May 3, 2011

Tuesdays with Corey: Bracketology, Second Edition; Harvard in the Dance?

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | First Edition


If the season ended today, writes Corey McLaughlin, Dean Gibbons and Harvard would be dancing with their recent win over Yale. The Crimson could further secure its standing with a win over Penn in the Ivy League semifinals.

There was a small amount of moving and shaking in the bracketology world after last week's games. Syracuse leapfrogged Notre Dame for the top spot after the Orange beat the Irish Saturday night. The rest of the seeds last week held serve, with two (Duke and Bucknell) finishing out their pre-NCAA tournament seasons.

Bucknell additionally earned the first guaranteed berth to the NCAA tournament by winning the Patriot League tournament, but by virtue of Virginia's big 11-2 win over Penn Saturday, the Bison were knocked out of a spot among the seeds by the Cavaliers, in at least this independent look at the potential tournament field.

In general, after sorting out each of the teams' resumes, two at-large berths are up for grabs among about six teams. That is assuming the five teams favored to win their postseason conference tournaments this week come through as expected. If there are one or two postseason tournament conference upsets -- here's looking at you, CAA and Ivy League -- then the bubble becomes smaller or even non-existent.

The Seeds

1. Syracuse (At-Large)
Last week: No. 2

Record: 13-1; SOS: 3, RPI: 1*
Wins of note: Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, Denver, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Army

Syracuse cemented its spot as the top overall seed with a win over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Notre Dame, 11-8, Saturday night at the Carrier Dome. The Orange has one more regular season game, then should play one of the two weakest teams in the NCAA tournament field in a first-round game at the Dome.

Remaining game: Saturday vs. St. John's

2. Notre Dame (At-Large)
Last week: No. 1

Record: 10-1; Strength of schedule: 4; RPI: 2
Wins of note: Denver, Duke, Villanova, Penn State, Drexel

Notre Dame fell to Syracuse, 11-8, but its overall resume still stacks up with Cornell or Johns Hopkins. The Irish have three wins over top-10 RPI teams. Cornell and Hopkins have one win each over top-5 RPI teams, but no wins over RPI teams ranked 6-10. It's splitting hairs among the Nos. 2-4 seeds. The Fighting Irish's strength of schedule rank jumped from 12 to 4 just by playing the Orange, while their RPI remained the same. A loss to North Carolina in its season finale would drop Notre Dame lower, however.

Remaining game: Friday at North Carolina

3. Cornell (Ivy League automatic qualifier)
Last week: No. 3

Record: 11-2; SOS: 7, RPI: 3
Wins of note: Syracuse, Penn, Yale, Stony Brook, Harvard

Cornell survived to beat Princeton, 9-7, and will now host the Ivy League tournament. The Big Red is solidly among the top four seeds overall.

Remaining games: Ivy League Tournament; Friday vs. Yale (semifinal)

4. Johns Hopkins (At-Large)
Last week: No. 4

Record: 11-2: SOS: 16; RPI: 4
Wins of note: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Loyola, Delaware

It wasn't the prettiest win Saturday, but the Blue Jays held on to defeat Loyola, 8-7, at Homewood Field. The win is all that matters when it comes to tournament purposes, and Hopkins remains seeded at No. 4.

Remaining game: Saturday at Army

5. Maryland (At-Large)
Last week: No. 5

Record: 10-3; SOS: 12; RPI: 11
Wins of note: Duke, Virginia, North Carolina

The ACC tournament champion Terps were idle last week and host Colgate Saturday. A loss in their last regular season game would hurt Maryland. A win wouldn't jump them any higher, unless one of the top four suffers a defeat.

Remaining game: Saturday vs. Colgate

6. Duke (At-Large)
Last week: No. 6

Record: 12-5; SOS: 14; RPI: 6
Wins of note: Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia (twice), Loyola

Duke ended its regular season where it began, in Jacksonville. In the opener the Blue Devils lost to Notre Dame at the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium, and the Blue Devils finished by beating Jacksonville, 10-6, Saturday. Duke will host a first-round game.


