Badger Hockey: Playing the 'What If' Game

Two wins over Colorado College would have UW in the NCAA tournament right now - Photo Credit: Larry Radloff

Wisconsin is currently a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. Where would the Badgers be if they started the season better than 1-7-2?

Despite its hiccup last weekend against North Dakota in Grand Forks, the Wisconsin men's hockey team has been on quite the run over the past couple of months. In fact, the Badgers have been one of the hottest teams in the nation, losing just twice over their past 16 contests.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, their 1-7-2 start to the season continues to haunt them in terms of what they hope to accomplish this season. Wisconsin currently sits 22nd in the Pairwise, the formula used to mimic the NCAA tournament selection process.

Obviously, Wisconsin went through quite the storm of roadblocks to start season. Highly touted freshman Nic Kerdiles was suspended for the entire season by the NCAA for his interaction with a sports agent. That was later reduced to 10 games after an appeal by Wisconsin on behalf of Kerdiles.

Wisconsin also went though an injury spell, as Derek Lee missed a few games after crashing his scooter and Mark Zengerle was forced to have surgery to repair a severely broken finger.

On top of all of that, the Badgers went through a coaching change. Assistant coach Bill Butters left the program to pursue his passion of ministry, which happened to coincide with Wisconsin's anchor reaching rock bottom.

To Mike Eaves' credit, the Badgers were able to turn the ship around and get the season back on track. But how much did those early season losses hurt the Badgers?

CollegeHockeyNews.com has a new tool on its website where you can alter past and future results to see how the changes would affect the PWR. We went through and adjusted the results of every Badger game this season in which they didn't earn a victory to see how it would affect their standing in the PWR.

NOTE: 16 teams make the NCAA tournament, with five of those bids being auto-bids from conference tournaments, and 11 bids being at-large. Noting that the Atlantic Hockey winner usually isn't in the top 16, and that there are usually 1-2 other conference winners from outside the top 16, you want to be in the top 13-14 in the PWR at the end of the season to assure that you've locked in an at-large spot in the tournament.

Here is what we found...

Northern Michigan (Actual results: Loss, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #12 PWR
Wisconsin win, Wisconsin loss: #19 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #13
Wisconsin loss, tie: #21

Minnesota-Duluth (Actual results: Win, Tie)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #22 PWR

Minnesota (Actual results: Tie, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #13 PWR
Wisconsin win, Wisconsin tie: #20 PWR
Wiscosnin win, Wisconsin loss: #21 PWR

Colorado College (Actual results: Loss, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #13 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #15 PWR
Wisconsin win, Wisconsin loss: #19 PWR
Wisconsin loss, tie: #22 PWR

Minnesota State (Actual results: Loss, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #13 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #13 PWR
Wisconsin win, loss: #18 PWR
Wisconsin loss, tie: #22 PWR

Denver (Actual results: Win, Tie)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #22 PWR

Michigan Tech (Actual results: Tie, Tie)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #18 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #22

Miami (Actual results: Win, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #19 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #22 PWR

North Dakota (Actual results: Tie, Loss)

Wisconsin win, Wisconsin win: #12 PWR
Wisconsin win, tie: #20 PWR
Wisconsin win, Wisconsin loss: #22 PWR

What jumps out immediately is that a couple of wins against teams like Colorado College, Northern Michigan or Minnesota State would have Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament right now if the season ended today. Those series all happened in the state of Wisconsin, with the CC and Mankato series being at the Kohl Center and the Northern Michigan series being in Green Bay.

Basically, if any two of Wisconsin's losses would have been wins -- regardless of opponent -- the Badgers would be in the NCAA tournament right now. Wisconsin was swept by CC, NMU and Minnesota State. If it wins even two of those six games, it would be #12 in the PWR right now.

So what does this mean going forward? Well, obviously the Badgers needs to continue to win to improve their PWR. While their schedule is tough down the stretch, they've got some opportunities to move up, but they must win.

The Badgers have three series left against teams that are currently teams under consideration (TUCs). TUCs are teams that have an RPI of .5000 or better. Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud are all TUCs at this point. Wisconsin will also likely play 2-3 games against TUCs in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and potentially more if they advance to the WCHA Final Five.

If Wisconsin is going to make the NCAA tournament, it MUST play well in those games left against teams under consideration.

The Badgers can't dwell on their early-season losses, but this just shows how important every game is, regardless of when it is played.

For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter (@AndyJohnsonB5Q)

You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bucky's 5th Quarter

You must be a member of Bucky's 5th Quarter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You should read them.

Join Bucky's 5th Quarter

You must be a member of Bucky's 5th Quarter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker