Men's Lacrosse Bracketology: Plenty to Ponder Before the Weekend

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Rutgers is no sure bet to get into the tournament after a loss to Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten semifinals.


Thursday’s conference tournament action — from Rutgers’ upset loss to Johns Hopkins to Georgetown’s rollicking defeat of Villanova to top seeds falling in both the America East and the Colonial — left the NCAA men’s lacrosse committee with plenty to ponder.

As if it didn’t have enough already.

The five-person committee, chaired by Towson athletic director Tim Leonard, will meet this weekend to determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field. Part of the committee, including Leonard, will convene in Indianapolis, as it usually does. The rest will join by video conference for a selection process likely to be different than what everyone has become accustomed to over the last decade-plus.

For starters, metrics like the RPI that have dominated the sorting of teams are a bit hobbled because some leagues (including the Big Ten) chose to play conference-only schedules and a minority of teams managed to play anything close to a normal-sized out-of-league slate.

The lack of cross-pollination is a major impediment to effectively comparing teams.

“In years past, the RPI, strength of schedule — particularly out of conference strength of schedule — those things had a lot of weight,” Leonard said. “This year, I’m not even really sure when we’re really going to start using the RPI as a comparison criterion. It won’t be right out of the gates like we normally do just because it’s so skewed this year more than normal. It just isn’t going to be as accurate as we’d all like.”

As anticipated earlier in the spring, the committee — made of Leonard, Loyola athletic director Donna Woodruff, Denver deputy athletic director Brendan Macneill, North Carolina coach Joe Breschi and Hobart coach Greg Raymond — figures to lean on the weekly input of the 10-coach regional advisory committee (RAC).

The RAC, which has a representative from each Division I conference, had its last call with the selection committee Wednesday.

“They have been tremendous,” Leonard said. “The coaches have probably been more engaged on the RAC calls than ever before, at least in the time I’ve been on the committee. They want to make sure this thing gets done right. I think the committee has been more engaged with the coaches. Not that we’ve ever not been, but I think we’re all realizing that we need, ‘Hey, tell us about the eye test.’ In years past, we tried to eliminate as much subjectivity as possible and just make it all as objective as possible. There’s going to be a lot of subjectivity involved this year, and that’s just the reality of it.”

Another lingering mystery is just where the opening weekend will be played.

Multiple sources have told US Lacrosse Magazine that Denver, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia will host a pair of first-round games, though Leonard declined to confirm those selections. Inside Lacrosse had previously reported those four, plus Albany and Hofstra, were in contention to serve as opening-weekend hosts.

“I think those four certainly are very attractive,” Leonard said. “No final decisions have been made, and we’ll get into that Saturday or Sunday.”

A look at where things stand through Friday’s games. While RPI data won’t mean as much as it usually does, it’s still worth providing a glance courtesy of Lacrosse Reference’s replica of the formula.

Automatic Qualifiers (8)

 

W-L

RPI

T5

T10

T20

Notable Losses (25+)

Maryland 11-0 6 0-0 0-0 2-0 ---
Denver 12-3 10 0-2 1-3 1-3 ---
Drexel 9-2 12 0-0 0-0 1-1 at UMass (29)
High Point 8-5 15 0-4 0-4 0-4 at Richmond (32)
Saint Joseph's 9-3 17 0-0 0-1 1-2 ---
Lehigh 10-1 20 0-0 1-0 3-0 ---
Vermont 8-4 24 0-1 0-1 0-2 at Binghamton (39)
Manhattan 5-4 25 0-0 0-1 0-1 at Monmouth (30), St. Bonaventure (34)

By beating 3-9 Michigan and then getting 4-8 Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten final, Maryland is not receiving much strength of schedule help this week. In another year, that would probably prove costlier. This year, the Terrapins will be a top-three seed with a victory — with a good case for either No. 1 or No. 2. … Denver ripped Providence in the Big East semifinals, what should be the Pioneers’ last piece of business to feel safe about getting in regardless of how Saturday’s title game against Georgetown goes.

Drexel spotted UMass the first five goals, then roared back to beat the Minutemen 13-8 in the CAA semifinals. Couple that with Delaware’s loss to Hofstra, and the Dragons are the top remaining seed in the CAA tournament. …  Lehigh handled what it needed to against Colgate, avoiding the sort of loss that might have knocked it out of the field. The Mountain Hawks can take any uncertainty out of play Sunday with a second victory over Loyola in the Patriot League final. ...

Saint Joseph’s takes a nine-game winning streak into Saturday’s Northeast title game against Bryant. The Hawks won at Bryant 13-5 on April 17, but that was the Bulldogs’ first game in two weeks. Saint Joseph’s is seeking its first NCAA berth, while Bryant is looking for its fifth NCAA trip and first since 2017. Regardless of who wins, it’s one-bid territory. …

A dominant second half sent Vermont past Stony Brook in the America East semifinals. The Catamounts will attempt to pin down their first NCAA trip Saturday against Albany, which fended off UMBC in the other semifinal. …

Manhattan is a victory away from capping its breakthrough season with its first NCAA tournament berth since 2002. The Jaspers will play host to Monmouth in Saturday’s Metro Atlantic final. Neither team cracked double-digit goals during a regular-season split. The Hawks’ lone NCAA appearance was in 2017, when they lost a play-in game to Bryant. Only one MAAC team is getting in. …

