Bracketology: Determining Top Seeds in the Eye of the Beholder


Despite ranking third in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Women's Top 20, Maryland could still earn the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament given its full resume.

Three teams will feel as though they have ownership of the top seed if the NCAA Tournament started today – Boston College, Maryland and Stony Brook.

In the human polls, which have no bearing on the selection committee’s decisions, Stony Brook and Boston College are first and second, respectively, while Maryland is third.

Last week, we placed Maryland as the overall seed, followed by Stony Brook and Boston College. This week, there was one change, and we’ll use blind resumes to explain why.

Primary Criteria


Team A (16-0)       

Team B (14-1)     

Team C (15-0)     

RPI 1 2 8
Top 10 SOS (Avg. Ranking) 11th (18.5) 4th (14.5) 25th (24.6)
Significant Wins (RPI Top 25) 6 7 6
Significant Losses None None None
Head-to-Head N/A N/A N/A
Common Opponents 2-0 with Team B
2-0 with Team C
1-1 with Team A
2-0 with Team C
2-0 with Team A
2-0 with Team B

Primary Criteria Breakdown


Team A (16-0)

Team B (14-1)

Team C (15-0)

RPI 1-10 1-0 3-1 2-0
RPI 11-20 5-0 4-0 2-0
RPI 21-30 3-0 1-0 4-0
Notable Wins (vs. RPI) Nos. 3, 11, 12 Nos. 4, 5, 7 Nos. 6, 9, 17

Secondary Criteria


Team A (16-0)

Team B (14-1)

Team C (15-0)

Last Six Games 6-0 6-0 6-0
Vs. NCAA Teams 7-0 7-1 5-0

There are five primary criteria. If the committee sees the teams deadlocked after the primary criteria, they can use secondary pieces such as the last six games and their record against teams already in the tournament field.

Let’s take Teams A and B to start.

Their RPI is nearly identical. A has a slight edge, but would likely be considered a wash (one spot differential will not be sufficient evidence to move a team up or down). The Top 10 SOS favors Team B in a significant manner (Team B ahead 1-0). Additionally, Team B has more significant wins (7 vs. 6). When those significant wins are broken down, three of Team B’s wins are against Top 10 foes, while only one such victory occurs for Team A (Team B ahead 2-0). In the common opponents category, Team A is 2-0 while Team B is 1-1 (Team B leads 2-1). The two squads have never met. We give the edge to Team B.

Now, we evaluate Teams A and C.

Team A wins the RPI criteria and the SOS criteria to go ahead 2-0. Both have six significant victories, with Team A going 6-0 against Top 20 teams and Team C going 4-0 against similar opponents. Both are 2-0 against common opponents and they’ve never faced each other. Team A wins the matchup.

Given this breakdown, we seed Team B first (Maryland), Team A (Boston College) second and Team C (Stony Brook) third. The Eagles jump Stony Brook from last week’s bracket projections and could overtake Maryland if they finish the season undefeated.

What enhances Maryland’s bid for the top seed is that its closing schedule is more difficult, and thus more fruitful for quality victories as it faces Northwestern and Penn State. Additionally, the committee typically doesn’t punish losses against the No. 3 RPI squad on the road. It would not be surprising, however, if the committee rates BC’s win over UNC (Maryland’s only loss) so great that it gives the edge to the Eagles. It’s a narrow evaluation.

As for the Seawolves, they’ve done everything they can. Is it possible that the committee takes a subjective view and gives them a bump up into a higher seed? Sure, but the committee tends not to function like that. Despite an undefeated record, Stony Brook will be bogged down by a weak America East schedule that has been made even weaker in the absence of another NCAA Tournament-caliber team like Albany. A quality home game against Penn State remains on April 24, but that will be the only decent game remaining on the schedule. Nevertheless, should the Seawolves win out, they’ll be seeded among the top four and home games through the entire tournament as they are the hosts of the NCAA semifinals and final this year.