Steele Stanwick led Virginia to the biggest win of the weekend, in bracketology terms, playing the Cavaliers back into a home seed with an 11-2 victory over Penn.

© Greg Wall

7. Virginia (At-Large)
Last week: Unseeded

Record: 9-5, SOS: 1, RPI: 5
Wins of note: Cornell, North Carolina, Penn, Stony Brook, Drexel

A huge 11-2 win Saturday over Penn prevented the Cavaliers season from tail-spinning any further out of control, and dramatically helped their chances of hosting a first-round game. The win was the biggest for any team in NCAA tournament consideration over the weekend. Despite their five losses, it's hard to look past their quality wins.

8. Denver (ECAC automatic qualifier)
Last week: No. 7

Record: 11-2; SOS: 28; RPI: 7
Wins of note: Duke, Loyola

Denver took out Fairfield, 11-5, to end the regular season. The Pioneers host the ECAC tournament this weekend and play Ohio State (8-7) in the semifinals. A tournament win would give Denver an automatic qualifying berth, and a good shot at hosting a first-round game, which would be quite a statement in just year two of the Bill Tierney Era in Denver.

Remaining games: ECAC tournament; Friday vs. Ohio State (semifinals)

The Rest

Bucknell (Patriot League automatic qualifier)
Last week: No. 8

Record: 14-2; SOS: 34; RPI; 9
Wins of note: Villanova, Army, Penn State, Colgate (twice)

Bucknell won the Patriot League tournament and AQ bid by taking out Colgate, 10-3, in the final and beating Lehigh in the semis. The Bison have won eight in a row, and did nothing wrong to drop out of last week's top 8. Virginia's win over Penn, which had considerable strength of schedule, moved the Cavaliers ahead of Bucknell.

Villanova (At-Large)
Record: 11-3; SOS: 19; RPI: 8
Wins of note: Penn, Penn State, Delaware

The only team here to play two games last week, the Wildcats beat Rutgers, 12-7, and Providence, 11-7. Villanova's SOS and RPI both dropped last week, which is indicative of why the Cats will likely be unseeded and have to travel for the first round. Their strongest win is an overtime victory against Penn. Their three losses – to Syracuse, Notre Dame and Bucknell – aren't disappointing in the grand scheme, but they are still losses. A win in one of those three games would have had them in the top 8.

Remaining game: Saturday at Georgetown

Hofstra (CAA automatic qualifier)
Record: 13-1; SOS: 38, RPI: 10
Wins of note: Colgate, Harvard, Penn State, Drexel, UMass

Hofstra beat CAA foe Penn State, 9-4, Saturday, to lock up the top seed for the CAA tournament. The Pride is the conference tournament's top seed one year after not even qualifying for it. But it looks like Hofstra will need to win the CAA to guarantee an NCAA berth. It would get an AQ if so. If the Pride should lose in the CAA final, it could still grab one of the last at-large berths. But should there be another conference tournament upset in another league, Hofstra may find itself on the outside looking in, even with just two losses this season. A loss to Delaware in the CAA semis would hurt even more. Penn State and UMass will also look to get the conference AQ this weekend.

Remaining games: CAA tournament; Wednesday vs. Delaware (semifinals)

North Carolina (At-Large)
Record: 9-5; SOS: 6, RPI: 13
Wins of note: Maryland, Penn

North Carolina relaxed last week with no games. Coach Joe Breschi was at the Carrier Dome to scout Notre Dame, whom the Tar Heels play Friday in Chapel Hill. A loss to the Irish wouldn't be terrible, but a win would help their case for being a seed.

Remaining game: Friday vs. Notre Dame

Stony Brook (America East automatic qualifier)
Record: 9-3; SOS: 25; RPI: 12
Win of note: Delaware

Stony Brook hosts the America East tournament and welcomes Binghamton for the first-round game Wednesday. It's simple — the Seawolves win the America East tournament, and they're in.

Remaining games: America East tournament; Wednesday vs. Binghamton (semifinal)

Siena (MAAC automatic qualifier)
Record: 11-5; SOS: 58; RPI: 33
Wins of note: Jacksonville, Providence

Siena won the MAAC regular season title for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Detroit Mercy could have been the No. 1 seed for the postseason tournament held at Canisius, but lost to Marist. Siena is the top seed; the MAAC is one-bid league.

