Bracketology: Notre Dame In, Ohio State and Harvard Out in Final Projection

PHOTO COURTESY OF NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Despite losing head-to-head to Ohio State earlier this season, Notre Dame has the edge in RPI and higher-end victories after beating Duke for the second time this season. (Pictured: Eric Dobson, sophomore midfielder)


Selection Sunday is here, and with it plenty to discuss as the NCAA lacrosse committee closes in on finalizing its 18-team bracket.

It’s worth a moment to think about how wonderfully normal those quibbles and issues are by usual Selection Sunday standards. It hasn’t been this way in three years.

There was no Selection Sunday in 2020 because of the pandemic. And last year, the big questions were whether Loyola’s withdrawal from the Patriot League final because of a positive Covid test would cost it an at-large berth (it didn’t) and whether a Big Ten-only schedule that was difficult to compare to anyone else would sink Rutgers (it didn’t).

By comparison, today’s storylines are downright mundane — and plenty welcome.

NOTRE DAME VS. OHIO STATE VS. HARVARD

For the final week of the season, it looked like this would be the conversation for the final at-large berth so long as Johns Hopkins didn’t win the Big Ten and Georgetown handled its business in the Big East tournament.

Hopkins lost to Maryland on Thursday. Georgetown won its fourth Big East title in a row on Saturday. The numbers through Saturday (courtesy of Lacrosse Reference) make it pretty clear those three are still scrambling for the last spot.

Only Harvard couldn’t scramble, seeing as how it missed the Ivy League tournament. Ohio State ran out of gas in the second half Thursday against Rutgers. And Notre Dame picked up a second victory over Duke with a comeback on Saturday.

Even though Ohio State beat Notre Dame 14-11 on March 12, it sure looks like this nod will go to the Irish based on the committee’s historical emphasis on RPI (advantage: Notre Dame) and higher-end victories (advantage: Notre Dame) even with a head-to-head result to work with. That’s a shame for the Buckeyes, who would have been capable of winning a game in the postseason.

SEEDS OF IVY EVERYWHERE

The Ivy League reaps the rewards of its RPI dominance. The Ivy has five teams in the top 10 of the RPI, six in the top 15. After a stellar nonconference showing, those programs spent the last eight weeks more or less beating up on each other and improving their profiles. And tonight, there will be a payoff

At least three Ivies (Penn, Princeton and Yale) will be first-round hosts. Brown and Cornell have a shot at hosting duties as well. The road to the quarterfinals (or about half of them, anyway) go through Ivy campuses.

Considering the Ivy League didn’t sponsor a championship last season, and pandemic restrictions limited the conference’s seven teams to a combined three games, it’s a remarkable comeback.

ANYONE HOME IN THE ACC?

A year ago, the ACC stacked the top five teams in the RPI, aided by the Ivy’s absence and the Big Ten’s conference-only ways. It was an extreme situation, but typically the league’s five teams have found themselves in fine shape to earn a seeded slot in the tournament.

This year, Syracuse is 4-10 and long since eliminated from postseason contention. North Carolina is 8-6 and not reaching the postseason. Notre Dame needed to sweep its last six games to even have a chance to be in the field. And Duke (No. 8) and Virginia (No. 9) are the ACC’s only plausible first-round hosts.

That said, who wants to face the scorching Fighting Irish? Or the up-and-down Blue Devils? Or especially the defending champion Cavaliers, who no doubt would be ticked to be dealt a road game in the first round?

REQUIEM FOR THE DOLPHINS

No disrespect intended toward Southern Conference champion Richmond, but Jacksonville would have brought a welcome element to the postseason. John Galloway’s team would have been the first school from Florida to earn a Division I tournament berth, and would have followed up a riveting February that included victories at Duke and Denver.

Those victories remain unquestioned breakthroughs for Jacksonville, but neither looks quite as valuable as it did early in the year. The Dolphins’ RPI (24) and strength of schedule (36) are also historically low for a potential at-large team.

They won’t hear their names called Sunday, because selecting the at-large field is a numbers game. The data doesn’t back Jacksonville, so its season will end with Saturday’s one-goal loss in the SoCon final.

MONEY MATTERS

Will cost considerations get in the way of an equitable bracket? This seemed like a potential concern when it looked like Jacksonville and Utah (Atlantic Sun) might join a Midwest team (Notre Dame or Ohio State) in the field. But the SoCon and A-Sun title games removed extreme geographic outliers as Richmond and Robert Morris made the field.

