Bemidji-Northern-Ferris tiebreaker going into Week 23

Hello, USCHO fans!  Jack and Shane asked me to run scenarios for them.  I’ve already tweeted about this a little, but without applying probability to it, I just wanted to do the math and show what happens with the Bemidji-Northern-Ferris tiebreaker, which is the really fun one left at this point (depending on how Tech and Mankato go this weekend).

I’m going to assume that you’ve read my extended look at the WCHA’s tiebreakers for 2014-15 and know what I’m talking about when I say “the C tiebreaker”.  If not, I suggest reading the first paragraph and then the six bullet points (and not the other 1700 words that follow).

To recap one of the later sections, these things are true:

Bemidji State and Northern Michigan both sit tied for fourth at 10-10-4 (24 points).  Ferris is two points behind them at 11-13-0.  Ferris has the potential for winning a B tiebreaker, as they have one more conference win at this point.

Let’s ignore the chances that ties get involved here and just say that there are wins and losses here.  Here are the remaining games for each team:

  • Bemidji State: @ Ferris State, v Minnesota State
  • Ferris State: v Bemidji State, @ Lake Superior
  • Northern Michigan : v Lake Superior, home-and-home with Michigan Tech

Later, I quote the tiebreakers, but the important things here are these:

A tiebreaker: this only comes into play between Bemidji and Northern, and Bemidji wins the comparison.

B tiebreaker: currently Ferris has 11 conference wins to 10 for Bemidji and Northern.  Of course, they also have the handicap of three more losses where they got no points.

C tiebreaker: Bemidji and Ferris have yet to play this weekend, and Ferris and Northern push to the D tiebreaker.

D tiebreaker: Here are the records against the top three seeds:

  • MSU: BSU 0.000 (with two games left); FSU 0.000; NMU 0.250 — Northern wins all comparisons
  • MTU: BSU 0.000; FSU 0.000; NMU 0.750 — Northern wins all comparisons
  • BGSU: BSU 0.375; FSU 0.250; NMU 0.625 — Northern wins all comparisons

So in other words:

  • Ferris: To get level with Bemidji and/or Northern and win home ice, Ferris has to get the B tiebreaker in their favor, which generally means that they need to keep winning.  Ties are better than losses, but here, a win-loss split is better than a two-tie split.
  • Northern: They just have to hope that they’re not tied with Bemidji alone.  If they are tied with Bemidji and Ferris, they have to hope that Ferris has tied some games along the way and keeps from passing them in conference wins and have split with the Beavers.  If it’s Northern and Ferris alone, they again have to hope that Ferris doesn’t have more conference wins.  I’m not sure that I can concoct a scenario where things get to the D tiebreaker, although I’m going to try below.
  • Bemidji: They’re in the catbird’s seat here: they have the tiebreaker over Northern, a points advantage on Ferris, and two games against Ferris.  Bemidji is much better at home than on the road (9-4-2 v. 3-10-2), so they have to be gunning for things.

So it all comes down to ten games, here

I’m not going to go through every iteration (e.g., “Bemidji sweeps Ferris, Northern sweeps Lake, Ferris sweeps Lake”) here because I don’t have time to do this.  (I mean, it’s snowing in Alabama, and I want to go outside and play!)  But let’s consider these things, based on the above:

Bemidji sweeping Ferris fairly fixes the Bulldogs in sixth place.  The Bulldogs would be 11-15-0 (22 points), and they’d be behind the Wildcats regardless of their result against Lake Superior.  At worst, Northern sweeps Lake Superior and is 12-10-4 (28 points), which gives the Wildcats more points than the Bulldogs can get.  At best,  Lake Superior sweeps Northern and the Wildcats are 10-12-4 (24 points), and Ferris can pass them anytime then get even and have one more conference win — say, Northern splitting with Tech and the Bulldogs sweeping the Lakers.

Ferris sweeping the Beavers greatly helps the Wildcats’ chances.  Simply put, both teams play Lake Superior going down the stretch, and Bemidji is not as tough of an opponent as Tech is, especially given that the Beavers will be on the road (where, again, they’re 3-10-2, although two of those wins are in Marquette a couple of weeks ago).

Bemidji always just has to worry about keeping pace with Northern.  The only way that the Wildcats can pass the Beavers is to get more points with them, and that’s not something that happens very often in my model.  In fact, Ferris getting more points than both Bemidji and Northern happens more often (5.5% v 1.77%).  Yes, the two squads face the top two seeds on the final weekend, but Bemidji is at home for both games.

Let’s talk about ties.  The only way we get to the D tiebreakers — Northern’s favorites — are if the teams are tied in the first three, which means that they all have to finish with the same number of points and Ferris has to have taken two ties along the way to bring them level in conference wins and very likely those ties have to have come against Lake Superior, because ties with Bemidji make it harder for all teams to have equivalent numbers of points.

But here is the problem: trying to get four ties for the Bulldogs (11-13-4/26) gives the Beavers two more points (10-10-6/26) pending the results with Mankato.  If the Beavers get swept, they lose the B tiebreaker; if they get any more points, there is no tiebreaker with Ferris State.

Now you can look at Ferris and Northern and ask, “Can the Wildcats benefit from four Ferris ties?”  Yes, they can.  Again, Ferris finishing 11-13-4 means that they can go 1-3-0 themselves down the stretch.  The A tiebreaker is irrelevant; the B tiebreaker is now a wash; the C tiebreaker is still a wash; and the D is where they win.

But ask yourself this: how often does Ferris tie its final four games after not registering a tie all season>

So in short, rock-paper-scissors style if teams are tied:

  • Bemidji beats Northern
  • Ferris probably beats Northern (unless they do a lot of sister-kissing)
  • Northern just has to keep winning, because they have outpacing their peers.

Hope this helps.

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