Remaining games: MAAC tournament; Friday vs. Jacksonville (semifinal)

Last Two In (At-Large)


Peter Baum and Colgate could still play their way into NCAA tournament contention by beating Maryland in their regular season finale.

Penn
Record: 8-5; SOS: 5; RPI: 14
Wins of note: Duke, Bucknell, Yale, Harvard

It was a bad loss to Virginia, but the Quakers still have the nicest resume and strongest strength of schedule of any of the bubble teams. The Ivy League tournament will have implications for them though, with Yale on their heels and now Harvard looking good after the Crimson beat Yale Saturday.

Remaining games: Ivy League tournament; Friday vs. Harvard (semifinal)

Harvard

Record: 9-5; SOS: 27; RPI: 20
Wins of note: UMass, Yale

It's a struggle to find a team worthy of the final at-large spot. Harvard put itself in bubble consideration with a win over Yale Saturday, as the Crimson increased its number of quality wins to two -- a small number, but pretty good compared to other bubble teams. A win over Penn in the Ivy League semifinals will only help them. Harvard would then play either Cornell or Yale.

Remaining games: Ivy League tournament; Friday vs. Penn (semifinal)

First Two Out

Colgate
Record: 10-5; SOS: 26; RPI: 15
Wins of note: Army (twice)

Colgate beat Army in the Patriot League semis and fell to Bucknell in the championship game. If their season was over, the Raiders would likely finish as the first team out of the tournament. But they still have a big game remaining at Maryland. With a win, Colgate would vault into one of the final two at-large spots.

Loyola
Record: 8-4: SOS: 15, RPI: 16
Wins of note: None

Coach Charlie Toomey, a member of the tournament selection committee, said after the Greyhounds lost to Hopkins, 8-7, Saturday that Loyola would probably need to win the ECAC tournament AQ to make the NCAAs. I generally agree, but there's an outside shot Loyola could get in if it reaches the ECAC final and loses to Denver. Harvard beat Yale Saturday, which muddied the water for which -- or if -- any third Ivy team gets in the big tournament. Loyola has the best strength of schedule of any of the bottom-level bubble teams, although it is slightly behind Yale in many other criteria used on a subjective basis. That said, it will be a much easier road to NCAAs if the 'Hounds win the ECAC tournament in Denver.

Remaining games: ECAC tournament; Thursday vs. Fairfield (semifinal).

Next Two Out

Charlie Toomey, a member of the tournament selection committee, said after the Greyhounds lost to Hopkins, 8-7, Saturday that Loyola would probably need to win the ECAC tournament AQ to make the NCAAs. I generally agree.

Yale
Record: 10-3; SOS: 44; RPI: 24
Win of note: Georgetown

A 9-5 loss to Harvard drops Yale from "Last Two In" last week. Yeah, the Bulldogs are 10-3, but the overall body of work just isn't there. They'll need to make a run in the Ivy League tournament.

Remaining games: Ivy League tournament; Friday vs. Cornell (semifinal)

Army
Record: 9-5; SOS: 39; RPI: 26
Win of note: Cornell

The Black Knights were pushed to the brink of NCAA tournament elimination by losing to Colgate in the Patriot League semifinals. But they still have a chance, albeit slim. Should Army beat Johns Hopkins Saturday, that would give them wins over Cornell and the Blue Jays, two of the top four teams in the country. The selection committee would find it hard to ignore that. No other team near this part of the list could boast impressive victories like those two.

Remaining game: Saturday vs. Johns Hopkins

Don't Forget...

UMass, Penn State, Delaware, Ohio State and a few teams off the bubble who will need to win their conference tournament to make the big show.

* Strength of Schedule rankings and RPI numbers are from LaxPower.com. The site correctly predicted the first edition of RPI ranks that were released last Tuesday afternoon by the NCAA. Same deal this week; the NCAA hadn't released its own updated RPI as of Monday.


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