- Chris Jastrzembski
2023 College Lacrosse Bracketology 6.0: Down the stretch they come
Updated: Apr 29
We've played 480 of 510 regular season games so far, roughly 94.1%. There's 30 regular season games left before Selection Sunday, with 28 of them coming this weekend.
But conference tournaments officially begin this Saturday with the Big Ten and MAAC. And that is do or die time for plenty of programs
44 teams are currently at or over .500, the minimum winning percentage needed to be under consideration for an at-large spot. But most of those 44 won't get at-large bids.
That's where the conference tournaments come in, which every conference but the ACC has. 50 teams are still mathematically alive. Including the Big Ten and MAAC fields, which will shrink by two teams each by the end of Saturday, 44 teams will have qualified for their respective conference tournament.
5 conferences still have spots to be claimed. First, the conferences that have their fields set, beginning with the pair of conferences getting the festivities started on Saturday:
Mount St. Mary's
Patriot League (STANDINGS UPDATED AFTER FRIDAY'S GAMES)
Army West Point
The America East and Atlantic 10 have their fields set, but seeding isn't finalized:
Atlantic 10 (STANDINGS UPDATED AFTER FRIDAY'S GAMES)
Saint Joseph's (4-0)
High Point (2-2)
And finally, the conferences that still have spots up for grabs, along with clinching scenarios for each. Teams in bold have clinched spots:
Ivy League (1 spot available)
Yale and Harvard play each other this weekend. Win and in, loser goes home. Cornell and Princeton also play each other for the regular season title and the top seed in the Ivy League Tournament.
Big East (1 spot available) (STANDINGS UPDATED AFTER FRIDAY'S GAMES)
St. John's (0-4)
Providence plays St. John's, while Denver plays Marquette. A Friars win gives them the final spot in the conference tournament. Despite the loss, Marquette is somehow still alive, but they'd need St. John's to beat Providence.
That would put all three teams at 1-4 in the conference. They'd also be 1-1 against each other in their three team "mini-conference" and would have not defeated Georgetown, Denver, or Villanova.
It then goes to goal differential in the "mini-conference." The maximum goal differential in a game is seven goals. Marquette's goal differential is +5 (-2 vs. Providence, +7 vs. St. John's), Providence's is currently at +2, and St. John's is at -7. So for the Red Storm to make the postseason tournament, they'd need to beat Providence by at least five goals . They have a chance, but a slim one.
ASUN (1 spot available)
Air Force (6-2)
Robert Morris (4-4)
Cleveland State (3-5)
Despite being below Mercer, Robert Morris does have a spot locked up in the ASUN Tournament thanks to their head-to-head win over Cleveland State. But they can play a role in Mercer's tournament fate.
Mercer visits Lindenwood and Cleveland State takes on Detroit Mercy. Robert Morris visits Air Force. A win by Mercer or a Cleveland State loss and the Bears are in the ASUN Tournament. If Mercer loses and Cleveland State and Robert Morris win, the Bears are out.
But if Mercer and Robert Morris both lose and Cleveland State wins, all three of those teams would be tied with a 4-5 conference record and 1-1 against each other. The next tiebreaker comes down to record against teams higher in the conference standings. The first difference comes at Bellarmine. Since Mercer and Robert Morris defeated the Knights, those two teams are in and Cleveland State is out.
Many thanks to Eric Hunt over at the ASUN for sending along the tiebreaker breakdown. The ASUN coaches adopted the Patriot League's tiebreaker system.
CAA (2 spots available)
Stony Brook (4-2)
Stony Brook faces Hofstra while Towson faces Delaware. Stony Brook win means they and Towson move on. A Towson win would also give the Tigers a berth in the conference tournament.
What if Hofstra wins and Towson loses? Another three-team scenario with the same conference record and the same record against each other. So then we compare their records to Delaware, which will be undefeated, and Drexel. Hofstra was the only team in that trio to beat the Dragons, meaning they would get in. Stony Brook would then take the final spot with their head-to-head win over Towson.
So that's that. Despite what was stated in the IMLCA handout back in December, we did not see an updated top 10 from the committee this past weekend. We did have rankings at the three week mark to Selection Sunday.
New rankings potentially being released this weekend or even next weekend remains TBD. But it is a disappointment we might get just one committee ranking.
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 number one overall seed.
Automatic Qualifiers 6.0
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 (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 28).
AQ Changes: Penn State takes over the Big Ten AQ from Johns Hopkins, Manhattan takes over the MAAC AQ from Mount St. Mary's
At-Large Candidates 6.0
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 more than likely come from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and the Ivy League.
With only a handful of games for most teams left, teams are starting to lock up spots. As of now, I have the following teams as virtual locks, going in alphabetical order:
Cornell (Ivy League)
Johns Hopkins (Big Ten)
Maryland (Big Ten)
Notre Dame (ACC)
Penn State (Big Ten)
If everything goes to plan (it never does), two of those teams should receive their conference's automatic qualifier. If it does go to plan (again, it never does), there's three more at-large spots open.
I feel like Georgetown is "safely in" for now, but not calling them a lock just yet. A win over Villanova I think will elevate them to the "virtual lock" list.
Then we get to the bubble, which goes as follows:
Denver (Big East)
North Carolina (ACC)
Penn (Ivy League)
Rutgers (Big Ten)
Villanova (Big East)
Yale (Ivy League)
North Carolina plays Notre Dame one more time in their regular season finale. They're on life support right now and even a win might not be enough for them.
Rutgers and Yale don't have any top 10 wins in the bubble group listed. But Yale has a pair of top 15 wins and Rutgers has just one. The Scarlet Knights however are the only team with multiple losses to teams below 21 in RPI. They're going to need to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament.
So that leaves Denver, Penn, Villanova, and Yale in favorable positioning.
Bracketology Prediction 6.0
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 Three Out: Villanova, North Carolina, Rutgers
The last three in doesn't change from last week. Meanwhile, the first teams out is trimmed from four to three.
I think Villanova still has the best shot of an at-large out of teams on the wrong side of the bubble. They'll get a shot at Georgetown this weekend and more than likely another shot at Denver (and maybe Georgetown again) in the Big East Tournament. And they should compete pretty well in their remaining games.
There's a chance Yale doesn't make the Ivy League Tournament if they lose to Harvard this weekend. They do have a head-to-head win over Villanova which helps their case. But Villanova has a pair of top 10 wins compared to none by Yale.
One More Thing
Wanted to leave on this note regarding the automatic qualifiers. There was some discussion on getting the "best" teams in vs. the "most deserving" teams.
It's fairly simple: The AQ is pivotal for the growth of the sport. Sure that will mean the field isn't as strong as it would if you make it the top 16 teams in the country. But the elimination of the AQ would make the majority of Division I lacrosse programs worthless. Programs spanning from Bryant, Jacksonville, and Utah to those like Bellarmine, Hampton, and Mercer would have no reason to compete outside of winning a conference championship. It would mean something, but it would also mean a lot for them and their school to be a part of an NCAA Tournament, no matter the sport.
The smaller, non-FBS programs are how I got to really know the college lacrosse landscape. More is better, and we want to see more programs whether it's from the FBS schools or FCS and non-football schools. And AQs are important to have that growth.