Bracketology: ACC, Big Ten Set to Devour At-Large Bids


Andy Matthews (12) and the Tar Heels went from below .500 to a solid case for a postseason home game.

The puzzle that is the selection process for the NCAA lacrosse tournament usually isn’t as easy as it appears from afar. There are extensive discussions among the five committee members, taking up several hours on the final two days of the regular season.

That said, this might be a year when seeding and not selection occupies a greater portion of the committee’s time.

This weekend’s results cleared things up a bit. Rutgers, already assured of missing the Big Ten tournament, knocked off Ohio State to land its most noteworthy victory of the season while shoring up its RPI. North Carolina swept Syracuse and Notre Dame and went from below .500 to a solid case for a postseason home game.

The numbers heavily tilt toward teams from the ACC and the Big Ten splitting the eight available at-large berths. And two of the more vulnerable teams in this week’s projected field (North Carolina and Rutgers) are done with their respective regular-season schedules.

Only a few things remain that could muddy matters again. Denver is in decent shape if it loses in the Big East tournament. Albany isn’t a sure-thing as an at-large, but it would warrant consideration if it trips up in the America East tournament at home.

Towson or Hofstra (or perhaps both) will end up on the at-large board. And Army still has a date with Notre Dame, though it would be a longshot even with a victory.

Still, weird stuff happens. And that’s why the committee — and everyone else in the sport — will be watching what unfolds in conference tournaments beginning Thursday.

The RPI is from the NCAA’s release through Sunday’s games. Records against the top five, top 10 and top 20 and losses to teams outside the top 25 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings, not human polls. The strength of schedule data reflects only a team’s 10 best opponents to date.

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Maryland 1 3 2-1 4-2 6-3
Denver 6 15 1-1 2-2 4-2
Albany 8 23 0-2 0-2 2-2
Towson 11 20 1-0 1-2 2-3 Fairfield (38)
Loyola 15 26 0-1 0-2 3-3 Bucknell (54)
Yale 19 21 0-1 0-2 2-2 Harvard (35), Bucknell (39)
Richmond 26 50 0-0 1-1 1-1 Air Force (31)
Hobart 34 50 0-2 0-2 0-3 Sacred Heart (43), Georgetown (44), Colgate (49)
Monmouth 37 68 0-0 0-0 1-1 Delaware (42), Saint Joseph's (53)

Maryland looked rested, ready and revved up in its deconstruction of Johns Hopkins. The Terrapins’ metrics will only get stronger with a game or two against top-10 foes in the Big Ten tournament. … Denver will have fans in places like Chapel Hill, Durham and especially Piscataway this weekend as it chases a Big East title. …

Albany looks like a dangerous team, and both Maryland and Syracuse can attest to that. But without much oomph at the top of its profile (its best victories came against Yale and Binghamton), it probably needs a perfect weekend in its league tournament. … One of the two teams with solid profiles in the Colonial (Hofstra andTowson) is likely to be disappointed on Sunday. Given the history of weirdness in that league tournament, both could miss the NCAA tournament. …

Loyola is the first team into the field after winning the Patriot League for the third time in four years. The Greyhounds will be a candidate to head to Duke or North Carolina, especially if Towson trips up in the CAA. … Yale and Princeton both lost over the weekend, solidifying the Ivy League as a one-bid entity this year. …

Potential first-round bus trips for Richmond include Maryland, Penn State and Johns Hopkins, as well as Duke and North Carolina. If the Spiders win the SoCon, the play-in game will almost certainly feature the Metro Atlantic and Northeast winners. … Hobart would make its second NCAA trip in a row if its wins the NEC tournament. The Statesmen have never gone to back-to-back postseasons (or in an odd-numbered year, for that matter) since moving up to Division I. …

Monmouth ran the table in the Metro Atlantic and is vying for its first NCAA bid in its four-year existence as a program. It faces Detroit in its conference tournament opener.