Notes: Records against the Top 10, Top 11-20, Top 21-30 and losses to teams outside the Top 30 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings (as of April 15), not human polls. First place teams are listed as automatic qualifiers. Ties go to the highest rated team in the RPI.

Automatic Qualifiers (14)







31+ L

Boston College 1 15 1-0 5-0 3-0
Maryland 2 9 3-1 4-0 1-0
Florida 4 1 1-2 4-0 0-1
James Madison 5 19 1-1 1-0 4-0
Penn 7 20 0-2 3-0 3-0
Stony Brook 8 41 2-0 2-0 4-0
Loyola 10 18 1-1 3-1 1-1
Colorado  13 23 0-2 3-0 1-2
Massachusetts 20 35 0-1 1-0 0-1 Yale (31)
High Point  28 71 0-2 0-0 2-0
Canisius 44 49 0-2 0-1 0-1 Oregon (36), Michigan (37), Monmouth (76)
Jacksonville 60 107 0-1 0-1 0-1
Wagner  63 83 0-0 0-0 0-0 Saint Joseph's (35), Hofstra (61), Iona (81), UMass Lowell (90)
Central Michigan 94 115 0-0 0-0 0-0 Marquette (34), Michigan (37), Cincinnati (58), La Salle (78), Kennesaw State (95)

Boston College clinched its first ACC title against Virginia Tech and can cap a perfect regular season against winless Syracuse this week. … Maryland remains the top overall seed on the bounty of its Top 10 wins (3) and Top 20 wins (7). The Terps close out with Penn State and Northwestern. … Florida owns five wins against the RPI’s Top 15. …

James Madison continues to roll in the CAA and it has two important chances at resume-building wins when it travels to Virginia tonight and Towson on April 28. … Penn is just on the outside looking in for hosting duties. … Stony Brook remains No. 3 on the big board and will likely remain there barring a stumble from BC or Maryland. …

Loyola is likely the No. 9 team in the S-Curve, just behind local rival Towson. The Greyhounds have few opportunities to impress the committee aside from a potential rematch with Navy. … Colorado took control of the Pac-12 with a sweep of the Bay Area squads over the weekend. … UMass heads to Richmond for an A-10 showdown of the remaining undefeated teams. Both squads are unlikely to get at-large bids, although UMass’s resume has more going for it. … High Point saw its RPI dip four places this week and it will continue to fall against its weaker conference foes. The Panthers need to win the Big South for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. ...

Canisius regained the top spot in the MAAC by beating Marist and Quinnipiac last week. … Jacksonville is a win away from clinching the top spot in the Atlantic Sun tournament. … Wagner gets the nod over Bryant in the NEC. Both teams are 3-0. … Central Michigan is the lone unbeaten in the Southern Conference. 


The No. 7 seed, being Northwestern in this projection, will play the winner of the play-in game.

At-Large Bids (19 Teams/13 Spots)







31+ L

North Carolina 3 2 2-3 2-0 3-0
Northwestern 6 12 1-2 2-0 4-1
Towson 9 33 1-2 1-0 2-0
Dartmouth 11 10 0-2 1-1 1-0
Navy 12 22 0-3 1-0 0-0
Virginia 14 13 0-4 1-2 4-1
Georgetown 15 24 0-4 1-0 2-0
Virginia Tech 16 27 0-3 0-1 5-1
Stanford 17 31 0-1 0-2 3-1
Princeton 18 16 0-2 0-2 2-1
Johns Hopkins 19 6 1-4 0-1 0-1
Richmond 21 46 0-1 0-1 0-0
USC 22 4 0-3 2-3 1-0 Oregon (36)
Syracuse 23 11 2-3 1-2 1-2
Penn State 24 28 0-4 2-1 1-0
Denver 25 29 0-1 2-2 0-0 Temple (40)
Cornell 26 7 0-2 1-1 0-2 Brown (33)
Notre Dame 27 21 0-3 0-2 2-2
Duke 29 17 1-2 0-3 1-2

