:00 p.m.
February 11th/12th at Illinois, 8:30 p.m./8:30 p.m.

Oklahoma continues to be a something of an enigma. They have a ton of losses, but a brutally tough schedule that's keeping them in the top 10. The next ranking will be vital for them - if they manage to beat Liberty and stay in the show in the February 4th poll, the Sooners' soft-ish landing probably means they'll end up making it.

10. Oakland (17-7-4)

January 21st/22nd vs. Western Michigan, W 6-4/W 2-1
January 28th/29th at Buffalo, 8:25 p.m./8:25 p.m.
February 3rd at Central Oklahoma, 8:30 p.m.
February 4th/5th at Oklahoma, 8:00 p.m./5:00 p.m.
February 11th vs. Davenport, 8:00 p.m.
February 12th at Davenport, 7:30 p.m.

Although Oakland looks fairly safe to hold No. 10 (or maybe even move up) for the next ranking, that closing schedule might be enough to gain PSU a spot down the line, provided the Icers are in a position to take it.

11. Penn State (17-7-0)

January 21st at West Chester, W 7-1
January 22nd vs. West Chester, W 4-2
January 28th/29th at Delaware, 7:00 p.m./5:00 p.m.
February 4th/5th vs. Rhode Island, 9:00 p.m./3:30 p.m.
February 11th/12th vs. Robert Morris (PA), 9:00 p.m./3:30 p.m.

The Icers thankfully took care of business against the Golden Rams, but it's become extremely obvious that PSU's fate boils down to what happens over the next two weekends. Two wins should be enough.

12. Iowa State (19-14-0)

January 21st/22nd vs. Minnesota-Crookston (ACHA D2), W 12-2/W 14-2
January 28th/29th vs. Colorado State (ACHA D2), 8:30 p.m./5:45 p.m.
February 4th/5th vs. Kansas (ACHA D2), 8:30 p.m./9:30 p.m.
February 11th/12th at Lindenwood, 8:30 p.m./5:00 p.m.

ISU is rocketing up the charts after a horrible start to the season, and looking at that schedule, only Lindenwood can slow them down.

13. Robert Morris (IL) (20-7-1)

January 21st/22nd at Arizona State, W 4-3 (OT)/L 2-3 (SO)
January 28th/29th vs. Indiana, 8:20 p.m./8:30 p.m.
February 4th/5th at Ohio, 7:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
February 11th/12th vs. John Carroll, 8:20 p.m./8:30 p.m.

The Eagles were the team that suffered the wrath of the Cyclones' hot streak, going from in to out since the last ranking. They may have earned some cred back with the hard-fought split against Arizona State, but with Ohio looming, the climb won't be easy. Actually, especially given Iowa State's closing schedule, this is the team for Penn State fans to watch more than anyone in my opinion - two teams need to pass the Icers to bump them out (unless PSU passes someone else). RMU (IL) would likely be the second of those teams.

14. Illinois (14-9-1)

January 21st/22nd vs. Wisconsin (ACHA D2), W 9-1/W 11-2
January 28th/29th vs. Purdue (ACHA D3), 8:30 p.m./8:30 p.m.
February 4th/5th at Kent State, 7:15 p.m./7:15 p.m.
February 11th/12th vs. Oklahoma, 8:30 p.m./8:30 p.m.

I was tempted to leave the Illini off, but I'll give them one more week. Assuming they have no issues with D3 Purdue, their continued presence here will largely depend on what happens above them.

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