Thursday, February 14, 2013

And So It Begins: HL Tiebreaker Cogitation

Welcome to the annual cogitation of Horizon League tiebreaker scenarios. Yes, it's about that time again. There's way too many games left (17) to lay out a full analysis of everything, but as several tweets have shown, Valpo is on the brink of locking up the #1 seed, so we might as well at least lay out those possibilities.

       W  L
Valpo  10 2
UDM    9  4
WSU    8  5
UWGB   7  5
UIC    6  6
YSU    6  6
CSU    4  8
Loyola 3  9
UWM    2 10

This Saturday, Valpo hosts Detroit, and a win all but mathematically guarantees that the HL tourney will be at Valpo for the 2nd straight year.

Before I get into that, Valpo is already mathematically guaranteed of: (1) a home game, (2) a bye, or (3) both. The worst they can finish is 10-6, and there are 3 teams that already have at least 8 losses. In the HL, the top two teams get a double bye, the 3rd team gets a single bye, and the opening round features 4 hosting 9, 5 hosting 8, and 6 hosting 7. It is mathematically impossible for Valpo to finish lower than 6th.

A win against Detroit guarantees a record no worse than 11-5, along with a share of conference regular season title. In other words, a win against Detroit guarantees that Valpo finishes in 1st place. However, it doesn't quite guarantee the 1 seed. Detroit, Wright State, and Green Bay all have the ability to achieve an 11-5 record.

What we can say, however, is that a win against Detroit guarantees a double bye for Valpo. Valpo swept both Detroit and Wright State, and is currently 1-0 against Green Bay. Wright State swept Green Bay and split with Detroit. Detroit split with Green Bay. Valpo did better than Green Bay against both Detroit and Wright State, and Valpo and Green Bay would split with each other. Therefore, the only team who has a chance to steal the 1 seed is Green Bay, and then only if Detroit and Wright State lose 6 or more.

But that's not enough. Detroit and Wright State have to fall further than 3rd place, otherwise either one or both will break the tie in favor of Valpo. Since Detroit already has 9 wins, 3rd place has to be at least 9-7. There are 2 teams outside the top 4 capable of finishing 10-6: YSU and UIC. Unfortunately, UIC beat Green Bay but got swept by Valpo, so that won't help. And if Green Bay finishes 11-5, one of their remaining 4 victims will by YSU, so they can't finish 10-6. So the only solution left is someone finishing 9-7. Since another one of Green Bay's remaining victims would be CSU, they can't finish 9-7.

YSU is Green Bay's secret weapon. In this scenario, Green Bay sweeps YSU while YSU sweeps Valpo. YSU's max is 9-7 since they have to lose to Green Bay. Detroit's minimum is 9-7. Both Wright State and UIC have the ability to also finish 9-7, but they both hurt Green Bay's cause. UIC will have split with Green Bay, but WSU swept them. Thus if both of them are also 9-7, Valpo's record against the 4 teams would be 6-2 while Green Bay's would be 4-4. WSU is the most damaging, so let's factor them out: now Valpo's record would be 4-2 while Green Bay's would be 3-3. If we also factor UIC out (say they also finish 8-8), that leaves only YSU and Detroit at 9-7. In this case Valpo's record would be 2-2 while Green Bay's would be 3-1.

And there you have it: the only scenario out of 8192 scenarios (13 important games; 2**13 = 8192) by which Green Bay gets the 1 seed. In all other scenarios, Valpo would get the 1 seed. Here's what the top 6 finish would be in that 1 scenario:

1. Green Bay 11-5
2. Valpo 11-5
3. Detroit 9-7
4. YSU 9-7
5. UIC 8-8
6. WSU 8-8

GB's record against Detroit/YSU would be 3-1, Valpo's would be 2-2. Detroit swept YSU and would get the single bye (I really hate that idea). UIC sweeps WSU (one of WSU's 3 remaining games is against UIC and the Flames already beat the Raiders once) to break the tie for 5th.

Saturday, 5pm Central Time, at the Athletics Recreation Center in Valpo, with ESPN2 in the house. Rumor has it the game is close to a sellout. To say this is a huge game is an understatement. If Detroit pulls off the win in front of a hostile crowd that still remembers last year's tourney beatdown punctuated by a buzzer-beating Ray McCallum dunk (making the score 70-50), most if not all of the above analysis goes up in smoke and the 1 seed will be up for grabs. If I were a Green Bay fan, I'd be rooting as hard as I could for Detroit win.

Game On!

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