Bracketology 4.0: The Ivy League could really get five teams in
378 of 491 regular season games down, 113 games to go with less than a month left. We've completed nearly 77% of the regular season. This season sure flew by fast.
Apologies for no post last week, that's what happens when you have a full-time job elsewhere with an extremely busy week. But we're back this week!
With everyone playing at least two conference games thus far, we're close to saying good bye to teams with no shot of making their conference tournaments. For most conferences, having two or three losses in conference play is flirting with disaster. Excluding the ACC (no conference tournament) and Big Ten (everyone makes the conference tournament), here's all the teams with two or three losses in conference play:
UAlbany (2-2 in America East)
UMBC (1-2 in America East)
NJIT (0-3 in America East)
UMass Lowell (1-3 in America East)
Cleveland State & Detroit Mercy (0-2 in ASUN)
Providence & St. John's (0-2 in Big East)
Delaware (0-2 in CAA)
Brown (1-2 in Ivy League)
Dartmouth (0-3 in Ivy League)
Penn (1-3 in Ivy League)
Canisius & Monmouth (1-2 in MAAC)
Quinnipiac & Siena (1-3 in MAAC)
Hobart, Mount St. Mary's, Sacred Heart, & Wagner (1-3 in NEC)
Navy (2-3 in Patriot League)
Bucknell & Colgate (1-4 in Patriot League)
Lafayette (1-5 in Patriot League)
Holy Cross (0-6 in Patriot League)
Hampton (0-2 in SoCon)
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. The ACC does not have an AQ and also does not have a conference tournament.
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 themselves from the pack and look to be the first team to complete an undefeated season since the 2006 Virginia Cavaliers. Cornell, Georgetown, Princeton, and Virginia are some of the teams that could stop the Terps.
Automatic Qualifiers 4.0
Since everyone has played multiple conference games, we'll take the 1st place team in each conference and call them our AQ. If there's a tie between multiple teams and no head-to-head tiebreaker is available, we'll take the team with the better RPI. RPI and SOS data comes courtesy of Lacrosse Reference (all data prior to April 12).
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 37.
At-Large Candidates 4.0
Eight more teams will be picked to join the 10 automatic qualifiers and have to finish above .500. It feels like those eight teams will come all from the ACC, Big Ten, and the Ivy League. Maybe.
Who are the bubble teams?
In terms of those three aforementioned conferences, it's the following teams.
In the ACC, it's Duke, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. Neither team's résumé stands out. Duke is the only team in this group that hasn't played Virginia yet so there's a chance they can get a marquee win. They'll also play UNC and Notre Dame once more. Outside of Duke, North Carolina has Syracuse and Notre Dame on their schedule.
Notre Dame has four games remaining, including today against Marquette. They need to finish 2-2 to be eligible for consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Their other opponent besides Duke and UNC is Syracuse.
Ohio State is the lone Big Ten team on the bubble. It feels like Rutgers should be good for May, barring a disappointing performance against either Michigan or Penn State and should be the #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes play at Maryland this weekend which will help their metrics before taking on Michigan for what could be the first of back-to-back meetings.
The Ivy League could have as many as five teams in the NCAA Tournament. Princeton and Yale feel like locks and Cornell feels pretty safe for now. What remains is Penn and Harvard, who play each other this weekend at Franklin Field. The loser could miss out on the Ivy League Tournament.
Penn's remaining schedule is Dartmouth, Saint Joseph's, and UAlbany. Harvard has a daunting task ahead with Princeton and Yale. If they can get at least one win in their next three games, their chances of making the NCAA Tournament will rise significantly.
And don't count out Brown who has Yale and Cornell in the next two weeks.
Now note the last word prior to showing the at-large résumés. "Maybe."
Insert Denver, who started off 3-4 and their tournament hopes very bleak. But they defeated Ohio State, giving them a top 10 win, something Duke, Harvard, North Carolina, and Notre Dame don't have. Their RPI is better than the three ACC teams I mentioned and their SOS is stronger than Harvard, Duke, and Notre Dame.
But their next three games are in the bottom half of the Big East: St. John's (RPI of 57), Providence (RPI of 49), and Marquette (RPI of 53). And to that, Ohio State could drop in the RPI pending next week's results. The math doesn't favor the Pios as of now. They'll more than likely play Villanova again in the Big East semifinals. Best-case scenario is that Denver gets in by winning the Big East.
Don't count out Army West Point (RPI of 24), Lehigh (RPI of 23), or Loyola (RPI of 25) yet from the Patriot League. All three teams have to play BU, while Lehigh and Loyola will play each other later in the month. Army also has Cornell and Navy, Lehigh has Colgate, and Loyola has a huge game against Georgetown as well as Colgate. If Army and Loyola can win their nonconference finales, they will certainly be in the bubble picture.
Bracketology Prediction 4.0
Before I unveil what I have for another week, 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 yet another week, here...we...go.
Last Two In: Harvard, North Carolina First Four Out: Denver, Richmond, Notre Dame, Duke
The final spot came down to North Carolina and Denver. Denver has a top 10 win and a better RPI. But North Carolina has a better record against the top 20 RPI teams (4-4 vs. 1-5), better average RPI wins and losses, overall record and strength of schedule, and has beaten Denver earlier in the season.
After Denver, the next three teams out are Richmond, Notre Dame, and Duke. But Duke has the best chance to get into the tournament thanks especially to Thursday's game against Virginia.
As for opponents, this was tough. With the selection committee preferring bus travel over air travel (when teams are 400 or more miles away from their opponent), some of the projected first round games are less intriguing than hoped. For example, I would prefer Penn-Ohio State and Jacksonville-Virginia over what is listed. It should be a true 1-18 tournament regardless of travel. But that's for another day.
Get back here next week to see the latest projection as the games start to matter a ton more.