North Carolina has won five straight and eight of its last nine games. … Northwestern scooped another Top 25 win this past weekend at Penn State and is in line to host. … Towson looks to stay in position to host, currently checking in at No. 8. …

Dartmouth crushed Yale and needs a strong finish against Cornell and Penn to boost its at-large profile. …  Navy finally garnered a win over an NCAA-bound squad in Virginia to give its at-large chances life. … Virginia snapped a four-game skid with a win at Louisville to bounce back from the loss at Navy. …

Georgetown rides a four-game winning streak into its conference games against UConn and Marquette. … Virginia Tech moved up several spots to 16th in the RPI. The Hokies have five wins against Top 30 competition, but none against the Top 20.  … Stanford fell to Colorado in a battle of the Pac-12 teams to drop to second place. … Princeton remains the second team out behind Dartmouth and likely needs wins in its final three Ivy League games to climb onto the other side of the bubble. ...

Johns Hopkins is living off its early season win against Loyola, while Towson awaits next week as another quality win. … Richmond is without a quality win and has no poor losses on its resume. Its path to the NCAA Tournament is an automatic bid. … USC’s fourth-rated schedule and its wins over Virginia Tech and Colorado are keeping the Trojans in the at-large mix. …

Syracuse has yet to win an ACC game and Thursday’s contest at BC presents the toughest challenge yet. A loss would drop the Orange to .500 on the season heading into the regular-season finale against Louisville. … Penn State’s loss to Northwestern was its first decided by more than two goals this season. … Denver can make waves this week when it hosts Florida on Saturday. …

Cornell’s game at Princeton is a must-win to keep its at-large hopes viable. … Notre Dame’s win at Duke keep the Irish in the picture for now, but they need wins in next week’s ACC Tournament. … Duke is squarely on the bubble as the final at-large squad despite its loss to Notre Dame. The margin of error is gone as a 1-2 finish to the season would automatically eliminate the Blue Devils from contention due to a sub-.500 record.


Bracketing Procedures:

  • The committee seeds the Top 8 teams to host first- and second-round games. All other teams are unseeded and will be placed geographically, while keeping bracket integrity when possible.

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

  • This year, there are 14 automatic qualifiers, which means the two weakest resumes are assigned to a play-in game on Tuesday, May 8, or Wednesday, May 9, on the campus of the stronger team. No at-large teams will be selected for the play-in games. That play-in winner will travel to the No. 7 seed.

  • It’s possible a seeded team may not host due to factors such as facility availability. We anticipate each seed hosting and bracket them accordingly, but the committee may not have that option.

  • The seven and eight seeds host two games in the first round leading to a second-round game at its home site, while the top six seeds get byes into the second round.

College Park, Md.

Georgetown vs. Navy
Winner plays at (1) Maryland (BIG TEN)

Towson, Md.

Penn (IVY) vs. Duke
Canisius (MAAC) at (8) Towson

Harrisonburg, Va.

Virginia Tech vs. Johns Hopkins
Winner plays at (4) James Madison (CAA)

Gainesville, Fla.

Colorado (PAC-12) vs. Jacksonville (ATLANTIC SUN)
Winner plays at (5) Florida (BIG EAST)

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Syracuse vs. Massachusetts (ATLANTIC 10)
Winner plays at (2) Boston College (ACC)

Evanston, Ill.

Loyola (PATRIOT) vs. Stanford
Central Michigan (SOUTHERN)/Wagner (NEC) at (7) Northwestern

Stony Brook, N.Y.

Penn State vs. USC
Winner play at (3) Stony Brook (AMERICA EAST)

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Virginia vs. High Point (BIG SOUTH)
Winner plays at (6) North Carolina

Last Four In: USC, Johns Hopkins, Navy, Duke
First Four Out: Dartmouth, Princeton, Denver, Notre Dame

Moving In: Navy, Canisius, Central Michigan
Moving Out: Dartmouth, Marist, Furman

Multi-bid Conferences: ACC (6), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3), Big East (2), CAA (2), Patriot League (2)

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