Sunday, April 8, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

It's that time again.  Actually it's a little past that time, but it's a holiday, get off me.

Weekly reminder: This is not a projection, it's "if the season ended today."  So you know.

Let's start by taking a look at the week that was, in the games highlighted last week as likely to have some kind of effect:

-- Villanova 15, Georgetown 7: Villanova's still not in a good position, but Georgetown's loss and then also losing to St. John's means the Hoyas' tourney chances just disappeared.

-- Towson 12, UMBC 11: UMBC kind of blew a chance to make another OOC statement.  They're also not in this week's bracket because they sit tied with Stony Brook for the A-East conference lead, and my tiebreaker for autobids is the LaxPower computer, and for reasons which I don't fully fathom because UMBC is better than Stony Brook in every metric ever, the LP computer likes Stony Brook.  Rules are rules, and so 3-7 Stony Brook has the autobid this week.  That's OK though - guess who UMBC plays this week?

-- Siena 15, Detroit 7: Important because Siena basically grabbed permanent control of the MAAC autobid.  They still have to get through the conference tourney, of course, but unless they lose in that affair, they're now a permanent fixture in bracketology.

-- Loyola 8, Fairfield 6: A tight game, and extremely important for Loyola because UVA is breathing down their neck for the 2 seed.  It's also nice to see Fairfield's tourney hopes can absorb the loss.

-- Massachusetts 14, Towson 3: Not even close.  UMass bumps up another spot thanks to UNC's much softer numbers after their loss, as well as adding a fairly strong opponent to their SOS.  That SOS still isn't the greatest (nor is it even good), but now that UMass has reached 10 games on their schedule they can make a little progress toward improving it.  They have three games left, and while those three games aren't against the world's greatest teams, they'll at least be able to knock Hartford (51st), St. Joe's (45th), and Albany (43rd) off the top ten, which is what counts for SOS.

-- Virginia 15, North Carolina 10: How come we've beaten Carolina nine in a row now, but the only jinx anyone wants to talk about is the Duke one?  Anyway.  UVA actually is second in the raw rankings that I do, but Loyola's RPI is a good 20 points higher and they're still undefeated, so I can't in good conscience give us the #2 seed just yet.  But it's getting awfully close.  If the Hoos can [redacted to appease the lacrosse gods] this Friday, it might be enough, but Loyola has some bullets left in their chamber, too.

-- Colgate 11, Lehigh 10: I said that "things will start to get settled in the Patriot League" last weekend, but thanks to Bucknell's loss to Army, now everyone's 3-1.  Yes, I know it's weird that Lehigh lost and now has the autobid this week, but rules are rules.  This might have been the best outcome for the PL to hold onto two bids as the season continues to unfold; they were never going to get three and Bucknell took a real stomach punch.

Other observations, specifically on the one team whose quest for a berth is becoming the biggest story in bracketology....

-- ....because as you can see, Syracuse did not make it.  It came down to Cuse and Penn State.  And somewhat surprisingly, Penn State won out.  Sure, Syracuse just beat Princeton.  (Which mighta did more damage to Princeton's autobid hopes than help to Syracuse's, to be honest.)  But PSU has a win over Notre Dame, so Syracuse doesn't yet win the battle of who's got a better skin on the wall.  PSU also nudges them out in RPI, as well as the average RPI of their wins.  Syracuse's SOS is the best in the country, but PSU's is close.

(This, by the way, is why I think it's rather likely the tournament will expand by two or four teams next year, or if not next year, soon.  The NEC - a conference of dinky little schools with an average enrollment of about 4,500 - gets an autobid next year, gobbling up another at-large spot.  Syracuse is Syracuse and Penn State is a huge megalith whose main campus enrollment alone is almost twice the enrollment of the whole NEC combined.  PSU is exactly the kind of school where the NCAA wants to expand the sport.  Do you think the NCAA wants a scenario where Bryant's tournament bid comes at the expense of Syracuse and/or Penn State?)

-- Yes, it would suck to have to play Princeton in the first round.  It can't be helped; it's exactly how everything shook out and it's convenient for travel, too.  Princeton wouldn't even be in, believe it or not, if not for the   (One thing I think I've learned from watching the NCAA dole out tourney assignments is that, rather than spread the pain around, they prefer - if they can - to assign as many teams as close as humanly possible and then, if necessary, stick one team with a huge trip.  This is part of the reason this week's bracket has Princeton going to UVA and Colgate going to Duke, instead of vice versa.)

-- Now that Fairfield and UMass have been matched up, I could definitely see them locking together and following each other around the bracket for the next month.  It's the sort of local travel the NCAA likes.

-- It's kind of weird that there isn't an upstate New York host (ahem, Cornell or Syracuse) because that area has a lot of mid-major type teams and a handful of them are always in the conversation every year.  This year (so far, at least) the Colgates and Sienas have to really hit the road.  If Cornell can find its way to the top eight, they'll latch onto Colgate so hard.

OK, so.  Here are the games to be interested in this week:

-- Syracuse at Cornell: If Syracuse wins, they'll probably lock themselves in unless they then collapse and fall below .500.  One thing I didn't take into account this week, but may be forced to in the future, is whatever hidden rule put a 7-7 Hopkins team into the tournament in 2010; a Syracuse team that has beaten Princeton and Cornell would be very, very tough to leave out.

-- Duke at Virginia: I think you probably know the drill.

-- Maryland at Johns Hopkins: The Twerps could really scramble the equation if they won this one.

-- Loyola at Denver: Denver refuses to go away and this big ECAC game in the altitude is a good chance to put some pressure on their fellow bubble teams.  Their remaining schedule - Loyola, Fairfield, Duke - has a combined record of 29-5, and what Denver does over the rest of the season will have a major, major impact on the rest of the bubble.

-- Bucknell at Lehigh: Just because the Bison had a little slip against Army - ok, a huge slip - doesn't make them not dangerous.  They finish their PL season with Lehigh and Colgate and are still a major player in the conference race.

-- Stony Brook at UMBC: The America East is split in half, with three teams at 2-0 and three at 0-2.  These are two of the undefeateds.  The winner probably holds onto the A-East autobid up until at least the conference tournament.

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