Bracketology, First Edition: Albany's Case for the No. 1 Overall Seed


Albany’s profile would be good simply with the wins over Maryland and Syracuse, but the fact four of its other wins (Cornell, Harvard, UMass and Vermont) possess top-20 value makes Tehoka Nanticoke and the Danes the clear cut No. 1 seed at this stage.

Only one undefeated team remains in Division I: Albany, which last year barely snagged a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament after finishing the season with an RPI of 5. The Great Danes won a memorably wacky postseason opener against North Carolina, then had the misfortune of running into Maryland in the quarterfinals.

That history is hard to forget in any assessment of the Great Danes. But suppose Albany runs the table through the America East tournament. It would be the only undefeated team in the country, and would own victories over the teams currently No. 2 (Maryland), No. 3 (Yale) and No. 4 (Syracuse). Those teams won’t necessarily remain in the top five, and other teams could finish strong, but the Great Danes appear to have a solid shot at the top overall seed.

That’s the big takeaway from this first bracket projection of the season. But Albany’s fate isn’t set, nor is anything else. Plenty can change in the next five weeks.

The NCAA didn’t release its RPI until the second Monday in April last season, so the LaxPower replica will have to do for a week. The strength of schedule model isn’t a perfect match (expect some wild swings in that category next week), but it at least provides a rough idea of how things would look for the selection committee.

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.

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Albany 1 4 2-0 3-0 6-0
Maryland 2 2 1-1 3-1 4-1
Yale 3 6 0-1 2-1 3-1
Villanova 5 10 1-1 2-1 3-1 Brown (28)
Loyola 14 16 0-0 1-0 1-3
UMass 17 22 0-2 0-2 0-3 Army (32)
Bryant 34 49 0-1 0-1 0-2 Boston U. (37), Providence (40)
Furman 48 52 0-0 0-0 0-4 Sacred Heart (42), Canisius (51)
Canisius 51 61 0-1 0-1 0-1 Hobart (41), Dartmouth (50)

Albany’s profile would be good simply with the wins over Maryland and Syracuse, but the fact four of the Great Danes’ other victories (Cornell, Harvard, UMass and Vermont) possess top-20 value makes Scott Marr’s team the clear-cut No. 1 seed at this stage. … Maryland will have plenty of chances to add to its profile with the best of the Big Ten schedule still to come. …

Yale has a plausible path to a No. 1 overall seed, though it will involve beating Albany (something it can control) and Maryland and (probably) Syracuse tripping up over the next month or so (something it doesn’t control). … Villanova has a big one on Saturday. With a win, the Wildcats get the inside track to the Big East’s regular season title and damage Denver’s at-large hopes. …

With every victory Johns Hopkins snags, Loyola’s at-large hopes get a bit better. Of course, the Greyhounds could easily wind up winning the Patriot League again this year. … It’s already clear the Colonial is one-bid territory, whether UMass or Hofstra or anyone else wins it. …

Between Bryant and Robert Morris, the Northeast Conference is in solid shape to avoid the play-in game if either of those two programs ultimately claims the league title. … Furman sits alone atop the Southern Conference standings, though Richmond (39) owns the league’s best RPI. … All seven teams in the Metro Atlantic — including co-leader Canisius — is outside the top 50 of the RPI.

At-Large Bids (20 teams/8 spots)







26+ L

Syracuse 4 3 0-1 1-3 3-3
Penn 6 1 0-3 0-4 2-5
Notre Dame 7 8 0-2 0-2 2-2
Johns Hopkins 8 12 1-0 2-0 3-2
Rutgers 9 7 1-0 1-1 1-1 Army (32), Princeton (33)
Cornell 10 9 0-2 1-2 2-2
Duke 11 19 0-1 0-2 3-2
Harvard 12 21 0-1 0-1 1-1 Holy Cross (44)
Denver 13 33 0-0 0-1 1-2
Vermont 15 55 0-1 0-1 0-1
Virginia 16 15 0-1 0-3 1-3
North Carolina 18 5 0-1 1-1 1-3 Richmond (39)
Penn State 19 11 0-1 1-2 1-2
Bucknell 20 28 0-0 0-1 1-1 Navy (26), Richmond (39)
Michigan 21 13 0-2 1-2 1-2
Colgate 23 39 0-0 1-0 1-2 Lehigh (27), Hobart (41)
Robert Morris 24 47 0-0 0-1 1-1 Georgetown (31), Bryant (34)
Hofstra 25 45 0-1 0-1 1-1 Lehigh (27), St. John's (29), Ohio State (35)
Navy 26 24 0-1 0-1 1-3 Jacksonville (46)
Lehigh 27 25 0-0 0-1 0-2 Navy (26)

For a team that’s looked thoroughly dreadful at its worst, Syracuse is sitting in excellent shape heading into April. There’s a real chance the Orange won’t have to leave the Empire State to reach Memorial Day weekend. … Penn is 5-5 and nearly in the top five of the RPI. It’s said every year, but it’s worth repeating: No one has mastered the science of scheduling better than Quakers coach Mike Murphy.…

That said, Kevin Corrigan is near the top of the list of top schedulers, too. Notre Dame has had some good moments and some shaky ones, but it is in good shape to make another postseason trip as April dawns. … The only teams with more top-10 wins than Johns Hopkins are Albany and Maryland. The Blue Jays continue to roll after edging Rutgers on Sunday. …

Losses to Army and Princeton didn’t seem especially harmful at the time. Now, Rutgers is rooting for both of those teams to turn around their respective seasons. … The numbers make it perfectly clear that Cornell is in solid shape to make a return to the postseason. Still, the Big Red could use another impressive victory — such as, say, next week at home against Syracuse. …

Duke has some solid secondary victories (Denver, Loyola and North Carolina) that would look better in another year. The Blue Devils have work to do to avoid getting shipped on the road for the first weekend for the second year in a row. … Denver has even more work to do. The victories over North Carolina, Ohio State and Towson just aren’t going to carry as much weight as recent years. …

Virginia and Penn State are not far from the at-large conversation, even if both have had relatively quiet seasons to date. … North Carolina still has three games against ACC teams and possibly the conference tournament to improve a resume that only has one ugly spot on it. … Harvard owns a gaudy record, but it requires a solid April to improve its postseason standing.

The chart goes far deeper than the edge of the field, mainly to illustrate the challenges of some teams on the fringe of tournament consideration. Strength of schedule is a hazard for a number of those programs.


A few reminders on piecing together the bracket. …

* The committee seeds the top eight teams and then assigns the unseeded teams based on geography in an attempt to limit air travel while trying to maintain bracket integrity.

* Conference matchups are to be avoided in the first round.

* If applicable, quarterfinal host schools are funneled into their own site. Hofstra and Navy are this year’s quarterfinal hosts.

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

Hempstead, N.Y.

(8) Cornell vs. Duke

Annapolis, Md.

(5) Johns Hopkins vs. Penn
(4) Syracuse vs. PATRIOT/Loyola

Hempstead, N.Y.

(3) IVY/Yale vs. COLONIAL/Massachusetts
(6) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. Rutgers

Annapolis, Md.

(7) Notre Dame vs. Denver
(2) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. NORTHEAST/Bryant

Last four in: Duke, Penn, Rutgers, Denver
First four out: Virginia, Penn State, North Carolina, Harvard

Multi-bid conferences: Atlantic Coast (3), Big Ten (3), Ivy (3), Big East (2)

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