Bracket Projection: NCAA Division II Men
The NCAA will announce the brackets for the eight team Division II tournament at about 7:30 p.m. this evening, but with all the teams now in the barn after the conclusion of the Northeast-10 and ECAC-II tourneys on Sunday afternoon, we can make our projections for which programs will fill out the brackets.
Let's start with what we know for sure, and that begins on the South side of the bracket. Limestone is going to be the top seed, and there is really no way to come up with anything different. So lock the Saints at the top. Unfortunately, that's about all we can take to the bank after Mercyhurst's upset loss to Seton Hill in the ECC semifinals.
There are probably ways to manipulate the numbers to get another team into the mix, but I'm projecting the three other top four teams from the final regional rankings – Mercyhurst, Tampa and Queens – will get the nod. There were some unlikely scenarios that could have brought in another team (Seton Hill winning the ECAC title plus Catawba beating Limestone might have been enough for the Griffins), but none of them panned out. The seeding is the big question.
Was the Lakers' loss to Seton Hill in the ECAC semis enough to move Tampa up to the No. 2 seed? Could Queens, which already has a head-to-head win over Mercyhurst, leap the Lakers, as well, sending Chris Ryan's troops to the Saints? As much as that loss stung, 'Hurst was helped by LIU Post gaining strength with its ECC title – a big in-region chip in the Lakers pile (along with Dowling, Pfeiffer and Tampa). The fact is Tampa's only regional wins are against Florida Southern twice. I just can't see the committee ignoring everything but the regional record, where the Spartans have a mild advantage, and jumping Tampa into the second spot. Queens doesn't have the juice, either. Mercyhurst stays in the second chair, followed by Tampa, and Queens.
With all of that said, I won't be shocked if the second and third seeds are reversed and Mercyhurst is headed to Florida.
Moving to the North, Adelphi locked up the top spot with their overtime win over Merrimack for the Northeast-10 title. We can bank that one. That win eliminates the Warriors from the mix. Like Lake Erie in the South, the rest of the entrants can be thankful Merrimack is out because they are playing superb lacrosse right now. 'Mack's departure makes the committee's job considerably easier. Or at least I think it does.
In year's past, Le Moyne's loss to Merrimack would have been more costly, but with the ECC chewing each other up with their own conference tournament, the Dolphins don't really have a threat to their second spot.
That leaves us with three ECC teams – LIU Post, Dowling and NYIT – battling for the last two seeds. In just the second year of the eight-team format, the committee is still in precedent-setting mode, so its decisions this year will resonate in the future (and potentially create some angry coaches if there is no consistency from year to year). The big question here is do you reward LIU Post for playing an incredibly difficult schedule and picking up a couple of losses along the way, or do you put primacy on in-region record, regardless of the overall strength.
It's a tough decision to balance, and I don't envy the committee, but I think they'll ultimately reward the Pioneers for their efforts – and for finishing the season strong with head-to-head wins over their biggest competitors. I'm projecting John Jez's outfit slotted in the third seed. If that happens, Dowling has to be the fourth seed because of the head-to-head win over NYIT and the Bears stumble in the ECC semis.
Could Dowling be the three and NYIT the four? Absolutely. Again, this will boil down to how the committee ranks its primary (and perhaps even secondary) criteria.
So there it is. Here are the quarterfinal projections, which begin on Saturday, March, 10 at campus sites: