Sunday, April 7, 2013

lacrosse bracketology

Presenting this week's effort.  I thought things fell into place reasonably nicely this week, which generally means they'll go haywire again next time.

This week, Notre Dame is a mostly clearcut #1, and Denver a mostly clearcut #2.  ND's win over Denver, of course, is an obvious clincher, but they're close to very close in all metrics but one: average RPI of losses.  The Irish have taken a hit in that respect with Hofstra's collapse and St. John's upset loss to Georgetown.  What does it mean, really?  That in trying to keep the #1 seed, ND's margin for error will be slim.

After that, you have a 3-4-5 of Maryland, Penn, and Duke, made much easier by the head-to-head results.  UNC nudges out Penn State and Cornell for 6th, and PSU and Cornell fortunately have a common opponent: Bucknell.  Which beat Cornell and lost to PSU, making another decision fairly easy.  With one fewer bid thief in the bracket (Drexel), the effects of PSU's win over Bucknell is starting to show through.

Bucknell is an interesting case, by the way.  With strong wins over Cornell, Albany, and Drexel, they should have a strong case for an at-large bid should they stumble in the PL tourney.  But when the committee looks at their numbers, their SOS is badly watered-down because the rest of their wins are all against terrible teams.  That could spell trouble.  (As could a bad loss to Mount St. Mary's.)  Fortunately for them, they haven't played the good teams in the PL yet.  Right now I have them a fair distance outside an at-large bid, but wins the next two weeks could move them up the ladder quickly.

There's a pretty bright line, for now, between Ohio State, the last team in, and Syracuse, the first out.  With a game against Cornell looming this week, Syracuse could close the gap in a hurry.  For now, bringing in OSU and Princeton and leaving the Cuse out is the obvious decision.

The other thing that should help Syracuse: Villanova's eventual fall from grace.  Of course, Nova's win over Syracuse is why they and not Cuse have the autobid right now in the first place.  You have to figure that the Big East will really come down to Notre Dame and Syracuse, and even if ND wins it that'll open a place for Cuse's at-large hopes.

This is a good time as well to take a look at the autobid status of each conference, since we're (very) roughly midway through conference play.

America East: It doesn't look as though there'll be much resistance to Albany's autobid.  The downside for the Danes is that they sit a ways outside at-large status right now and probably don't have the schedule to muster a case should they falter in the A-East tourney.  One-bid league, with that bid very likely to go to Albany.

Big East: Looks like a five-team race for four conference tourney spots, with a sixth team - Providence - having a chance or two to play spoiler.  Two spots will probably go to Notre Dame and Syracuse, leaving St. John's, Georgetown, and Villanova to fight over the final two.  The Johnnies had a disastrous loss to Georgetown this week, but also have a good chance to finish strong at 4-2.  A probable two-bid league (Cuse and ND) with one being a possibility and three not being totally out of the question.

CAA: One of the really interesting races of the year that could have a ripple effect on the rest of the field.  The top four is all but decided: barring a cataclysmic upset somewhere, it'll be Towson, Penn State, Drexel, and Hofstra in some order.  Any could win the CAA tourney - Towson to a lesser degree, but it wouldn't be a total shocker.  If it's anyone but Penn State, though, they will shove someone out of the field, because only PSU has the chops for an at-large.  Penn State has to keep on working hard as well, to make sure they themselves are not the bid thief's victim.  One-bid league if it's Penn State, likely two if the champion is anyone else.

ECAC: Loyola has clinched a tourney spot, and Denver hasn't officially but they might as well have, as they're 4-0 without the benefit of having played woeful Michigan.  Fairfield, Ohio State, and Bellarmine are the main contenders for the final spot, with Bellarmine having a little bit of an inside track.  Only Denver, however, is safely in the NCAA field, with OSU and Loyola working on good cases for at-large inclusion.  If any of those three win the ECAC tournament, which is most likely, it won't upset the national picture much.  If Bellarmine's stingy defense carries them to an autobid (and they can't get in without one) they'll probably just replace one of their conference mates, although it would also make Syracuse rather nervous.  One safe bid with two more pending.

Ivy: I have three of their teams currently in the field, but truth is, none of them should feel 100% comfortable.  Not even Penn.  It looks like a three-team race for the conference title, but Yale could sneak in, too.  The good news for the Ivies is that it's the ECAC teams and Syracuse who are most at risk of losing a spot to a surprise autobid; a Yale win in the Ivy tourney could well mean four Ivy teams in the field.  Likely three bids, however.

MAAC: Jax and Marist have separated from the pack, with their impending game this week being the decider of who at least gets to occupy the autobid spot in bracketology.  Conference tourney will probably include Siena and Detroit as well.  Even if Jacksonville doesn't win it this year, they have a big leg up on their future Atlantic Sun conference-mates, two of which don't exist yet.  Obvious one-bid league.

NEC: This isn't last year where we were saying "man, a couple teams could really compete if they just had an autobid, which they don't."  Now they have an autobid and nobody that can compete.  The two undefeated teams in conference play are 3-8 and 2-8 overall, which says all that needs to be said.  One-bid league whose champion is cruising for a trip to the #1 seed and a quick 15-3 exit.

Patriot: Bucknell appears to be the obvious class of the league, but hasn't played either Lehigh or Colgate.  Even though two tourney spots are clinched (Bucknell and Lehigh) and the autobid will probably come down to them, the intrigue is really yet to come.  We need to find out if Bucknell can earn an at-large if they need it.  One-bid league with a chance of two, if Bucknell can earn and then sustain at-large qualifications and then loses in the championship game.

Last week's games of note:

-- Penn State 13, Drexel 6: Drexel as usual is one of those teams that's good enough to give you a nice boost for beating them and not quite there in making the tournament themselves.  Penn State is the latest beneficiary.

-- North Carolina 10, Virginia 7: Pop.

-- Syracuse 13, Princeton 12: Cuse would probably be in a world of hurt if they hadn't gotten this one.  Really, their first marquee win of the year.  They need more, but this is a good foundation.

And next week's:

-- Cornell at Syracuse: Syracuse still has work to do, and if they win it'll muddy up the waters on the bubble a little bit,

-- Lehigh at Bucknell: Patriot League showdown.  Lehigh is pretty low on the pecking order but, like Drexel, would give Bucknell a solid boost if they won.  The PL itself won't be settled til the tourney.

-- Denver at Loyola: Loyola didn't start out as a major contender but has been clawing its way up the ladder - but are still hanging by a thread if they don't win the autobid.  Obviously this would be a marquee win if they could get it.

-- Johns Hopkins at Maryland: Interesting things could happen if Hopkins pulls off the upset.  I don't think they're close enough to make a big enough dent with just one win, but they still have Loyola, too.

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