Sunday, April 22, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

I'm still trying to decide which of my regular features was the victim of more carnage this weekend: bracketology or the recruiting board.  We'll figure out the latter on Wednesday.  For now, here's the result of this weekend's lacrosse action, or in the case of some teams (coughHopkinscough) the lack thereof:

You know why the ACC holds a tournament?  So that what happened to Duke and UNC happen every year.  Duke was catapulted to a huge lead in the raw rankings thanks to successive wins over Maryland and UNC on one weekend, but they have one problem.  Actually they have three problems, which are the losses on their record, one of which just happens to be to Loyola.  So the Greyhounds hold on to the top seed, and Duke stays at #2, where they were last week.

So: the carnage.  Mostly to Johns Hopkins and Cornell, which lost to Navy and Brown, respectively.  (Thanks, guys!  We don't, like, need your numbers to be good or anything!)  It's as much those losses as our own that dropped UVA a seed to #5.  Cornell got booted from the bracket altogether, though; the Ivy is now a one-bid league.  And the winner of Cornell and Princeton next weekend is gonna get it, that is until the Ivy tournament when Dartmouth will probably steal it despite being ineligible.  That's the kind of thing the Ivy has been doing to itself this year.

Hopkins, meanwhile, plummets all the way to a very deserving 8th, from the 3rd seed they so comfortably occupied last week.  Combination of their loss, Syracuse's loss, and the only ACC team they didn't play also being the only one not to pick up a loss this weekend.

All this carnage opened the door for a few teams.  Colgate lost its autobid because the LaxPower computers went whirrr buzz beep and spit them out a couple hundredths of a point below Lehigh (rules are rules), and it didn't matter - they're strong enough now to stand on their own.  Fairfield knocked off Denver and took advantage of Cornell's bedwetting and they're back to the on phase of a very on-and-off relationship with the bracket.  Because of geography I expect they'll follow UMass around the bracket like a lost puppy.

Note now that Notre Dame is the first team to lock themselves down an autobid.  Syracuse's loss to Georgetown means that the worst that can happen to ND is to finish in a tie with Villanova, which, obviously, they just beat.  The rest of the autobids are determined by the conference tournaments.

Here are the games that mattered last week (not counting the big upsets) and what happened:

-- Duke 6, Maryland 5
-- North Carolina 11, Virginia 9
-- Duke 12, North Carolina 9: Probably the biggest change as a result of the ACC tourney is UNC's jump from #7 to #3.  Second-biggest: Duke being a real threat to steal the #1 seed from Loyola, which could happen if Loyola stumbles.

-- Colgate 11, Bucknell 10: The Patriot League now looks like a solid two-bid league thanks to Colgate winning this game.  If Lehigh and Colgate meet in the PL tourney final, it probably cements two-bid status.

-- Fairfield 9, Denver 8: Either way, the winner of this overtime game was going to be the beneficiary of Cornell's screwup.  Don't totally sleep on Denver; they're still not that far off the pace, and they have a game against Duke next weekend and then will face Loyola in the opening round of the ECAC tourney.

-- Georgetown 10, Syracuse 8: Syracuse has the fourth-highest SOS in the country (top-10 games only, which is the NCAA's criterion) and if the committee uses that as an excuse to put them in the tourney, it'll be grounds for burning down their headquarters.  We may not get that far; if Cuse loses their next two (Notre Dame and Villanova) they'll be 7-8 and ineligible.

-- Notre Dame 10, Villanova 7: As mentioned, ND locked up the autobid thanks to this win and Syracuse's loss.  The BE tourney is now set even though there are games left to play: ND vs. St. John's, and Nova/Cuse.

And now, the games to watch next week as we approach the stretch run:

-- Patriot League tournament: It's Colgate/Bucknell and Lehigh/Army.  A win by the favorites in the first round (Colgate and Lehigh) would probably give them all the ammo they need to make the PL a two-bid league.

-- Duke at Denver: I said don't sleep on Denver, and I meant it.  They have two huge opportunities, and a win in either one would make Villanova and the PL loser sweat bullets.  They're right in the mix.  Cornell is the "first team out" but that's based on results so far - of all the teams not in the bracket of 16, it's Denver that has the best shot at getting in at-large.  They have to beat some pretty boss teams to do it, though.

-- Ohio State at Fairfield: It'd be interesting to see what OSU could do with a win here - of course the Michigan fan in me has no interest in finding out.  My guess is that I don't think it'd be enough to steal anyone's bid - OSU still needs the ECAC autobid to get in.  Anyway, this is only a prelude, because the ECAC first round will simply be a rematch of this game.

-- Johns Hopkins at Loyola: Just like Maryland scrambled the mix by beating Hopkins, Hopkins can do the same here.

-- Cornell at Princeton: I'm not even sure it matters any more.  The two teams are likely to meet again in the Ivy finals, the autobid going to the winner and the loser sitting home.  That said, the winner at least gets the right to occupy the autobid in next week's bracketology.

The conference tournaments are just about set.  Here's how they sit for now:

-- America East: Worst league in the land this year; they got leapfrogged by the MAAC now that Stony Brook is a mere mortal again.  It's UMBC, Stony Brook, and Albany all sitting at 3-1, and the winner of Hartford and Vermont next weekend earning the fourth spot.  The winner of this tourney could be anyone, frankly, and whoever it is will play the NCAA's #1 seed, because they're all terrible.

-- Colonial: The CAA is the story of UMass and the six dwarves, although truth be told Penn State has emerged as a solid #2.  UMass needs to be careful because they've played with fire the last two weeks - winning by two over Drexel and one over Hofstra.  Still, they're the conference #1 seed and the obvious favorite.  Should be a two-bid league, with Drexel and probably Towson trying to play spoiler in the conference tourney.

-- ECAC: Also a possible-to-likely two-bid league, but probably with a much tougher conference tourney.  Loyola/Denver and Fairfield/OSU are the matchups.

-- Ivy League: Just one bid for the Ivy now that Brown has finished off any hopes Cornell had of getting an at-large bid.  Princeton was well behind Cornell in the pecking order last week but nosed just ahead this week.  Yale, Brown, and Harvard are in the running for the 3 and 4 seeds, and let's not doubt that any one of them could play spoiler to the favorites.

-- MAAC: One-bid league with Siena playing Jacksonville and Marist playing Detroit for the autobid, and a likely matchup against the NCAA #2 seed.  Siena is the heavy favorite.

-- Patriot: Colgate drew Bucknell and Lehigh drew Army in the only tournament being played between now and next week's bracketology.  As I've said - if Colgate and Lehigh win their first-round matchups, they're probably in the tourney.  But they're not easy matchups.

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