Bracketology: UNC Might Not Get Chance to Repeat


At 5-5 with the best of the ACC ahead on its schedule, North Carolina is in jeopardy of becoming just the third team in NCAA history to miss the postseason a year after winning the championship.

The most interesting part of the initial bracket projection of the 2017 NCAA men’s lacrosse season isn’t who is in the 17-team field. It is who is just on the outside.

North Carolina has a better overall profile than its 5-5 record would suggest, thanks in part to both a victory at Denver and an imposing schedule to date. But with Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame and the ACC tournament (or a meeting with Penn in the league’s showcase game) still to come, the Tar Heels could find themselves below .500 by the time April comes to a close.

That would leave Joe Breschi’s bunch ineligible for the NCAA tournament, and would leave North Carolina in select and unwanted company with 1972 Cornell and 2004 Virginia as the only defending national champions to miss the tournament the year after they won a title.

Opportunities still abound for the Tar Heels, and it’s not time to panic just yet. But even with some favorable metrics, North Carolina is far from a sure thing to make the postseason with five weeks remaining before Selection Sunday. The RPI is from LaxPower’s RPI replica 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).

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Penn State 3 10 0-0 2-0 2-0
Denver 5 17 1-0 1-1 3-2
Hofstra 6 37 0-0 0-0 3-0
Albany 8 23 0-1 0-1 1-1
Army 14 37 1-0 1-0 1-1
Yale 17 33 0-0 1-1 2-1 Bryant (47)
Richmond 23 57 0-0 0-0 1-1
Robert Morris 31 62 0-1 0-1 0-1 Georgetown (39)
Monmouth 35 66 0-0 1-1 1-1 Delaware (28), St. Joseph's (55)

With five Big Ten teams in the top 11 of the RPI, the opportunities for Penn State to improve its strength of schedule are abundant. Getting the 9-4 victory over Ohio State provides something to complement the surprisingly valuable defeat of Villanova. … Denver’s faced five top-20 foes but is only 17th in strength of schedule? Remember, every opponent counts the same, even the bad ones — at least until a team gets past the 10-game threshold. Then only the 10 best count. …

Hofstra’s going to need one of its noteworthy early opponents (probably Princeton or North Carolina) to do some more damage. Otherwise, it might not have a top-10 triumph come Selection Sunday. … Don’t bank on Albany losing in the America East tournament this year. … No team is going to ride a single result like Army will. The Black Knights won at Syracuse in February, but the Patriot League is unlikely to yield much of value this year. …

Yale could be a bit of a mystery team this year, but the stain of that Bryant loss (which might not look so bad in a month if the Bulldogs can roll through the Northeast) is something to keep an eye on. … With the roughest part of its schedule out of the way, all Richmond can do is keep on winning. It’s a good bet that happens.

Barring upsets in other leagues, it sure looks like this year’s lone play-in game will feature the winners of the Northeast and Metro Atlantic.

At-Large Bids (17 teams/8 slots)







26+ L

Notre Dame 1 4 0-2 2-2 3-2
Syracuse 2 8 2-0 3-0 4-1
Johns Hopkins 4 3 0-1 0-1 2-3
Maryland 7 1 0-1 0-2 3-2
Ohio State 9 2 1-2 1-2 2-2
Villanova 10 16 0-1 1-1 1-2 Delaware (28), Monmouth (35)
Rutgers 11 6 0-1 0-1 3-1 Delaware (28)
Princeton 12 25 1-0 1-1 1-3
North Carolina 13 5 1-1 1-3 1-4
Towson 15 30 1-1 1-2 1-2 Loyola (36)
Boston University 16 43 0-0 0-0 0-0 Bucknell (40), Lehigh (52)
Stony Brook 18 18 0-0 0-2 0-3 UMBC (29)
Duke 19 7 0-2 0-2 1-2 Air Force (32)
Michigan 20 20 0-1 0-2 0-2
Marquette 21 13 0-0 0-2 0-2
Penn 22 41 0-1 0-1 0-4
Virginia 25 24 0-3 0-3 0-3

The list of teams with multiple top-10 triumphs at this point: Notre Dame, Penn State and Syracuse. Based on the current numbers, those are clearly the top three seeds. … Wins are wins, whether they come by a goal or 20 goals. Syracuse has done some impressive work in tight games so far this season. …

Johns Hopkins’ customary strong nonconference schedule has it floating in the top five of the RPI even with three losses. … Maryland will get chances at high-end victories over the next four weeks. Its next five games are all against current top-11 teams. … Ohio State’s profile is built on a strong week. For now, that’s enough to host a first-round game. …

The computer numbers look good for Villanova — for now. The two questionable losses could loom larger as the season winds to a close. … Rutgers owns three top-20 victories, and that warrants a place in the field at the moment. … Princeton and Towson have at-large hopes right now thanks to victories over Johns Hopkins. …

Boston University is going to need to win the Patriot League tournament. There’s just not much meat on that 9-2 record. … Stony Brook is in the same situation in the America East, especially after getting blown out by Albany last weekend. … Hard to believe, but Duke didn’t own a top-20 victory prior to its comeback at North Carolina on Sunday. The Blue Devils still have work to do. …

Michigan is 0-2 against the top 20 and 8-0 against everyone else. That’s progress for the Wolverines, but it doesn’t make them a tournament team just yet. … Marquette, Penn and Virginia need quality wins and in a hurry to work their way into the postseason picture. Marquette, which still must face Notre Dame, Denver and Duke, has the most remaining opportunities to get them.


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.

Hempstead, N.Y.

(1) Syracuse vs. NORTHEAST/Robert Morris-METRO ATLANTIC/Monmouth

(8) COLONIAL/Hofstra vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

Newark, Del.

(5) Johns Hopkins vs. Princeton

(4) BIG EAST/Denver vs. Rutgers

Newark, Del.

(3) BIG TEN/Penn State vs. IVY/Yale

(6) Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Army

Hempstead, N.Y.

(7) Ohio State vs. Villanova

(2) Notre Dame vs. SOUTHERN/Richmond

Last three in: Rutgers, Princeton, Villanova

First three out: North Carolina, Towson, Duke

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