This week's bracketology, thusly:
There continues to be heartache in the vein of: "if we lose to UNC (that is, in the "showcase" game at the ACC tournament, in which "showcase" is branding-ese for "participation-ribbon") then we'll miss the NCAA." I continue to make reassuring noises here. Barring an incredible number of bid thieves, and even then not necessarily, UVA is essentially a lock to make the tourney in some fashion. The Hoos will play UNC not for a bid, but for an outside shot at hosting duties. Very outside.
Truth is, the eight at-large bids are basically sewed up, barring any disasters. Of the bubble teams listed, only two of the "first four out" have even a remote chance of snagging an at-large bid: Princeton and Drexel. And Princeton is locked out of the Ivy tournament; even should they tie Yale for the last spot, the Elis have the tiebreaking win. Princeton has a game against Cornell remaining, and I'm not convinced that even a win will help them. Drexel, in playing some teams down in the middle of the RPI rankings, is going to spin its wheels and little else. And the Hoos beat Drexel.
So the only thing that can screw the pooch for UVA is an unfortunate but galactically remote combination of bad news in conference tournaments. The Patriot, Ivy, CAA, and Big East tourneys present the only threat - the one-bid leagues in the play-in, plus the A-East, aren't a concern. And in the case of the Ivy and BE, the victims of bid thieves would almost certainly be the teams in those conferences anyway - Yale and Denver. Notre Dame is also precariously on the edge, and is behind UVA in line - so you do not want them advancing to the ACC final, because part of the combination of bad news would be the Irish securing an auto-bid.
Last week's results in important games:
Cornell 14, Brown 9: Cornell got past the Bears and moved up a spot as a result - and their doing so also helps float Hofstra to a surprising seeded slot.
Maryland 12, Notre Dame 8: Rematch next week in Philadelphia. As much as I hate to say it, a Terp win would be a plus for UVA.
Harvard 9, Princeton 8: This probably just about puts an end to Princeton's tourney hopes; they can't play in the Ivy tournament and have dropped from a virtual tie for the last at-large spot to being a longish way out.
Ohio State 8, Air Force 6: Now if Fairfield will beat Ohio State next week, we might just get to find out what the deepest and darkest tiebreakers are in the world of ECAC tourney seeding.
This week's important games:
Patriot League tournament: The PL has a six-team affair, with Loyola and Army getting byes and the opening round games being Colgate/Bucknell and Lehigh/Navy. None of these teams except Loyola are anywhere in the same area code as NCAA contention. Loyola, however, has a very secure position in the tourney, so anyone besides them winning this thing would be a true bid thief, with the first likely victim being Yale.
ACC tournament: Duke vs. Syracuse and Maryland vs. Notre Dame. The only rooting interest you have as far as UVA is concerned is for Maryland to knock off the Domers. That would ensure UVA stays ahead of Notre Dame in the pecking order; in fact, it would force Notre Dame into a must-win situation the week after, as they will be 6-6 if they lose to Maryland.
Marquette at Denver: I include this only to point out the surprising fact that the Big East #1 seed is at stake here. There's little chance of Denver losing it, but that should illustrate for you the sorry state of Big East lacrosse this year - that Marquette, in their second-ever season of competition, sits second out of seven in the league.
Hofstra at Penn State: PSU is still the Flop of the Year and nobody can take that away from them. But this game has potential to let next week's bracketology illustrate the potential effect of a bid thief; by the rules I establish for myself, it's likely Drexel would snag the (temporary) autobid should Hofstra lose, and then we'd get to see what the bracket looked like with one team that doesn't belong. For their own part, Hofstra actually has a pretty safe-looking bid.
Harvard at Yale: Harvard still isn't going to get an at-large, no matter what happens, but they can mess up Yale and they're as big a threat as anyone to win the Ivy tourney.
Princeton at Cornell: Obviously, if Princeton loses, it's game over; I'm not sure what to make of things if they win and Yale loses, but their problem is this is the only bullet left in their chamber, so any jump up into the field would likely be very temporary.
Virginia vs. North Carolina: Woo embarrassing "showcase." Well, if we win I won't call it embarrassing, but still.