That’s probably a good thing for a fair 1-to-16 bracket. The need to avoid conference matchups is probably a bigger hindrance for that, especially if the committee takes care to keep the ACC teams (notably Duke and Virginia) away from each other. They usually do, but remember the Maryland-North Carolina first-round game in 2011? So those pairings can happen in a pinch.

Also worth noting: Vermont would need a flight to get to Delaware or Robert Morris for a play-in game, since both are more than 400 miles from Burlington. But Manhattan could get to Vermont, and the Catamounts could theoretically be paired with Saint Joseph’s if the committee gives Delaware a nod over the Hawks.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE

Penn’s defeat of Yale in the Ivy League final shuffled the seeding a little. Penn has a better argument for the No. 3 seed than it otherwise would have, so the Quakers move past Princeton and Yale. Aside from that and Princeton and Penn swapping potential first-round opponents, there aren’t changes to the morning bracket.

The full rundown, with RPI data courtesy of Lacrosse Reference.

 

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS (10)

Maryland (14-0) Big Ten

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

1

12

3-0

4-0

6-0

Georgetown (15-1) Big East

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

2

14

1-1

1-1

6-1

Penn (10-4) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

4

1

0-2

4-4

7-4

Boston University (12-4) Patriot League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

12

25

0-1

0-2

1-4

Richmond (11-4) Southern Conference

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

13

29

0-1

1-2

1-3

Saint Joseph's (14-3) Northeast Conference 

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

16

52

0-1

0-1

0-1

at Drexel (42)

Delaware (11-5) CAA

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

25

34

0-0

0-1

1-2

3 losses 25+ 

Robert Morris (10-5) ASUN

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

29

53

0-0

0-1

0-1

3 losses 25+

Vermont (11-6) America East

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

35

40

0-0

0-2

0-2

3 losses 25+

Manhattan (8-6) MAAC

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

48

67

0-0

0-1

0-1

5 losses 25+

Maryland will be the No. 1 seed and it will be one of the few things no one argues about Sunday night. The Terrapins won the Big Ten tournament and will make their 44th all-time NCAA tournament appearance and their 19th in a row. … The hottest team in Division I in the non-Maryland division is Georgetown. The Big East champions have won 11 consecutive games. They’ve earned a No. 2 or No. 3 seed and will make their 15th NCAA trip and fourth in a row. …

Penn is tied for the most top-10 victories (with Maryland and Princeton) and tied for the most top-20 victories (with Yale). A team achieves those things when it schedules shrewdly and is really good. The Ivy champion Quakers check both boxes. … Boston University earned its first NCAA tournament berth with a 14-10 defeat of Army in the Patriot League final. The Terriers will probably visit an Ivy League team, but Rutgers could fit as a destination as well. …

Richmond will make its fourth NCAA tournament appearance after claiming the Southern Conference title with a 10-9 victory over Jacksonville. Possible destinations: Penn, Princeton and Rutgers, all of which are within 400 miles of the Spiders’ campus. Richmond should be clear of a play-in game. …

Does the committee decide to rank Saint Joseph’s ahead of Delaware? The Hawks’ RPI is superior, but Delaware owns a head-to-head victory. It’s very much a detail in the weeds, but not to those two schools since the lower-ranked team is staring at a play-in game. …

Saint Joseph’s will make its NCAA tournament debut this week, one way or another. The Hawks drubbed Hobart in the Northeast final. … Delaware is making its seventh NCAA appearance and first since 2011 after beating Towson for the Colonial title. …

Robert Morris is going to be in a play-in game after picking off Utah in overtime in the Atlantic Sun final. The Colonials earned their third NCAA berth, all since 2018. … Vermont will make back-to-back NCAA tournaments after never having been to the postseason prior to last season. The Catamounts got a scare but survived UMBC to win the America East. …

Manhattan’s 20-year postseason drought is over after holding off St. Bonaventure in the Metro Atlantic final. The Jaspers’ only prior NCAA tournament game was a first-round loss to Georgetown in 2002. They might be headed back to Newark this week.







