What better day than Selection Sunday to unveil the season's first edition of lax bracketology? The season is close to half over, so it's a good time.
In review of last year's final edition, it went pretty well. I've done better, but last year I got four of eight seeds exactly right and seven of eight seeded teams. I'm more annoyed about missing on Harvard, which made the tournament as an at-large over my choice of Hofstra. I had adjusted my system and based on that miss, I re-adjusted it back some for this year. Perfection - nailing all 18 slots exactly - continues to be the elusive goal.
A couple reminders on method: first, autobids are given to the team that currently holds them, and tiebreakers are based on the Laxpower computer rankings. What this means for now is that most conferences haven't started their conference schedules in earnest, and Laxpower is basically handing out the autobids in most cases. That's OK - that computer is a pretty good 75% approximation of how things might shake out anyway. I do try to predict the NCAA's arcane thoughts on travel, but less so early on since it's a little more important to show who stands where.
And as always, this is if the season ended today, not a prediction of the final bracket.
So, here's the official first look:
-- Brown is starting out low here....but that could easily change later when they've had a crack at the rest of their conference. Knocking off Harvard is a solid start. Do not be surprised to see Brown turn into the class of the Ivy this year.
-- Along the same lines, I don't think Cornell will end up that high. But for UVA's sake, let's hope they do. Right now, that win over what happens to be the RPI's number 2 team is what's keeping UVA from going on the road, or for that matter, possibly in the tournament at all.
-- The Patriot League is fascinating. Quint Kessenich wrote earlier this week that he could see anyone but Lafayette winning it. I think I'd also drop Lehigh at this point, but yeah. Best part is: it's probably a one-bid league. It's full of teams that are pretty decent, but no better. Holy Cross is a special enigma all their own. Already nobody's undefeated in conference play, so right now, the only way I see two bids coming out of that league is if someone - it'd have to be one of the five one-loss teams, which rules out the team many think is the conference's best: Army - goes on a total rampage and then gets upended in the championship game. More likely is that they'll just chew each other up, dogfight for one of the top four places so they can go to the conference tourney, and then whoever wins it, wins it.
-- A couple years ago, UMass caused a huge controversy by being undefeated and then being seeded sixth. Many people were infuriated that they'd be seeded so low, which gave them a quality opponent (Colgate) who they promptly lost to. They "did all they could" was the argument. This missed the point, of course; UMass had played three teams out of fifteen with a winning record, none of whom actually made the tournament. Personally I felt that the selection committee was right to want to see them be tested by a quality team rather than reward cushy-soft schedules; giving them the 1 or 2 seed would've suggested that the path to tourney success is to drop out of the ACC and join the SoCon.
The point in all this is that at first blush, Marquette looks like they might be shaping up to be this year's UMass. They're 7-0 and taking the world by the proverbial storm. They'll definitely be tested, though. Denver, Notre Dame, and Duke all loom large at the end of the year. If they're still undefeated by then, nobody's going to scoff at their schedule.
As always, here are next week's games to keep an eye on:
-- Bucknell at Brown: Normally you figure that an underdog - in this case, Bucknell, sitting on the wrong side of the bubble - can really help itself if it wins a game like this. Semi-normally, you sometimes find that all it does is drag down the favorite and help the underdog not at all. In this case, we're early enough in the season that I could easily see Bucknell dragging down the Bears temporarily, and then floating back up when and if Brown does a number on the Ivy League. More likely, Brown's powerful offense shoves Bucknell off of next week's bubble.
-- Colgate at Cornell: Colgate has mostly folded whenever faced with a good team, and beaten only horrible ones - but they did knock off Bucknell. There's only the most outside chance of an upset here, but since I'm still casting a skeptical eye at Cornell, we'll leave this game here.
-- Harvard at North Carolina: Not much doubt in my mind that Harvard would appear in the bracket had they beaten Brown this week. Here's a chance for redemption.
-- Georgetown at Loyola: I was honestly surprised to see Georgetown anywhere near the discussion, but there they are on the low end of the bubble. It's not premature to call this an elimination game for both these teams.
-- Navy at Colgate: Pretty much every Patriot League game is worth a look.
-- Marquette at Georgetown: Marquette will lose darling status immediately if they lose this game.
-- Yale at Princeton: Frankly, I'm not sure the Ivy League can support four tournament teams. We'll know more after this one for sure.
-- Bucknell at Boston U.: Patriot League again.
-- Ohio State at Notre Dame: Is OSU for real? They've spent most of the season squeaking out wins against shitty teams (and losing to Detroit HA HA), then they go and beat Denver.
-- Virginia at Johns Hopkins: Right now the Hop is magically inflating the resumes of all the teams that beat them. As the announcers during the UVA-ND game said, they picked a good year to join a conference. They're running out of chances to steal an at-large; the Big Ten schedule isn't going to earn them one unless they can crack Maryland's stone-wall defense. And frankly they run the risk of losing to an Ohio State or even a Michigan. Point: they badly need this one, or else they'll just inflate the resume of one more team.
-- Maryland vs. North Carolina: The Twerps could use a signature win; they sort of balanced out beating Princeton by losing to Yale. If they lose to UNC, they're probably still OK as far as getting into the tournament, but their schedule otherwise lacks any elite teams (since Hopkins doesn't count this year.) That means a decent possibility they go on the road to start the tourney, and become someone's nightmare matchup - and as you can see, Charlottesville is a very possible destination.
-- Duke at Syracuse: Mainly just jockeying for seeding here.