Bracketology 2.0: A five-bid conference that's not the ACC?
262 of 492 regular season games down, 230 games to go with just over a month left. We've completed 53.25% of the regular season, crossing the halfway mark this past weekend.
More conferences will open up conference play this week, notably the Big Ten. And as I noted last week, everyone still has a chance of making the NCAA Tournament. Make a run in conference play, get into the conference tournament, win two (or for some three) conference tournament games, and you have the conference's automatic qualifier. It's still early.
That is unless you're the ACC, which has five teams and does not have an AQ.
10 out of the 11 Division I men's lacrosse conferences have automatic qualification status, the first time we've had double-digit AQs since 2016. That was the year the ACC was in the second year of a two-year grace period after going below six members thanks to Maryland heading to the Big Ten.
We're back to having two play-in games featuring the four lowest ranked automatic qualifiers as determined by the selection committee, regardless of conference RPI. The winner of one matchup will take on the #1 overall seed, while the winner of the other matchup will take on the #2 overall seed.
Maryland has separated from the pack thanks to their big win over Virginia last weekend. Virginia is still up there, but Princeton, Cornell, Georgetown all look like serious contenders to make deep postseasons run. Don't count out Penn as well. The Quakers are 3-2 with four of their five games decided by a goal, with the other being decided by two goals. They're this year's version of the 2017 Syracuse Orange who went 9-2 in one-goal games, including seven straight one-goal games where they won five straight during that stretch.
More questions will be answered in the coming weeks. The bubble continues to form. Bid stealers might arise. The suspense is building.
Automatic Qualifiers 2.0
Since five conferences have yet to play any conference games, we'll take the top team in each conference based off whoever has the highest RPI, with those numbers coming courtesy of Lacrosse Reference (all data prior to March 22). When we get deeper into conference play for every conference, we’ll revert to the team with the best conference record.
Due to their upcoming move to the CAA in July, Stony Brook is ineligible to compete in the America East Tournament. They have the best RPI in the conference at 28.
At-Large Candidates 2.0
Eight more teams will be picked to join the 10 automatic qualifiers and have to finish above .500. With the Ivy League off to a hot start, it's very reasonable to have three conferences take up all eight at-large bids.
Which conference gets the most at-large bids?
If all goes to plan, it looks like the only at-large bids will come from the ACC, Big Ten, and Ivy League. Only two teams from the eight other conferences are inside the RPI top 16 (Georgetown at 5, BU at 10), and those are figuratively in line for their respective conference's AQ.
Those three conferences are sure to have two at-large bids each. As things stand now, Harvard feels like they can give the Ivy League a third at-large bid. After that, it's open between Duke and Notre Dame in the ACC and Brown and Yale in the Ivy League. Notre Dame is currently below .500 so they're ineligible at this time.
As for Brown, Duke, and Yale, neither team's résumé stands out. But it's late March and those teams still have time to add a good win or two before the year is over. Duke has three wins against teams ranked 16-20 in the RPI (High Point at 17, Richmond at 18, Delaware at 20) with Denver (21) right behind, a team that Yale also has a win against.
Bracketology Prediction 2.0
Before I unveil what I have, here's the official pre-championship manual from the NCAA. The cliff-notes from the NCAA are below:
Results of the RPI:
Record against ranked teams 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20; 21+
Average RPI of all wins
Average RPI of all losses
Results versus common opponents
Significant wins and losses (wins against teams ranked higher in the RPI, losses against teams ranked lower in the RPI)
Locations of contests
Input is provided by the regional advisory committee for consideration by the Division I Men’s Lacrosse Committee
Coaches’ polls, media polls, and/or any other outside polls or rankings are not used by the committee
For another week, here...we...go.
Last Two In: Yale, Duke
First Two Out: Rutgers, Brown
The bubble is going to be really weak this year. All four teams had a small advantage over the other, as well as some flaws in their résumés.
Yale has the best SOS along with the best average of RPI and SOS metrics and best average RPI win. But their average RPI loss is the worst among the quartet of teams. Duke is the only team with at least one win against teams in the top 20 of the RPI (they have three). But they have two losses against teams ranked 21 or higher in RPI.
Rutgers has the best RPI at 11. But they have zero wins inside the top 20, with their average RPI win at 41.875, and have the worst SOS metric at 35. Brown, like Rutgers, doesn't have a significant loss and is undefeated against teams ranked 21 or higher in RPI. But the Bears have the worst RPI metric and their average RPI win of 44.4 is the highest out of the group.
So as things stand, the Ivy League is a five-bid league. Not the ACC, but the Ivy League. The ACC has three teams while the Big Ten has two teams including the top overall team in Maryland. Every other conference has one.
Come back next week for another update? Sure! Let's see what we get.