The Wisconsin Badgers enter the Big Ten hockey tournament in a position that fits their home state: embarrassingly last. That's what happens when every decent player on your roster abandons ship or graduates or whatever and you have no succession plan. I feel awful for them, but I really don't. A pox upon them for a thousand years.
Michigan grew up a bit from last season and put together a competitive team. Not competitive enough to beat, for instance, Michigan State in Ann Arbor with the Conference Championship on the line, but enough to be in the conversation at least. They've packaged a high flying offense with a clown show defense/goaltending unit. Their offense is more above average than their defense is below average, so they're sitting at about 20th in the Pairwise, but almost definitely need to win the tournament to make the NCAA tourney.
I'm not going to get into the nuts and bolts of my analysis here. If you want to see the method, I'm going to blog-fu you into reading my Ohio State / Penn State preview here. Hiyaa!
So let's look at the how the Badgers match up against the Wolverines. Well, the Badgers don't really match up against anyone well, so let's just do some quick comparisons.
Michigan scores 3.88 goals per game. Wisconsin allows almost that many goals per game, 3.65. That's not an advantageous match-up for the Badgers. In the four games between these teams, Michigan scored 21 goals, or 5.25 per game. Heads-up, Joel Rumpel.
On the other end of the ice, Wisconsin averages a measly 1.71 goals per game. This stat got the best of me and I had to look it up. Wisconsin ISN'T the worst offense in the country. Three teams are worse. Alabama-Huntsville, Lake Superior State, and Princeton.
Now, Michigan doesn't play inspiring defense, but their 2.97 allowed per game is serviceable because of the way their forwards play. This season, Michigan allowed only six goals to the Badgers.
Let's get to some probability models. Keep in mind, this chart represents the probability that a team will score a certain number of goals AND win with that number of goals.
This chart is a little deceptive. You could easily look at it and think, "wow, if Wisconsin keeps the score low, they have better odds of winning than Michigan." This line of reasoning is folly. While Wisconsin improves it's chances of winning by limiting Michigan's offensive production *DUH*, they do not actually have a higher probability of winning at any point.
What skews this visual is that Michigan is so much more likely to score between three and five goals than one or two goals. The probability of them scoring only one goal against Wisconsin's defense is only about 8% . They're much more likely to score more.
The same sort of skewing occurs in the next chart as well, but as you read it from left to right, it becomes clear that Michigan is more likely to win this game.
Accounting for 99.5% of possible outcomes (I can't say it's outside the realm of possibility for Michigan to score 11 goals in this game; that would be hilarious), Michigan's probability of winning this game is 64.32%. Conversely, Wisconsin only has a 35.21% chance of winning.
KRACH predicts this game as a Michigan win in a much more extreme manner. Using that rating, Michigan should win roughly 83% of games against this Wisconsin squad, leaving the Badgers to win fewer than 1 in five games.
I don't think the Badgers will be much of a problem for the Wolverines at this stage of the season. However, after losing four straight to Michigan, they might just be due for one of their one-in-six upsets.
No matter what, I prefer that Michigan wins this game because it's better for the Gophers RPI (more on that in another post).
Here's my data. Take a crack at it yourself and see what you can come up with.