April 15, 2013

Bracketology: Who's In, Out and on the Bubble?

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

If Denver runs through the rest of its schedule without any trouble, the Pioneers will be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Editor's note: Washington, D.C/Baltimore area sportswriter Patrick Stevens will be providing NCAA Division I men's tournament projections for LaxMagazine.com every Monday through Selection Sunday with special editions in the days leading upto May 5.

Stevens was USA TODAY Sports' bracket/bubble specialist for the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament — correctly predicting all 68 teams — and has also projected the lacrosse tournament bracket over the years for various publications. Tweet him @D1scourse.

More than two months of the college lacrosse season has sorted out very little.

Yes, Notre Dame has done as much as anyone. Yes, Denver has constructed a stout profile.

But overall, the projected field of 16 for next month's NCAA Division I men's tournament figures to remain fluid over the next three weeks.

The ACC, Big East, ECAC and Ivy tournaments will go a long way toward sorting things out. So, too, will a handful of regular-season games.

For now, it doesn't hurt to offer a best guess, with the caveat that plenty is sure to change. As usual, the RPI and schedule strength data come from LaxPower.

Here's the format: A run through the projected automatic qualifiers (i.e. the current conference leaders), then a look at the teams still in realistic contention for an at-large bid. Finally, a look at the projected field.

AUTOMATIC BIDS (8)

DENVER (ECAC)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-2 1 6 0-2 3-2 5-2 7-@Duke, 9-Penn
10-@Loyola, 14-@Ohio State    
17-Lehigh


The Pioneers won their third overtime game and fourth one-goal contest Saturday, scoring 16 seconds into the extra session to upend Loyola. That effectively hands the ECAC regular-season title to Denver, which has yet to play winless Michigan and needs just one more victory to lock up the league's No. 1 seed. If Bill Tierney's team races through the rest of its schedule without any trouble, it will be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall seed.

This week: Fairfield (Saturday)

PENN STATE (COLONIAL)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 4 5 1-1 1-1 4-3 1-vs. Denver, 13-@Bucknell     
15-Drexel, 20-@Villanova


That's seven wins in a row for the Nittany Lions, who can wrap up home-field advantage for the Colonial tournament with a victory at either Delaware or Hofstra to close out the regular season. More significantly, Penn State is closing in on hosting an NCAA tournament game for the first time in program history; the Nittany Lions lost at Towson (2003) and Maryland (2005) in its two previous appearances.

This week: at Delaware (Saturday)

Tournament Probabilities

LaxPower.com founder Larry Feldman has developed formulas, based on historical data, to determine teams' chances of making NCAA tournaments across all levels: Division I, II and III men and women.

Probabilities are available and updated at his LaxBytes website.

MD1: Locks — Cornell, Denver, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse

WD1: Locks — Boston College, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse

MD2: Locks — Limestone, Mercyhurst

WD2: Locks — None

MD3: Locks — Cortland, Dickinson, RIT

WD3: Locks — Cortland, Salisbury, Trinity (Conn.)

CORNELL (IVY)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-2 6 24 0-1 1-1 2-2 9-Penn, 12-@Yale    


Few teams benefitted from the weekend's results more than the Big Red, which rose from 10th in the RPI after a midweek loss to Syracuse to No. 6 without even playing. Cornell can clinch the Ivy League's regular-season title and hosting rights to the conference tournament with one more victory.

This week: at Brown (Saturday)

ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 11 27 1-0 1-0 2-3 5-@Syracuse, 16-@Hopkins   


Ho-hum. Just another 20-goal day for the Great Danes, who have won five straight and eight of nine. Albany topped 20 goals for the third time in four games, and got some modest help from elsewhere as well; Johns Hopkins' victory at Maryland gives Scott Marr's team a second top-20 triumph.

This week: UMBC (Saturday)

LEHIGH (PATRIOT)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-4 17 30 1-1 1-2 3-2 4-vs. Penn State, 13-@Bucknell   
20-@Villanova


The Mountain Hawks will host the Patriot League tournament after handling Bucknell 11-7 on the road on Friday. Lehigh has not allowed more than 10 goals in a game since February, and it is surrendering seven goals a game in Patriot play. The Mountain Hawks aren't a threat to get a home game, but they would be a tough out next month.

