May 7, 2012

MD1 Bracket Breakdown: Princeton In, Penn State Snubbed

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | TwitterFull Bracket (PDF)

After losing to Yale in the Ivy League final Sunday afternoon, the Tigers had an anxious few hours before seeing their name in the 16-team tournament field Sunday night.
© John Stohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

NCAA Brackets: MD1 | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3
Analysis: MD1 | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3

The NCAA announced the Division I men's tournament bracket Sunday evening, and there's plenty to discuss. Whose bubble burst? How was the Ivy League a two-bid conference?

It's time to analyze the field. Here's the bracket breakdown.

The Top Seed

Loyola
The Selection Committee followed suit and rewarded the RPI's top team with the No. 1 national seed. Loyola, having already posted a program-best 14 wins in 2012, will host a game for the first time since 2000. The Greyhounds, whose only loss of the year came in overtime to No. 2 Johns Hopkins, draw Canisius (RPI No. 42, MAAC automatic qualifier), which shouldn't stand in their way. The Hounds will face a test against the winner of No. 8 North Carolina and Denver in the Annapolis, Md., quarterfinal. Led by dynamic duo Mike Sawyer and Eric Lusby, Loyola boasts one of the nation's top offenses (12.15 goals per game, 8th nationally), and it will shoot from anywhere on the field. The Greyhounds take advantage of unsettled situations in transition with athletic defenders Josh Hawkins and Scott Ratliff, while faceoff specialist J.P. Dalton (55.2 percent) has been solid at the X. Loyola's close defense and goalie situation were unproven areas coming into the season, but those questions have been answered; the unit does a nice job of giving Jack Runkel shots he wants to see.

Last Team In

Princeton
The Tigers lost to Yale 15-7 in the Ivy League Tournament championship game Sunday, and even though most experts felt the Ivy would be a one-bid league, they got in. Why? Well, Princeton ranked a "stable" No. 10 in the RPI, played the 12th-toughest schedule and had top-20 wins over Yale and Cornell. Plus, it helped that the Tigers twice beat Brown, which recently knocked off Cornell. Princeton plays Virginia in the first round on Sunday.

First Team Out

Penn State
It looked like coach Jeff Tambroni would take the Nittany Lions to the big show in just his second season in Happy Valley, but they ended up barely missing the field. Penn State's resume was bolstered all season by the strength of its win over Notre Dame; when the Fighting Irish lost to St. John's in the Big East Tournament, that hurt the Nits more than anyone else. Penn State played the nation's third-toughest schedule and posted top-20 wins over Drexel and Ohio State. But in the end, Tambroni's team came up just one win short. Another "W" against North Carolina, Denver, UMass or Lehigh, or avoiding a loss in the CAA Tournament, could have been the difference.

Snubbed

Other than Penn State? Fairfield. The Stags have the highest RPI (13) of the teams that didn't make the field, and four tournament teams have a lower RPI. Fairfield didn't have any "bad" losses — Loyola (twice) and Colgate — and after starting the year 7-0, it beat Denver in overtime, then went farther than Denver in the ECAC Tournament. So the Fairfield faithful have reason to be upset, though ultimately the Stags' strength of schedule (24) and lack of top-10 wins hurt them.

Best First-Round Game

Colgate at No. 6 UMass
Who said lacrosse needs a shot clock? Likely no one who watches this game, which features two of the nation's top-three scoring offenses. Colgate and Peter Baum average 13.6 goals per game, while UMass and Will Manny average 12.92. Both squads can sling it, and both will push the pace. First one to 15 wins?

Seeded Too High

Johns Hopkins
It's a small bone to pick, but in my book No. 2 Johns Hopkins didn't have quite the same resume as Duke. The third-seeded Blue Devils had the better RPI and strength of schedule, and they had one more top-20 victory.

Seeded Too Low

UMass, North Carolina
The Minutemen were never considered for a seed higher than No. 6, so it's somewhat unrealistic to say they were seeded too low, but they were undefeated. Some bracket projections even had UMass as high as the No. 2 overall seed. Ultimately, it hurt that the Minutemen didn't beat (or play) any other tournament teams, and they received a treatment similar to 2007 Cornell and 2009 Notre Dame. North Carolina, on the other hand, had five top-20 victories. Did the Tar Heels blowout win over Michigan on Saturday make that big of a difference in their seeding? Remember, Carolina beat No. 2 Hopkins and No. 5 Virginia. Funny thing is, if the Selection Committee hadn't gotten permission for an extra travel waiver, the Heels wouldn't have hosted at all.

Upset Alert

Notre Dame
Did you see how Yale ambushed Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament championship game? The Bulldogs have won nine straight games, and they're arguably the hottest team in the country. That's a team you don't want to face. Good thing for the Fighting Irish, coach Kevin Corrigan and staff traveled to Princeton (from Villanova) to scout the Ivy championship games after Notre Dame was eliminated from the Big East bracket.

Three Players to Watch

Peter Baum, Colgate, Jr. A
Like it or not, the Tewaaraton is a postseason award. Baum's 93-point regular season performance was outrageous. But how far can he take the Raiders? If Colgate can crash Memorial Day weekend, Baum would be a big reason, and he'd have to be mentioned along with Virginia's Steele Stanwick.

Dan Wigrizer, Duke, Jr. G
Duke has all the athleticism and star power in the world to make its sixth straight final four appearance, but Wigrizer will need to continue his hot play to key the run. Since changing his style and hand positioning — he's more relaxed in the cage, and he can more easily swing his stick around to stop low shots — Wigrizer has been a different dude, and a difference maker.

Lee Coppersmith, Johns Hopkins, Jr. M
Hopkins will be without the services of junior midfielder John Greeley for the rest of the season, as he undergoes surgery to repair the left knee in which he had torn his ACL last summer. The Blue Jays inserted Coppersmith in Greeley's place, and he responded by scoring a pair of goals against Loyola two weeks ago. But after taking eight shots against the Greyhounds, Coppersmith took none against Army on Saturday. He's one of the fastest players in the country. He can initiate from up top and create a shot for himself anytime he wants. It'll be important for Coppersmith's role to emerge this postseason.

Don't be surprised if...

Anything out of the ordinary happens. Really. Hasn't it been that kind of season? So expect the unexpected.


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