The ECAC: It's Not Just Loyola and Denver (Although It's Mostly Loyola and Denver)

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 28: Henry Miketa #35 of the Denver Pioneers walks off the field with the team after losing to to the Virginia Cavaliers 14-8 at M&T Bank Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Like the Patriot League of Conforming Jingoism and Communist-Effort Containment, the race in the ECAC is shaping up to look like five teams chasing four spots in the league's post-season tournament. Unlike the Patriot League, though, there isn't necessarily a mess at the top of the table as well as in the middle; the ECAC, rather, is more like a caste system -- those in the upper crust are kind of bickering amongst themselves and those in the next tier are duking it out over who has the finer set of dinnerware. There is a possibility of movement between those demarcations, but it is somewhat muted.

We can probably eliminate three teams from the championship conversation, all for very important reasons (other than the fact that they failed to incinerate their enemies):

  • Michigan: Michigan isn't eligible for the 2012 ECAC Tournament. That seems like as good as any reason to say that the Wolverines won't head out to Denver to play for a trophy. It's just a hunch, though.
  • Bellarmine: Due to the selfish constructs of mathematical possibility, five losses is way too many to advance to the league playdowns. Don't blame me for this, Knights; blame math. (Also, blame those five conference losses and -23 goal differential.)
  • Hobart: Technically, the Statesmen are still in the ECAC Tournament conversation. With three games remaining, Hobart could finish, at best, with a 3-3 league record. If there is some kind of emergency situation that sends Fairfield and Air Force (especially the Falcons as Hobart has a head-to-head remaining with them, their only opportunity for a tiebreaker) running into their root cellars to try and ride out the impending apocalypse, then the Statesmen could fall into the tournament's four-seed. The likelihood of that happening, though, is probably equal to Fairfield University or the United States Air Force Academy actually having root cellars on their campuses.

So, we're left with five teams -- Loyola, Denver, Ohio State, Fairfield, and Air Force -- throwing hands to see who will have a shot at engraved memorabilia out in Colorado. Here's a quick table on the conference as a whole and some brief thoughts follow the jump:

YOUR TWO-WEEK ECAC FORECAST: FUN TIMES WITH A CHANCE OF SMILES

TEAM

ADJ. OFF. EFF.

ADJ. DEF. EFF.

ADJ. EFF. MARGIN

ECAC RECORD

REMAINING

Loyola 32.11 (17) 22.57 (7) 9.54 (9) 4-0* Denver (A); Hobart (A)
Denver 37.06 (5) 25.35 (11) 11.71 (4) 3-1* Loyola (H); Fairfield (A)
Ohio State 27.60 (43) 22.41 (6) 5.19 (16) 3-1* Michigan (A); Air Force (H); Fairfield (A)
Fairfield 31.75 (19) 30.02 (38) 1.73 (30) 2-1* Air Force (A); Denver (H); Ohio State (H)
Air Force 32.29 (15) 25.31 (10) 6.98 (13) 1-2* Fairfield (H); Ohio State (A); Hobart (A)
Bellarmine 25.51 (50) 28.64 (29) -3.13 (42) 0-5* Hobart (H)
Hobart 29.08 (32) 33.20 (50) -4.11 (44) 0-3* Bellarmine (A); Loyola (H); Air Force (H)
Michigan 24.76 (54) 34.67 (55) -9.92 (58) 0-4* Ohio State (H)

* Michigan is ineligible for the 2012 ECAC Championship. In fact, Hobart isn't even playing the Wolverines this season. Accordingly, league records only reflect games against opponents that aren't Michigan.

  • A lot has been made recently whether Saturday's sold out Loyola-Denver game is bigger for the Greyhounds or the Pioneers. It's probably huge both, if you ask me. (And even if you don't ask me, I'm going to tell you why.) Loyola can sew up the one-seed in the ECAC Tournament with the victory -- a loss to Hobart in their league finale doesn't hurt the Greyhounds on the table as they'll hold head-to-head tiebreakers against Denver, Ohio State, and Fairfield. Denver needs the win against Loyola as the Buckeyes hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Pioneers and there are, for the time being, one-, two-, three-, four-, and no-seed possibilities remaining down the stretch for Denver. (The low-end permutations are going to be built, in large part, on what the Stags do with their remaining schedule and may turn on each team's league closer between one another. The no-seed possibility is slim -- it requires Denver to lose out, Air Force to win out, and Fairfield to finish at least 3-3 with a win over the Pioneers -- and that probably won't happen.) Basically, the Pioneers could end up anywhere from the one-seed to the four-seed for the playoffs, but a win against the Greyhounds keeps them towards the top of all seeding scenarios, which is a nice thing to have when, you know, you're hosting the damn tournament.
  • Air Force and Fairfield are really going to determine how this all shakes out. Each have three league games -- with countable record implications -- remaining, including a head-to-head matchup between each other this weekend out in Colorado Springs. With Denver and Ohio State in back-to-back games, the Stags can become upwardly mobile on the league table via their own volition and will, simultaneously, either eliminate themselves from the NCAA Tournament bubble or put themselves into the at-large conversation (although, admittedly, that conversation is pretty much limited to hushed whispers about the Stags at this point). Air Force -- which has zero buzz nationally at 6-4 and having Army as its "best win" -- can also drive itself into the ECAC post-season with dates against Fairfield and Ohio State. This is what's making the ECAC interesting this season: the late games with middle of the road teams -- wounded dogs that have nothing to lose if they bite -- can really determine the outcome of the regular season.

What do you guys think? Anything to add? Did I, as usually, grossly overlook something (like, say, Ohio State, and how they're quietly laying in the weeds)?

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