Sunday, April 15, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

Things got a little scrambled this week, in large part thanks to Johns Hopkins forgetting how to locate the back of the net and losing to Maryland, and when that happens the confidence level on these brackets always goes down.  Nevertheless, here is this week's effort:
In the initial ranking formula, which I use as a starting point, the top-ranked team was..... Virginia.  We have the 3rd-best RPI, 4th-best strength of schedule, 2nd-best quality-win ranking, have only lost to the #2 and #4 RPI teams - it all combines to put us at the top.  Initially.  Obviously, I can't in good conscience do that.  Loyola is tops in the two most important categories and has to take the #1 slot.  Has to, at this point.

That left Hopkins, Duke, and UVA, and since we lost on home turf to both of them, #4 slot it is.  Duke has an inferior RPI to the Hop but a better SOS and has fared better against common opponents (both lost to Maryland but Duke beat UNC.)

Speaking of Maryland, why are they 8th, and not moving up after beating Hopkins on Saturday?  Good question.  The top four teams, I think, are clear, which leaves the next four as Maryland, UNC, UMass, and Notre Dame.  All but UNC have the exact same RPI.  UMass's schedule still sucks, but I think you have to defer to their undefeatedness - they dominate the quality wins rankings as compare to the other three because of it.  I could see flipping Notre Dame and UMass, they're that damn close.

Then you have UNC and Maryland, and despite UNC's RPI being much lower, they hold up favorably everywhere else and they did kinda beat Maryland.  Next time, don't lose to UMBC.

With autobids and whatnot, that left four at-large spots to award.  Penn State still makes a strong case despite a 7-5 record.  In a mini-ranking comparison among the seven bubble teams, they, Lehigh, and Cornell are in a near dead heat.  For the last spot it comes down to Villanova and Fairfield and, even though I hate the idea that Fairfield is 10-2 and not invited to the party this week, I couldn't twist the numbers to make it work.  It's hard to escape the fact that the best two teams Fairfield has beaten are Bryant and Hofstra.  But with Denver and Ohio State coming up, they're by no means out of the race.

In fact, the truth is that of all the teams that missed the bracket, only three are realistically left in the race: Fairfield, Syracuse, and Denver.  Colgate and Princeton are in on autobids this week and wouldn't have made it without them.  After those three, that's the next two.  The fact that Ohio State is next is the signal that that's where the real bubble cutoff is.  They might be "first four out" but they're not actually a threat here.

Here's what happened in the games to watch from last week:

-- Cornell 12, Syracuse 6: The Cuse is running low on chances.  The only thing keeping them afloat is that one-goal win over Princeton (and Princeton is in on autobid only - they're not strong enough to earn an at-large) plus a bunch of losses to good teams.  They're 6-5 - had they lost to Princeton the other week, they'd now be 5-6 and ineligible for consideration right now.  Their best hope for a tourney bid is either to beat Notre Dame at the end of the year, or to hope that the Lax Mafia espoused by UMass fans really does exist.

-- Duke 13, Virginia 5: Fockin' A.  Let's hope that was our implosion for the year.

-- Maryland 9, Johns Hopkins 6: This could've been a much tidier process for me this week, but Maryland had to go screw it up.

-- Loyola 12, Denver 9: Denver misses a golden opportunity to climb back into the picture.

-- Lehigh 9, Bucknell 8: The Mountain Hawks survive.  I can't honestly say whether they'd be in or out if they'd lost (if I was truly interested in that hypothetical, I could run the numbers and find out, but I'm not interested enough) but they'd definitely be sweating.  They clinch a PL tourney berth and, likely enough, another shot at Colgate.

-- Stony Brook 10, UMBC 8: Like Siena in the MAAC, Stony Brook is now a semi-permanent fixture, displacing UMBC with this road win.

Time to take a look at conference tournaments.  Several teams clinched a spot in theirs this week, and of course in most cases the winner earns the autobid - the only exception is the Big East.  Here's how the conference races are shaping up in the autobid conferences (so, not the ACC or NEC):

America East: Stony Brook and Albany have clinched spots; UMBC can do so with a win this coming weekend.

Big East: Don't care about the conference tourney because the autobid goes to the regular-season champ.  That's likely to be the winner of this week's Notre Dame-Villanova game.

Colonial: UMass is obviously the heavy favorite, has clinched a spot, and only has Penn State as a proper challenger.

ECAC: The field is all but set; it'll be some combination of Loyola and Fairfield, which have clinched a bid, and Denver and Ohio State, presuming OSU beats Air Force this weekend.  This conference tourney will be awfully interesting from a bracketology standpoint.

Ivy: The whole league probably comes down to Princeton and Cornell (as usual) who have already earned themselves a spot.  Princeton likely gets two shots at Cornell (one regular season, one tourney) and probably has to beat them at least once in order to be a factor for the NCAAs.

MAAC: Siena is in, and nothing else is guaranteed but it's likely to be them vs. Jacksonville and Detroit vs. Marist.  The only thing that matters in this obvious one-bid league is who hoists the trophy at the end.

Patriot: The entire field is set here.  It's just a question of order; either Lehigh or Colgate will get the #1 seed and either Bucknell or Army will take #3.  A Lehigh-Colgate rematch in the final is a must for anyone rooting for the PL to be a two-bid league.  Bucknell and Army need autobids, but they're just dangerous enough to make it happen.

Now for this week's games to watch:

-- The whole ACC tournament: It's that time.  I would guess that all four teams are very, very likely to host a first-round game regardless of the outcome, but they all have a chance to better their seeds with a win on Friday.

-- Colgate at Bucknell: Can Bucknell salvage any at-large consideration with a win?  I doubt it.  But Colgate can't really afford to lose, and PL tourney seeding is at stake.  The whole PL tourney will have major bracketology implications, so jockeying for position there is important.

-- Denver at Fairfield: Neither of these teams made it into the bracket this week, but both are almighty close.  This is an absolute must-win for both, as it's likely an elimination game for at-large consideration.

-- Georgetown at Syracuse: I really don't think Georgetown is good enough to go into the Dome and steal a win.  But then, I really thought Syracuse would be just fine this season.  They better not lose this one; if they do, they'll probably finish the season 7-7, meaning a first-round loss in the Big East tournament would seal their fate - sub-.500 teams are automatically excluded.

-- Notre Dame at Villanova: If Villanova wins, they clinch the Big East regular season title - and thus, the NCAA tourney autobid.  The Irish can clinch this week if they win and Syracuse loses to Georgetown.

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