At-Large Bids (12 teams/8 slots)







26+ L

Syracuse 2 6 2-0 5-1 6-2
Notre Dame 3 2 1-1 4-4 4-4
Penn State 4 12 0-2 1-2 4-2
Johns Hopkins 5 4 0-2 2-3 4-4
Ohio State 7 5 2-1 3-2 4-3
North Carolina 9 1 2-4 3-5 3-6 Richmond (26)
Duke 10 8 1-2 2-3 3-3 Air Force (31)
Rutgers 12 10 0-3 1-3 2-3 Delaware (42)
Hofstra 13 37 0-0 1-0 1-1 Drexel (33)
Villanova 14 21 1-1 1-2 1-3 Monmouth (37), Delaware (42)
Boston U. 16 49 0-0 0-0 1-2 Lehigh (45), Bucknell (54)
Army 17 29 1-0 1-0 3-3 Navy (46)

There’s still a case for Syracuse as the top seed, though it probably needs an early exit from Maryland in the Big Ten tournament. The Orange will not get an RPI boost from playing Colgate this weekend. … Don’t expect Notre Dame to get bumped out of a top-four seed so long as it wins at Army to close out the regular season. The Irish’s metrics are just too good. …

The only two top-10 teams in the RPI without multiple top-10 victories are Penn State and Albany. That could be a differentiator when it comes to seeding if the Nittany Lions fall in the Big Ten semifinals. … Johns Hopkins didn’t do itself any favors when it was swamped at Maryland. The Blue Jays are solidly in the field, but can’t feel completely safe about getting a first-round home game just yet. …

Ohio State hosts the Big Ten tournament and was the only team in the league to knock off Maryland in the regular season. Its seeding is in line for a lift if it does well this weekend. … North Carolinaisn’t missing the tournament after winning the ACC. The Tar Heels did more damage in a weekend than they had the previous two and a half months. …

Duke can add another top-20 victory on Sunday against Boston University. Whether the Blue Devils host a first-round game could come down to whether its victory at North Carolina outweighs the Tar Heels’ advantages (modest or otherwise) in the metrics. …Rutgers’ numbers are better than those on the outside looking in, and a head-to-head defeat of Army is a fine asset to have just in case the Black Knights pull a surprise against Notre Dame. …

Hofstra isn’t going to get much higher than the mid-20s in strength of schedule even if it advances to a Colonial final against Towson. The Pride’s path to the NCAA tournament almost certainly requires two victories this weekend. … The thing that makes Villanovastand out isn’t its victory over Maryland. It is the two losses to the bottom half of the field. It’s Big East title or bust for the Wildcats. …

Even an upset of Duke isn’t going to vault Boston University into the field. … The loss at Navy is an anchor — no pun intended —on Army’s NCAA tournament hopes. The strength of schedule, which will get bumped up to around 20th when the Black Knights face Notre Dame, isn’t particularly helpful, either.


A few reminders on bracket construction:

  • The committee seeds the top eight teams and then divvies up the unseeded teams based on geography in an attempt to limit air travel.

  • Conference rematches are to be avoided in the first round.

  • Quarterfinal host schools (in this year’s case, Hofstra) are funneled into their own site.

  • Of the nine automatic qualifiers, the two with the weakest profiles are assigned to the preliminary round game the Wednesday before the first round. At-large teams are not selected for play-in games.

Newark, Del.

(1) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. NORTHEAST/Hobart-MAAC/Monmouth

(8) Duke vs. CAA/Towson

Hempstead, N.Y.

(5) Ohio State vs. PATRIOT/Loyola

(4) BIG EAST/Denver vs. Rutgers

Newark, Del.

(3) Notre Dame vs. SOUTHERN/Richmond

(6) Penn State vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

Hempstead, N.Y.

(7) Johns Hopkins vs. North Carolina

(2) Syracuse vs. IVY/Yale

Last three in: Duke, North Carolina Rutgers

First three out: Hofstra, Army, Villanova

Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (5), ACC (4)

Most Recent

Best of Lacrosse 2023: Vote for Best Breakout

This is for the best breakout of the year — the player who became a household name.

Best of Lacrosse 2023: Vote for Best in Content

This is for the best in content — the ones who kept us entertained and informed.

Best of Lacrosse 2023: Vote for Best Breakthrough

This is for the best breakthrough of the year — the team that defied the odds.

Alabama QB Tyler Buchner Seeks Return to Lacrosse

Tyler Buchner got into three games for the Crimson Tide this fall.

Twitter Posts

Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: