- Chris Jastrzembski
2023 College Lacrosse Bracketology 5.0: "Just win, baby"
We've played 440 of 510 regular season games so far, roughly 86.3%. There's 70 regular season games left before Selection Sunday. And the all important conference tournaments which begin next weekend with the Big Ten Quarterfinals.
There's five nonconference games left. UAlbany plays in two of them against Yale and Penn, teams that can't afford a slip up this late in the season.
Everything else is conference play until the NCAA Tournament. As Al Davis once said, "just win, baby." That's the best advice I can give to teams at this stage in the season.
Another solid week of games featuring plenty of rivalries. Rutgers-Penn State? You got it. Ohio State-Michigan? That'll happen. Syracuse-Virginia? Absolutely.
Johns Hopkins-Maryland at 6 PM on Saturday? Oh baby that'll be fun. Army Navy at 7 PM on Saturday? What a beautiful way to end a sol-wait what? Two huge rivalry games are being played at the same time? We can't have this next year.
It's tough to predict what games in April are going to be excellent in January. But you have an idea of what the rivalries and historic matchups are. The more high quality lacrosse people can watch, especially casual fans who will watch games on TV, the better. After Syracuse-Virginia finishes at 4:15 PM ET (TV games always go over two hours let's be honest), there's nothing notable until 6 PM ET. Heck, one of the games could've started at 8 PM. There's a lot of factors to consider as well, such as TV network availability and athletic department staffing. But we shouldn't have to deal with this again next year. Rant over.
Back to the original point of the post, Bracketology. We did see the Selection Committee's Top 10 enter last weekend's slate, with RPI rankings in parenthesis:
Notre Dame (1)
Penn State (7)
Johns Hopkins (4)
Army West Point (19)
Since 2013 when considering just the top eight seeds, the difference between seed and RPI has be at the most around two or three spots. There's been a couple of outliers since then:
2013 Duke (7 seed, 12 in RPI) - won national championship
2017 UAlbany (8 seed, 3 in RPI) - lost in quarterfinals
Everything looks to be continuing the trend until you see Army's ranking and RPI, which is a difference of 11 spots. The difference in RPI between Duke (7) and Harvard (15) last year was eight spots. Unlike what we see with the College Football Playoff rankings reveals, we don't get to hear from chairman Brandon Macneill of Denver.
We'll get their final rankings again this weekend. Just like last weekend, the rankings you'll see will be entering this recent slate of games.
Congratulations to the following teams who have clinched spots in their respective conference tournaments with new teams in bold:
America East (1 spot remaining): Binghamton, Bryant, Vermont - UAlbany can clinch a spot with a win vs. Merrimack
ASUN (4 spots remaining): Jacksonville, Utah
CAA (3 spots remaining): Delaware
Ivy League (3 spots remaining): Princeton
MAAC (4 spots remaining): Manhattan, Mount St. Mary's
Patriot League (2 spots remaining): Army West Point, Boston University, Lehigh, Navy
Still waiting on teams from the Atlantic 10 and Big East to start clinching, and it could begin this weekend.
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. The latter will change next season however, but the tournament winner won't have an AQ.
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.
The flip flop of the top team in RPI continues, this time Duke is back atop with Notre Dame idle this past week.
Automatic Qualifiers 5.0
We'll give the conference AQ to the first 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 21).
AQ Changes: Vermont takes over the America East AQ from Bryant, Mount St. Mary's takes over the MAAC AQ from Manhattan
At-Large Candidates 5.0
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.
"So you're saying there's a chance?"
Rising up the RPI rankings is Syracuse, who comes in at 18. They got a huge win over the weekend against North Carolina, and paired with Vermont's win over Bryant now have two top 15 wins.
Shoutout to Lacrosse Reference for this what I'll call an RPI projection tool. Syracuse has Virginia and Duke remaining in the regular season, both on the road. They're hefty challenges to win both games, let alone one of those contests. But it's possible. Anything is possible.
If Syracuse wants a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, they're going to have to beat both Virginia and Duke to end the season. Just calculating those games as wins (and no other result from the other games going on), the Orange would have an RPI ranking of 11. Duke and Virginia would stand as top five wins.
Again, there will be other factors in play that will play a role in RPI and SOS rankings. But the most important part of this is Syracuse winning the rest of the way.
Bracketology Prediction 5.0
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 Three In: Penn, Yale, Denver First Four Out: North Carolina, Rutgers, Villanova, Syracuse
Extended the last teams in to three instead of two. I think everyone up to Penn State is safely in. Penn is next up, a little bit safer than calling them a "bubble in."
Then it came down to Denver, Yale, North Carolina, and Rutgers. Unless Syracuse makes a wild run, I expect this to be the bubble for the final two at-large spots. The latter two's stocks are falling with some recent losses and no good wins. UNC can get on the board with two opportunities against Notre Dame before the regular season concludes. Rutgers has Penn State this weekend before the Big Ten Tournament. Those would qualify as better wins than what Denver and Yale have, even Penn.