The first team into this year’s field is High Point, which dispatched Richmond 11-8 to claim the Southern Conference title and earn an NCAA berth for the first time since 2015. The Panthers are a good bet to stay inside state lines and meet North Carolina or (more likely) Duke in the first round next week. …







At-Large (12 teams/8 slots)

 

W-L

RPI

T5

T10

T20

Notable Losses (25+)

North Carolina 11-2 1 4-2 5-2 7-2 ---
Duke 12-2 2 4-2 5-2 6-2 ---
Virginia 10-4 3 2-4 3-4 5-4 ---
Notre Dame 7-3 4 3-3 3-3 3-3 ---
Syracuse 7-5 5 2-4 2-5 2-5 ---
Army 7-4 8 1-1 1-1 3-4 ---
Georgetown 11-2 9 0-0 1-1 1-2 ---
Delaware 10-3 13 0-0 0-0 2-1 at Hofstra (37), at Mount St. Mary's (49)
Loyola 9-5 14 0-1 2-2 4-4 ---
Navy 6-3 18 0-0 1-0 2-3 ---
Rutgers 8-3 19 0-0 0-2 0-2 vs. Johns Hopkins (41)
Villanova 7-5 21 0-0 0-5 1-5 ---

Co-ACC champions North Carolina and Duke won’t be separated by much come Sunday. Both should be top-three seeds, at minimum, and both will probably play opening-weekend games at North Carolina before venturing deeper into the tournament.

It’s going to be hard to compellingly argue anyone other than Duke, Maryland and North Carolina to be seeded ahead of Virginia and Notre Dame, which are both done for the regular season. Virginia will continue to receive the slight edge for the No. 4 seed throughout the weekend in this projection because of its head-to-head victory at Notre Dame.

No one will be blamed for not fully trusting Syracuse, and those four blowout losses provide good reason to not do so. But the Orange, who dispatched Robert Morris on Friday, will almost certainly be in the field thanks to their sweep of Virginia. … Army probably won’t be able to milk its victory at Syracuse as much as it would like, but its dominant victory at Loyola would probably more than offset Friday’s one-goal loss if the committee has to pick one of the two. A comparison with Lehigh (should it lose the Patriot final) isn’t as helpful for the Black Knights.

It’s hard to imagine Georgetown getting left out after completing a three-game sweep of Villanova on Thursday. The Hoyas should be playing for seeding — not to mention a third consecutive Big East title — when they meet Denver on Saturday. … Delaware picked off Drexel and Saint Joseph’s, but the Blue Hens’ exit in the CAA semifinals (coupled with results elsewhere this week) make their at-large hopes a long-shot at best.

Look for a deeper dive into the Rutgers conundrum tomorrow, but the Scarlet Knights (owners of no victories against .500 or better teams) will be rooting for Maryland in the Big Ten final and Lehigh in the Patriot League final. They might need both results to reach their first tournament since 2004, and probably need at least one. … … It was a great foundational season for Navy, but the victory over Army isn’t going to be enough to get the Midshipmen in after Tuesday’s Patriot League tournament loss to Loyola.

Villanova is undeniably playing well … just not quite well enough. The Wildcats’ last three games: An overtime loss to Denver, a demolition of Lehigh and a 14-12 setback against Georgetown. There just isn’t quite enough meat to a resume the selection committee will undoubtedly study closely this weekend. …

In the archives is this nugget from April 27 on Loyola, which was lined up to play Georgetown, Navy and Army in succession: “If Loyola wins all three but falls to Lehigh in the Patriot League final, it will require at least some consideration at 9-6.” So it has come to pass. The Greyhounds own victories over Army, Georgetown and Navy (twice), results that stack up favorably to Rutgers. Of course, Loyola can take things out of the committee’s hands by beating Lehigh, getting to 10-5 and taking a conference title back to Baltimore. …

BRACKET

A few notes worth remembering …

  • The NCAA plans to use four predetermined first-round sites that it will announce on Selection Sunday, with two games played at each. This bracket was constructed under the assumption Denver, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia will be the host schools.

  • 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. So whichever quadrant of the bracket Notre Dame lands in will play a second-weekend game on the Fighting Irish’s home field. The same would be true for Hofstra if it wins the Colonial tournament.

Hempstead, N.Y., quarterfinal    

(1) North Carolina vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Manhattan (at North Carolina)
(8) PATRIOT/Lehigh vs. Syracuse (at Maryland)

Notre Dame, Ind., quarterfinal

(5) Notre Dame vs. AMERICA EAST/Vermont (at Denver)
(4) Virginia vs. COLONIAL/Drexel (at Virginia)

Notre Dame, Ind., quarterfinal

(3) Duke vs. SOUTHERN/High Point (at North Carolina)
(6) BIG EAST/Denver vs. Rutgers (at Denver)

Hempstead, N.Y., quarterfinal    

(7) Georgetown vs. Army (at Virginia)
(2) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. NORTHEAST/Saint Joseph’s (at Maryland)

Last three included: Syracuse, Army, Rutgers
First three on the outside: Loyola, Villanova, Navy

Moving in: High Point
Moving out: Richmond

Conference call: Atlantic Coast (5), Big East (2), Big Ten (2), Patriot (2)

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