Sunday, March 18, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

Rest assured, I'll have a very depressing weekend review tomorrow, and then we can all commiserate about this lousy weekend.  St. Patrick's weekend, too.  Pfeh.  For now, it's Sunday and we're halfway through the lacrosse season, so it's time to fire up the bracketology engine.  Without any further ado, here is the tourney bracket as I see it now:

Do keep in mind that this isn't a projection; like the ones done by the pros, it measures things as they stand now.  So, some methodology points:

-- Conference autobids are given to the team currently leading the conference; again, not who I think will eventually win it.  In the event of a tie, which is the case in most conferences right now since it's so early, I gave the autobid to the team with the highest LaxPower computer ranking; it's the fastest way to ensure the best team is in.  (Hopefully.)

-- Last-four-in and first-four-out are listed in order.  That may not be reflected on the bracket, however, because of how the committee fudges for travel.  For example, Fairfield ranks ahead of Robert Morris, but it makes more geographical sense to send Robert Morris to Notre Dame.

And now, the part where I explain myself and what the hell I'm thinking:

-- There must be some mistake, really.  Syracuse isn't hosting, and Cornell and UNC are out entirely.  What gives?  Well, Cornell is the easiest to explain: right now they've got four wins over crappy teams and a loss to UVA.  They'll have some chances to put some stars on their poster, and I expect that they will.  Don't look for them to be in Hokieland, just outside the bracket, as the season goes on.

As for UNC, they literally are the first team out with Villanova the last team in, and it's really close.  I decided that, for now, Nova's 2-1 record against their common opponents trumps UNC's 1-2, and UNC has more fluff on the resume than Nova.  Syracuse is in what we sports fans call a "rebuilding year," and has a resume similar to Cornell's only a little better.  In fact they're too high at the 10 seed right now; that's for travel purposes since Colgate is a short bus ride away.  I might not even have them in there, but the numbers all but demand it, and they're the same numbers the NCAA uses (RPI and whatnot) so there they are.  Like Cornell, they too will have a chance to boost themselves, but unlike Cornell, I'm less confident in their ability to do so.  I would be surprised, but not completely shocked, if their best win on the season ends up being Villanova (which they play next Sunday.)

-- A lot of "fan darlings" in the bracket, notably the rather impressive Loyola, plus UMass, Colgate, RMU, and Fairfield.  What are their chances of making it to the final bracket?  Variable.  RMU comes from a conference without an autobid (wait til next year) and has yet to add that mostly terrible conference to their RPI, so they're probably on the most precarious ledge.  It may be that they have to win out, and then create a conundrum for the committee: take 12-2 RMU, or an underachieving high-major?

One "fan darling" team is missing: Lehigh.  Even though they're 7-1 with that win over UNC, most of the rest of that record is full of wins over miserable teams: Manhattan, VMI, Penn (which is 1-4), and the like.  The numbers just don't allow it; their SOS and RPI are way too low.  We'll see how the Patriot League schedule treats them.  They've got a good defense and may have staying power if they can knock off Colgate later on.

-- I don't like having the UMBC/Maryland rematch in the #2/#15 game, but Siena's profile so obviously screams #16 that it's impossible to put them anywhere else.  The MAAC is less MAAC-y this year, but there's still work to do.  (Although if it hadn't been for UMBC's win over Maryland, the MAAC would leapfrog the A-East in the tourney hierarchy here.  With Stony Brook coming back to earth, the A-East is basically terrible this year, UMBC being the lone exception so far.)

-- And finally, UVA at #4; that's pretty good considering the best parts of our SOS are yet to come.   Unless we do a whole bunch of losing, #4 may be the lowest seed you'll see.  The #1 seed may well be in the future.

Here are the games this week to watch; the ones that'll have an effect on bracketology going forward:

-- Cornell vs. Denver: DU's spot isn't exactly rock-solid, and of course Cornell has work to do.  This is a really, really big one for both teams.

-- Lehigh at Penn State: The Mountain Hawks get a chance to leapfrog a few teams here and get closer to at-large consideration.

-- Robert Morris at Bucknell: Bucknell is not bad, not great....and the best team left on RMU's schedule.  Morris needs this one to stay in any kind of tourney contention, because the NEC doesn't have an autobid til 2013, and their next five games are against losing teams.

-- Notre Dame at Ohio State: OSU is on the very outer fringes of tourney contention, and needs a lot to go right to get in the game.  Lose this and we'll probably never speak their name again.

-- Georgetown at Loyola: Georgetown can earn a signature win here.

-- Duke at Georgetown: Or here.

-- Maryland at North Carolina: UNC needs this one more than Maryland does; they'll fall to 0-2 in the ACC with a loss.

-- Johns Hopkins at Virginia: Believe it or not, this could be the game that wraps up the #1 seed for the winner.  Both have challenges that lie afterwards, but this will be #1 vs. #2 and there aren't many better teams in the country than either.

-- Loyola at UMBC: Is UMBC for really real?  They did beat Maryland, and their three losses are to tournament teams.  Let's give them another test here and see what happens.

-- Villanova at Syracuse: "Bubble" is a funny word to use where Syracuse is concerned, but that's where they'll find themselves if they lose this one.

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