This week: Lafayette (Saturday)

VILLANOVA (BIG EAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
5-6 20 4 1-1 1-3 2-6 5-Syracuse, 18-@St. John's    


The Wildcats remain the surprise leader of the Big East and hence the projected automatic qualifier as well. Villanova clinched a berth in the conference tournament (which it will host next month) thanks to its 13-11 triumph at St. John's.

This week: at Notre Dame (Saturday)

MARIST (METRO ATLANTIC)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-2 31 61 0-0 0-1 0-1 ----


The Red Foxes can secure the top seed in the MAAC tournament with a defeat of Siena this weekend. As well as things have gone for Marist, it is still operating in a one-bid league as it chases its first NCAA appearance since 2005.

This week: Siena (Saturday)

BRYANT (NORTHEAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
5-8 40 46 0-0 0-0 0-3 ----


The Bulldogs will take the outright NEC lead into the fourth of five weekends of conference play. Like the Metro Atlantic, this is a one-bid league, so the chance to see long pole Mason Poli (11 goals) play beyond the first weekend in May rests upon Bryant winning the NEC tournament.

North Carolina is in solid position to host a first-round game, but its seeding will be determined by how it fares in the ACC tournament.
© Cecil Copeland

AT-LARGE FIELD (15 for 8 spots)

Projected in

NOTRE DAME

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-2 2 3 3-0 4-0 5-1 1-@Denver, 3-UNC
4-@Penn State, 7-Duke    
14-Ohio State


The Fighting Irish maintains the most complete profile entering the final three weeks of the regular season. Between the RPI, strength of schedule and quality victories, Notre Dame will have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament if it wins out.

This week: Villanova (Saturday)

NORTH CAROLINA

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 3 8 0-1 1-2 3-2 8-@Maryland, 16-Hopkins   
19-Princeton


The Tar Heels are in increasingly solid position to earn a first-round home game after shredding Hofstra on Saturday. Their seeding ceiling will be determined by how they fare in the ACC tournament, which they host April 26 and 28 at Kenan Stadium.

This week: High Point (Friday)

SYRACUSE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-2 5 13 0-0 1-0 4-2 6-Cornell, 16-Hopkins   
18-vs. St. John's, 19-@Princeton   


The Orange avoided a lousy loss on Saturday, rallying past Rutgers to wrap up a two-victory week. There's still a chance for Syracuse to find its way into one of the tournament's top seeds, especially with at least one and perhaps two games against Notre Dame still to come.

This week: Hobart (Tuesday), at Georgetown (Saturday)

DUKE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-4 7 2 1-2 2-4 2-4 3-@UNC, 10-Loyola    


The Blue Devils secured a rock-'em-sock-'em 19-16 victory over Virginia on Friday to take a share of the ACC regular-season title. Duke has won eight straight, and has scored at least 17 goals in four of its last five games.

This week: at Rutgers (Saturday)

MARYLAND

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-2 8 15 0-1 2-1 3-2 7-@Duke, 10-@Loyola    
20-@Villanova


The Terrapins are a great illustration of two things: The irrelevance of human polls and the thin margin between the half-dozen teams after Denver and Notre Dame. Maryland fell five spots in the RPI after losing to Johns Hopkins and is hardly a sure thing at this stage for a NCAA first-round home game after spending last week as the nation's No. 1 team in the rankings.

This week: Yale (Saturday)

PENN

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
6-4 9 9 0-1 1-2 4-3 7-Duke, 17-@Lehigh
19-Princeton, 20-vs. Villanova   


The Quakers ceded some ground with an overtime loss to Harvard, but effective scheduling and a stout early victory (Duke) will keep them in decent shape — barring any more dubious stumbles. Penn would be wise to handle Dartmouth and Bellarmine over the next two weeks, just to be safe.

This week: Dartmouth (Saturday)

LOYOLA

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 10 20 0-1 0-3 1-3 14-@Ohio State   


The defending national champions just don't have much of a profile, at least in terms of quality victories. There's nothing wrong with the Greyhounds' stumbles (by a combined four goals to Denver, Duke and Maryland), but there's also still some work to do.

This week: at Hobart (Saturday)

YALE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-3 12 16 0-0 1-1 2-3 9-@Penn, 11-@Albany    


The Bulldogs have quietly pieced together a four-game winning streak and have done nothing to torpedo their chances of making back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time. But another standout victory would help, either against Maryland or in the Ivy League tournament.

