Argh faceoffs. Here is this week's bracketology. Argh faceoffs argh faceoffs argh faceoffs.
Argggghhhhh faceoffs. We have a new #1 this week, and it's extremely decisive; Duke is it by a landslide. Cornell's loss to Harvard opens up brand-new horizons, drops the Big Red into a five-way mess for seeds 2 through 6, and combined with Duke's win over Notre Dame means the one team that's really passed the eye test the most this season now owns the top spot.
The world of autobids got turned a little upside down, too. Fairfield claims the ECAC spot and makes that league the one-bid league it's supposed to be, but Harvard is now the only undefeated team in Ivy League play and thus claims that league's bid, for now. And, in what should be considered a big upset, Bryant failed to steal the NEC autobid from St. Joe's, and the Hawks remain in the tournament and even in position to host a play-in game.
Can we stop right here and call St. Joseph's the best story of the season? St. Joe's wouldn't be here without the combination of moving to a much easier conference and tournament expansion, but still - a few years ago they were a totally lifeless program. This is my fifth year writing up this bracketology; after the first two, if you'd asked me which three teams I would guess would've been least likely to ever appear on this page (and not counting Presbyterian, in their last season) my choice would've been easy: Wagner, VMI, and St. Joe's. I'm absolutely going to be pulling for the Hawks in their conference tournament. Bryant won it last year and the Hawks have bloody well paid their dues.
Moving on. There's one team that is breaking my system right now: Penn. Only 5-3, the Quakers still managed to actually come out as the 2nd seed in the math. They've beaten Yale, Denver, St. Joe's, and Ivy pest Brown, and really the worst team they've played is 4-6 Villanova, so they're exceedingly RPI-friendly. I slammed them down to sixth seed anyway. The margins between 2 and 6 are so incredibly slim, I can get away with it. We're not quite close enough to make a common-opponents look really worth it yet, but we'll get some head-to-head answers this week.
As for UVA, I'm not really ready to call our resume bulletproof just yet. We're already #1 in the country in strength of schedule, so playing Duke next week won't help much if we lose. However, Hopkins is ever so slightly ahead of us, and if that gap gets any larger I can't justify making UVA a seed anymore - yet we also don't want them to lose because we're sort of hanging our hat on having beaten them and Loyola. (And Syracuse, too, yes, but still.) Those three wins probably get us into the tournament, but we'd all rest easier if UVA can just pull off the absurdly impossible next week.
(We're still, as far as I can tell, totally eliminated from the ACC tournament. Argh faceoffs.)
Last week's games that mattered:
Johns Hopkins 13, Albany 8: Partly thanks to Fairfield, Albany is now facing down a play-in game, albeit almost certainly as a host.
Duke 15, Notre Dame 7: The Domers still can't quite eke their way into the field, thanks to this loss and Harvard. I mean, they're in pretty damn good shape for a 4-4 team, though. Very close to Yale as the last team in and well ahead of the teams behind them (Princeton and Towson.) Plus, if they haven't clinched an ACC tourney spot, they're at least close, and the extra game or two should pump up the RPI.
Towson 6, UMass 5: UMass has dropped well out of consideration, and now needs the autobid.
St. Joseph's 9, Bryant 7: Pretty well covered above, I'd say. St. Joe's now has an iron grip on the autobid til the NEC tourney, where they're likely to be the #1 seed.
Penn 10, Brown 8: Close, but the Bears get dealt a big blow in their quest to be an Ivy spoiler.
Drexel 13, Penn State 12: Remember when the preseason polls had a top 7 of the ACC and Penn State?
Harvard 14, Cornell 9: Obviously the game of the week as far as impact on bracketology. Harvard is a huge nonfactor in the at-large race, slotting in between UMass and Lehigh, but they've just butted into the Ivy race in a big way.
North Carolina 11, Virginia 10: Argh faceoffs. Also if someone would like to connect on a pass once in a while that'd be cool too.
Hofstra 7, Siena 6: Pretty close there, but it keeps Siena from being a factor in the stay-out-of-the-play-in race.
This week's games to watch:
Syracuse at Cornell: Big one for positioning in that top group.
Duke at Virginia: Actually, maybe just pretend this one doesn't exist.
Yale at Brown: Except for games involving Dartmouth, any Ivy League game is going to matter.
Fairfield at Air Force: For ECAC supremacy. Fairfield is in a dead heat with Yale for the last at-large spot in the mathematics of the system, but it's still an easy decision to go with Yale. In other words, Fairfield (and Hofstra, too, come to think of it) is really in a position where they must keep winning in order to get right with the bubble, but if they keep winning they'll probably just be autobids anyway.
Cornell at Hofstra: Then again, a win for the Flying Dutchmen ("Pride" is such a silly name) in this one could be very, very helpful.
Harvard at Penn: See above re: Ivy League.
Maryland at Johns Hopkins: This game gets played as a conference game next year, which is messed up.
North Carolina at Syracuse: More 2-through-6 positioning.