AT-LARGE (13 TEAMS/8 SLOTS)

Princeton (9-4) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

3

1

3-1

4-3

5-4

Rutgers (13-3) Big Ten

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

5

17

0-3

0-3

3-3

Yale (11-4) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

6

3

2-1

3-3

7-2

at Penn State (34)

Duke (11-6) ACC

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

7

13

0-1

1-1

5-2

at Syracuse (30)

Cornell (11-4) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

8

8

1-1

2-3

4-4

Virginia (11-3) ACC

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

9

20

0-1

0-2

3-3

Brown (10-5) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

10

9

1-2

3-2

4-4

UMass (26)

Notre Dame (8-4) ACC

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

11

16

0-2

2-3

3-4

Ohio State (10-5) Big Ten

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

14

10

0-3

0-4

3-5

Harvard (8-4) Ivy League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

15

21

1-1

2-3

3-4

North Carolina (8-6) ACC

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

17

7

0-0

1-4

3-6

Army (12-4) Patriot League

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

18

26

0-1

1-1

2-2

Lehigh (28), Navy (31)

Jacksonville (14-3) Southern Conference

RPI

SOS

T5

T10

T20

25+L

24

36

0-0

1-0

3-1

Even though it wasn’t in the Ivy League tournament, Princeton isn’t going to be any lower than a No. 4 seed, and the numbers frankly make it difficult to bump the Tigers any lower than the No. 3 spot. …  Rutgers flip-flopped spots with Yale on Saturday, moving up despite losing to Maryland in the Big Ten final. The Scarlet Knights are looking at their first NCAA tournament home game since 2003. …

Looking like it will be a No. 5 or No. 6 seed for Yale after its Ivy League title game loss to Penn. …  The numbers after Saturday might tip the scales a bit toward Cornell getting a home game. Whether in Ithaca or on the road, the Big Red is positioned to see an ACC team or Rutgers in the first round. …

By the numbers, Virginia isn’t getting a home game ahead of Duke --- but both should wind up in the field, regardless. It’s also possible neither of them gets to play on their own field next weekend. … Digging into the data, Brown is just one one-thousandth of a point behind Virginia in the RPI (.6054 to .6044) entering Sunday. The Bears are a coinflip to get a home game. …

Yes, Ohio State beat Notre Dame in a head-to-head matchup. But the Irish’s 2-3 record in top-10 games, compared to Ohio State’s 0-4 mark, might be what tips the scales in deciding the final spot in the field. … As for the Notre Dame-vs.-Harvard argument, Notre Dame has an RPI and strength of schedule advantage, while Harvard’s best victory (Princeton) is better than what the Irish have. The advantage probably goes to Notre Dame there. …

North Carolina’s late-season slide did it in, but that’s probably been known since its late April loss at Notre Dame. … Unfortunately for Army, it played its awesome game at Boston University nine days too early. … For as scary as Jacksonville is, the numbers always said the Dolphins were going to require a Southern Conference title. They lost by a goal to Richmond, and the program’s postseason breakthrough will have to wait for another year.

PROJECTED BRACKET

A few notes worth remembering:

  • The NCAA will return to eight campus-site games in the first round this season. First-round conference matchups will be avoided, which can lead to some movement for the unseeded teams.

  • With the return of the Ivy League from last year’s hiatus and the addition of the Atlantic Sun, there are 10 conferences eligible for automatic berths. That means there will be two play-in games, featuring the four lowest-ranked automatic qualifying teams. The rankings will be determined by the committee and not specifically by the RPI.

  • Limiting air travel remains a priority for the NCAA, so this won’t necessarily be a 1-through-16 bracket. Historically, the NCAA tries to bracket the field so only two teams must travel more than 400 miles for a first-round game, though it isn’t a completely inflexible rule.

  • Quarterfinal hosts are funneled into their home sites. Whichever quadrant of the bracket Ohio State lands in will play a second-weekend game in Columbus.

  • This exercise is an attempt to project what the NCAA committee would do based on its history and on this season’s results to date. It is not an attempt to predict future results or suggest what the committee should do.

Hempstead, N.Y., quarterfinal    

(1) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. AMERICA EAST/Vermont-METRO ATLANTIC/Manhattan
(8) Duke vs. Brown

Columbus, Ohio, quarterfinal

(5) Yale vs. PATRIOT/Boston University
(4) Princeton vs. SOUTHERN/Richmond

Hempstead, N.Y., quarterfinal

(3) IVY/Penn vs. NORTHEAST/Saint Joseph’s
(6) Rutgers vs. Virginia

Columbus, Ohio, quarterfinal      

(7) Cornell vs. Notre Dame
(2) BIG EAST/Georgetown vs. COLONIAL/Delaware-ATLANTIC SUN/Robert Morris

Last three in: Brown, Virginia, Notre Dame

First three out: Ohio State, Harvard, North Carolina

Moving in: Manhattan, Notre Dame, Richmond, Robert Morris

Moving out: Jacksonville, Ohio State, St. Bonaventure, Utah

Conference call: Ivy (5), ACC (3), Big Ten (2)

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