This week: Stony Brook (Monday), at Maryland (Saturday)

Projected out

Princeton took the biggest hit over the weekend, falling to Dartmouth in the Tigers' fourth one-goal loss of the season. They are on the outside looking in right now.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BUCKNELL

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 13 35 0-1 1-1 3-2 6-@Cornell, 11-@Albany
15-Drexel


The Bison frittered away home-field advantage in the Patriot tournament, and very well may have to beat Lehigh on the road in two weekends to salvage their NCAA hopes. The value of the Cornell victory rebounded a bit, but Bucknell's strength of schedule is going to be a major issue if it is to be a viable at-large possibility.

This week: at Colgate (Saturday)

OHIO STATE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-3 14 23 1-2 1-3 1-3 4-@Penn State   


The Buckeyes got a lesson in how one game can severely impact the RPI this weekend. Ohio State was No. 9 before walloping winless Michigan; it is now 14th. The Buckeyes are going to need to do more than hope their victory over Penn State carries the day with the selection committee, which means they'll be on the spot to reach and then thrive in the ECAC tournament.

This week: at Air Force (Saturday)

DREXEL

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 15 34 0-1 0-1 2-2 11-Albany, 20-Villanova   


The Dragons' postseason chances realistically rest upon winning the CAA tournament. Their strength of schedule isn't going to do them much good, and their remaining regular-season schedule won't bolster their chances, either. Drexel is unlikely to earn the No. 1 seed in the CAA, but historically that isn't an issue; just once in the last six years has the CAA's top seed gone on to earn the automatic bid.

This week: Towson (Saturday)

JOHNS HOPKINS

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-4 16 17 0-2 1-2 1-4 8-@Maryland    


The Blue Jays saved their season, at least temporarily, by winning at Maryland. There still isn't much wiggle room, but collecting three more in a row against Navy, Loyola and Army will keep Hopkins in the postseason discussion. The biggest game of that bunch is obviously against Loyola; facing Navy (RPI: 52) next weekend will damage the Blue Jays' computer numbers regardless of outcome.

This week: Navy (Saturday)

ST. JOHN'S

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-4 18 41 1-1 1-1 2-2 2-Notre Dame, 12-@Yale   


The Red Storm's position has deteriorated considerably over the last two weeks. St. John's lost to a  pair of sub-.500 teams (Georgetown and Villanova) and is suddenly in serious danger of missing the Big East tournament. The Red Storm's two remaining regular-season games (at Providence and at home against Marquette) will be of no help to either a fading RPI or a meager strength of schedule.

This week: at Providence (Saturday)

PRINCETON

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-4 19 7 0-2 0-3 3-3 12-Yale, 16-@Hopkins    
20-Villanova


The Tigers arguably took the greatest hit this weekend, falling 10-9 at Dartmouth. Princeton has four one-goal losses, and as a result its RPI probably is not indicative of its overall talent. Nonetheless, there's no escaping those setbacks, and the Tigers need to finish strong over the next three weeks.

This week: Harvard (Friday)

HOFSTRA

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-5 22 10 1-1 1-1 1-4 2-@Notre Dame   


The Pride lost for the fourth time in six games Saturday, and their at-large hopes are just about gone. In another time, the victory over Notre Dame would keep Hofstra in contention, but it is just about out of wiggle room. Winning the CAA tournament might be the Pride's best path to the postseason at this point.

This week: Massachusetts (Saturday)

Projected Bracket

(Reminders: Only the top eight slots in the field are seeded; the NCAA attempts to limit air travel in the first round as much as possible, opting instead for geography-influenced matchups. Also, first-round games are at campus sites, with quarterfinal sites in italics)

Indianapolis

(1) Notre Dame vs. NORTHEAST/Bryant
(8) IVY/Cornell vs. Loyola

College Park

(4) COLONIAL/Penn State vs. Yale
(5) Syracuse vs. PATRIOT/Lehigh

College Park

(3) North Carolina vs. BIG EAST/Villanova
(6) Maryland vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

Indianapolis

(2) ECAC/Denver vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Marist
(7) Duke vs. Penn

Last four out: Bucknell, Ohio State, Princeton, Johns Hopkins


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