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With a weekend of conference tournaments looming, everything seems up for grabs. Loyola have punched their tickets and the rest of the Patriot are on the outside looking in. Notre Dame solidified a spot on the right side of the bubble by taking home the ACC title. Duke and Virginia are safe and Syracuse is waiting nervously.
Other than that, all eyes are on the B1G, Big East and Ivy tournaments. Each have an AQ and in all likelihood, at least one additional at-large bid. They also have high potential for upsets, which would create chaos. Bubble teams will hope for chalk across the board.
So let’s look at the AQ picture.
Rutgers and Ohio State are a couple of strong B1G squads on the bubble who need a run to secure a spot. But they face tough first-round matchups against Maryland and Hopkins, respectively. Anything could happen in this conference, as we’ve seen in recent weeks. Ohio State is on a roll, taking down Maryland and Rutgers in recent weeks. But I see Hopkins bringing them to a screeching hault. They found the blueprint to beating OSU’s stout defense in their April tilt, dicing them up with strong ball movement. I see a Hop-Maryland championship that leaves Ohio State and Rutgers nervously awaiting Selection Sunday.
In the Big East, it’s hard to see anyone beating Denver. What will be very intriguing is the first round Villanova-Georgetown matchup. The entire lacrosse world is ready to hand Villanova an at-large bid and count out Georgetown after Dan Bucaro’s injury. In the two games since losing Bucaro, the Hoyas have shown depth and had no trouble scoring. ‘Nova’s last three? Loss to a full strength Georgetown and one-goal wins over St. Johns and Providence. Yuck. I think Georgetown could take this one. Either way, Denver takes the title and the precious AQ.
I believe in Cornell in the Ivy. Expect them to roll Brown round one, setting up a title matchup against Yale (Penn? Get real). I think Cornell is safe for an at-large if they make the title game. The result will only determine seeding.
Expect chalk in the CAA, MAAC, SoCon and America East. It’s hard to see Albany, UMass, Quinnipiac or Richmond getting caught. Albany should run away with their conference title. Vermont was the next-best team this year but Albany dispatched them 21-5 in March.
In the NEC, I like Robert Morris. It’s a shame the tournament is only 16 teams because it’d be great to see both St. Joe’s and Bobby Mo in there. But I like the Colonials to avenge last week’s loss to the Hawks and take the AQ.
That leaves the at-large pool. Here are our rankings of a chaotically strong field, assuming the rock-solid picks above hold up.
- Duke – The preseason #1 is dangerous. Their resume is rock-solid, with good wins in the ACC and wins over Loyola and Denver out-of-conference.
- Notre Dame – A bubble team a weak ago, winning the ACC in convincing fashion catapults them ahead. Despite beating Duke last week, they come in second due to inconsistency on offense for much of the season.
- Johns Hopkins – The Blue Jays face their ultimate test in the Big Ten tournament. If they can hold off Ohio State and give Maryland a good fight, they deserve a high at-large seed.
- Virginia – Probably the last sure thing out of the eight at-large bids. From here it gets crazy.
- Cornell – A really strong regular season for the Big Red was bookended by bad losses, to Colgate week one and Princeton last week. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Jeff Teat was playing with some undisclosed injury last week. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he regains his stride and crushes it in the Ivy Tourney. While I don’t think they’ll beat Yale, a thumping of Brown in round one should be enough to quell doubts and springboard Cornell into the NCAAs.
- Villanova – A tentative pick. A loss to Georgetown, which is highly possible, would drop them behind OSU and out of the tourney.
- Syracuse – Not the strongest season for the Orange, as they’ll barely finish over .500. However, wins over Notre Dame and Duke should be enough to make the committee forget how they got embarrassed at home twice, by Albany and then Hopkins. Unless they lose to Colgate on Saturday that is. Don’t lose to Colgate, guys.
- Bucknell – The Bison were one of the nation’s hottest teams until they collapsed against BU last week and fell out of the Patriot League Tournament. Wins over Yale and Loyola make them the last at-large team in my book. We’ll have to see how much the committee considers their lower RPI come Sunday.
- Ohio State – The Buckeyes are hot. But they are a second-tier team in the Big Ten and I don’t think they’ll get revenge against Hopkins. Ranking Bucknell ahead of them comes down to one thing: signature wins. The Herd have two; OSU has one.
- Georgetown – At 10-4, the Hoyas were a pleasant surprise this year. But they don’t have that signature win on their resume. If they had been able to pull off that heartbreaker against Denver, it’d be a different story.
- Rutgers – Ohio State established dominance in the second tier of the Big East with a 10-7 win over the Scarlet Knights last week. Rutgers is going to need some May magic against Maryland tonight to have a chance.
- Penn – People saying Cornell and Penn have comparable records are nuts. Big wins? Strength of schedule? Sure. But going 1-3 in the state of Pennsylvania don’t look good. Neither does their record. At 7-7, They’ll have to beat Yale to even be eligible for the dance. I don’t see it happening.
Also considered: Vermont, Navy, UNC.
So here’s the bracket:
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