Good news y’all, we’re going to have a college lacrosse season. Well, most of us will (sorry Ivy). And we’ll only have most of one at that, with limited or altered non-conference schedules. But there’s a silver lining. This is the perfect year to expand the NCAA Tournament to 20 teams.
It’s an overdue move, if we’re being honest. A bunch of mid-majors get in on automatic bids and really good teams are left on the outside looking in. So here’s my proposal – keep your 16-team tournament but stick a play-in game on each corner of the bracket.
Can you imagine? The MAAC and NEC champs facing off on a Tuesday at 5 pm on ESPNU? Maybe an 8-8 Hopkins team taking on Hartford for the nightcap? I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Why now? Well it’s going to be a hard year to build a postseason resume. In the interest of less travel, we’re seeing teams schedule non-conference games with whomever’s closest. Strength of schedule is going to be all over the place. There is weirdness abound in scheduling, like Navy only playing home games.
And of course, there’s Covid. I’m praying that I’m wrong but the risk of cancellations and inactive players is a reality we’ll have to deal with. How is the Selection Committee going to compare a team that played 7 games to a team that played 16? How are they going to evaluate a bubble team that was down five starters due to contact tracing for 10-14 days?
The answer, if you’re the Committee, is to lower your margin of error by expanding the field.
Boy oh boy is there precedent for this. The NCAA Basketball Tournament expanded from a single play-in game to four. Okay maybe that’s not the best example because even the most degenerate gamblers barely watch those. But the NFL added a seventh playoff team to each conference this year due to Covid. Did it dilute the field? Absolutely not. It gave us Taylor Heinicke.
Four play-in games give lacrosse the chance to have our very own Heinicke. It’ll probably be some random gunslinger from Marist or something. Or maybe this beauty from Mount Saint Mary’s.
Rant’s over. This year’s weird. More lacrosse is better. Expand the field.