- Chris Jastrzembski
2023 College Lacrosse Bracketology 4.0: What will the committee think?
We've played 401 of 510 regular season games so far, roughly 78.6%. We are two weeks away from the start of conference tournaments with the Big Ten quarterfinals.
But don't look ahead too far, we've still got plenty of important games on tap highlighted by a nonconference matchup between Cornell and Army West Point. Loyola-BU, Virginia-Duke, Penn-Harvard, Brown-Yale, Ohio State-Johns Hopkins, Delaware-Stony Brook, Georgetown-Marquette, Bryant-Vermont, Syracuse-North Carolina (in Maryland), Penn State-Michigan, and Maryland-Rutgers are also being played on an extremely important Saturday.
We should also expect the selection committee's first top 10 of the season this weekend. We'll get another one next weekend. Remember, the rankings you'll see this weekend will be entering this recent slate of games. It will also give some guidance as to what the committee is thinking.
And congratulations to the following teams who have clinched spots in their respective conference tournaments:
ASUN: Jacksonville, Utah
MAAC: Manhattan, Mount St. Mary's
Patriot League: Army West Point
Take a look at what I forecasted last week to compare with what you're about to see. And as a reminder to check out the primer I wrote back in March.
Nine out of the 10 Division I men's lacrosse conferences have automatic qualification status, down from 10 AQ conferences last season. Due to having fewer than the minimum six teams, the ACC does not have an AQ and also does not have a conference tournament.
We'll also return to one preliminary round game between the two lowest-ranked, automatic qualifying teams as determined by the Division I National Committee, regardless of conference RPI. The winner will take on the #1 overall seed.
After falling to number two in RPI last week, Notre Dame is back atop the RPI ranks. Meanwhile, a Big Ten team now has the toughest strength of schedule.
Automatic Qualifiers 4.0
Since each team has played in at least two conference games, we'll now give the conference AQ to the 1st place team in each qualified conference. If we have a tie and tiebreakers cannot be used (mainly because the teams involved haven't played each other yet), the team with the better RPI will take the AQ. RPI and Strength of Schedule data comes courtesy of Lacrosse Reference (all data entering April 14).
AQ Changes: Saint Joseph's takes over the Atlantic 10 AQ from UMass
At-Large Candidates 4.0
Eight more teams will be picked to join the nine automatic qualifiers. Those teams must have a record of .500 or better. Those eight teams will probably come all from the ACC, Big Ten, and the Ivy League. The Big East could also get an at-large bid.
Last Saturday wasn't a great day for the Ivy League. Princeton lost to Syracuse in a non-conference tilt while Cornell lost to Harvard and Penn lost to Brown. Cornell entered the weekend ranked third in RPI but are now in sixth, which is still good. Meanwhile Penn, who was at 16 a couple weeks ago before rising up to seven, dropped back down to 13. The Quakers, now 4-5, are also below .500, making them ineligible for at-large selection into the NCAA Tournament. The same applies to 5-6 Ohio State.
What a jump in RPI for Penn this weekend. Previously at 16, the win over Yale vaulted them to seventh in the metric. The Quakers now have the toughest strength of schedule in the country. And despite losing to Johns Hopkins, Rutgers moved from 14th in RPI to 11.
Bracketology Prediction 4.0
Before unveiling this week's prediction, here's the selection criteria directly from the Pre-Championship manual:
Eligibility and availability of student-athletes for NCAA championship
Win-loss record (must be at least .500 and have played at least 10 games against Division I opponents)
Results of the RPI:
Record against ranked teams 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20; 21+
Average RPI win (average RPI of all wins)
Average RPI loss (average RPI of all losses)
Results versus common opponents
Significant wins and losses (wins against teams ranked higher in the RPI and losses against teams ranked lower in the RPI)
Locations of contests
Additionally, input is provided by the regional advisory committee for consideration by the Division I Men’s Lacrosse Committee. Coaches’ polls and/or any other outside polls or rankings are not used by the committee for selection purposes.
For another week, here we go...
Last Two In: Yale, Denver First Four Out: Rutgers, Villanova, Michigan, Loyola
The first four out does not include Ohio State and Penn, since their under .500 records make them ineligible for an at-large selection. If they were at .500 or better, they'd be right in the conversation for being one of the last two in.
This week, the last team in was down to Denver and Rutgers. Yale is the second-to-last team in after looking at their average RPI wins and having the head-to-head win over Denver.
As for Denver and Rutgers, it comes down to wins once again. Despite having the worst loss of the trio mentioned (Air Force with an RPI of 32), Denver has three wins inside the top 15 and one inside the top 10. Rutgers has none in either grouping. Good news for the Scarlet Knights, they've got Maryland and Penn State in their two final regular season contests. Plus the Big Ten Tournament, but they do have to rack up wins. Denver's final three regular season opponents have RPIs below 35.
Loyola will have the two best wins out of anybody in the group of potential at-larges. And they're both in the top five! But they've also got the worst loss of the group, coming against Navy (RPI of 42) last Friday night at home. Similar to High Point in 2019, I don't think the two really good wins helps them anymore. Just don't lose to teams you shouldn't lose to, and especially don't lose to them at home. That inconsistency hurts. They've got BU this weekend before a huge midweek game against Georgetown. A win will help either team, while a loss would essentially end any hopes of an at-large bid.
I was hoping that this would become a true 1-17 bracketed tournament. But with the 400-mile rule, it altered that with Bryant and Army. If Bryant were to go to College Park and take on the Terrapins, it's just over 400 miles. But swapping that with Hopkins, it saves over 20 miles and gets them to below 400.
A Final Thought
I saw this from Griffin Spotz who quote-tweeted my media top 20 ballot:
I heavily disagree that the depth is there in the men's game. It was tough for me to rank 11-20 this week and it did involve about 17-20 teams. Villanova isn't even in the next up category for example!
It's fair to say that there is parity in the sport, and that's a good thing. But in terms of teams that could win it all, it really hasn't changed for quite some time. Definitely unlike what we saw in college basketball this past season.
Also, plead for schools to add lacrosse and their conferences to sponsor the sport. That will expand the field once again.