April 29, 2013

Bracketology: Final Week of the Regular Season

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Last week's edition

Lehigh earned the first bid to the NCAA tournament by winning the Patriot League title on Sunday. There's still plenty more to be decided before Selection Sunday.
© Kevin P. Tucker

As the final week of the regular season begins, attention is going to rightfully turn to who fills the final couple spots in the 16-team field.

It's natural to notice what the likes of Drexel, Loyola, Ohio State, Penn and Yale do in the next few days. But it's also important to realize how those teams could get squeezed out by bid thieves.

That would mean a surprise winner in the Big East (Georgetown or Villanova).

Or an anybody-but-Penn State winner in the Colonial.

Or maybe Fairfield in the ECAC.

Those sorts of outcomes are every bit a part of the equation as well.

One other note: After reviewing a file with last year's final nitty-gritty page used by the selection committee, the strength of schedule column in each team's profile is an average of the rankings of the top 10 opponents in the RPI (example: Notre Dame is worth 1 point since it is first in the RPI). That changes things a bit, but it's sort of pointless to go through this exercise by using information the selection committee won't utilize.

RPI data, as always, is courtesy of LaxPower. The top 10 opponents' average RPI is independently calculated.

Here's this week's rundown, with the record, RPI, top 10 opponents' average RPI, records against the top five, 10 and 20 and a list of top-20 wins for each team.

In Via Automatic Bid (1)

LEHIGH (PATRIOT)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI  
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 14 15th (16.7) 1-1 3-1 3-2 5-vs. Penn State, 8-@Bucknell   
8-Bucknell


The Mountain Hawks are back in the tournament for the second consecutive year after drubbing Colgate and Bucknell at home to win the Patriot League tournament. Lehigh won't get a home game this time around, but no one will be pleased to have to contend with its effective defense. A few logical first-round destinations: Cornell, Maryland, Syracuse or perhaps even a rematch with Penn State. Loyola, if it won the ECAC, would also be in play.

This week: Regular season complete

Projected Automatic Bids (7)

DENVER (ECAC)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 2
6th (13.6) 0-2 2-2 5-2 9-@Loyola, 10-@Ohio State,
11-@Duke, 12-Penn   
14-Lehigh


The Pioneers handled Michigan to close out the regular season and clinch the top seed in the ECAC tournament. There's still a chance they snag the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but the season's final week won't change much for Denver. The Pios are easily in the field and will host a first-round game regardless of the outcome of their conference tournament.

This week: vs. Fairfield (Thursday); vs. possibly Loyola or Ohio State (Saturday)

CORNELL (IVY)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-2 4
18th (17.4)
0-0 0-2 4-2 12-Penn, 13-@Yale
19-vs. Princeton, 20-@Virginia   


The Big Red throttled Princeton at the Meadowlands, and now get the Tigers again at home in the Ivy League tournament. Cornell's schedule strength and absence of a top-10 win might affect its seeding, but this is still a team likely to host a first-round game at this stage.

This week: Princeton (Friday); possibly Penn or Yale (Sunday)

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 — Lehigh, Cornell, Denver, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse

WD1: Locks — High Point, UMass, Monmouth, Navy, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Syracuse

MD2: Locks — Limestone, Mercyhurst, Seton Hill

WD2: Locks — None

MD3: Locks — Cortland, Dickinson, RIT

WD3: Locks — Cortland, Salisbury

PENN STATE (COLONIAL)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 5
8th (13.8)    1-1 2-2 3-3 2-vs. Denver, 8-@Bucknell     
15-Drexel


There's no arguing with the Nittany Lions' profile --- great RPI, strong schedule, a couple top-10 victories. While Penn State is playing for seeding in this week's CAA tournament, other teams nationally will certainly be rooting for the Nits. If anyone knocks off Penn State, it means a bid thief will wrangle its way into the 16-team NCAA field.

This week: Massachusetts (Wednesday); possibly Drexel or Towson (Friday)

SYRACUSE (BIG EAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 6
10th (14.6)
2-0 2-0 6-1 1-vs. Notre Dame, 4-Cornell
16-Hopkins, 18-@Princeton   
19-vs. St. John's, 20-Virginia   


The Orange's previous five games were decided by five goals, so of course they pummeled Notre Dame 10-4 on Saturday. There will be no anxiety about postseason inclusion for John Desko's team, but it can improve its seeding some more with another defeat of Notre Dame on Thursday.

This week: vs. Notre Dame (Thursday); possibly Georgetown or Villanova (Saturday)

ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-4 16 32nd (21.5)
0-0 1-1 2-3 6-@Syracuse, 17-@Hopkins       


If the Great Danes had any hope of an at-large bid, it probably fizzled with a midweek loss to Siena when they played without two of their three Thompsons. All three were on the field for Saturday's rout of Stony Brook, and a rematch looms this week in the America East semifinals. Albany averaged 20.7 goals in its games against the other teams in its league tournament, and it is the heavy favorite to emerge with an automatic bid.

This week: Stony Brook (Thursday); possibly Hartford or UMBC (Saturday)

MARIST (METRO ATLANTIC)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 30
62nd (40.6)
0-0 0-0 0-1 ----


The Red Foxes are the top seed in the Metro Atlantic tournament, which will be played in Buffalo, N.Y. The other teams in the field are Jacksonville (RPI: 34), Siena (36) and Detroit (58), and only the winner will reach the NCAA tournament.

This week: vs. Detroit (Friday); possibly Jacksonville or Siena (Sunday)

BRYANT (NORTHEAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
6-10 47 48th (26.3)
0-0 0-1 0-3 ---


The Bulldogs earned the right to host the NEC tournament, which will also feature Robert Morris (RPI: 42), Quinnipiac (51) and Sacred Heart (56). Whatever comes of next weekend, whoever wins will make their first Division I NCAA tournament appearance.

This week: Sacred Heart (Friday); possibly Quinnipiac or Robert Morris (Sunday)

At-Large Field (13 for 8 spots)

Projected in

Chad Tutton and the North Carolina Tar Heels are in contention for the No. 1 overall seed after taking the ACC title.
© Peyton Williams

NOTRE DAME

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 1
2nd (10.8) 3-0 4-1 5-2 1-@Denver, 3-North Carolina   
5-@Penn State, 10-Ohio State     
11-@Duke


Saturday's 10-4 loss to Syracuse offered a reminder Notre Dame is not a sure thing on offense, but its overall profile remains impeccable. The Fighting Irish owns five victories over likely postseason teams, and can pick up a sixth in Thursday's rematch with Syracuse. Despite the stumble, Notre Dame still possesses the best overall resume in the country.

This week: vs. Syracuse (Thursday); possibly Georgetown or Villanova (Saturday)

 NORTH CAROLINA

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-3 3 12th (14.9) 0-1 1-1 6-2 7-@Maryland, 11-Duke
17-Hopkins, 18-Princeton   
20-@Virginia, 20-Virginia


The Tar Heels won their first ACC tournament since 1996, and it might be enough to snag them the No. 1 overall seed in May. They'll probably need help to hop over Notre Dame at this point, but this past weekend demonstrated just how dangerous North Carolina could be in the postseason. It's difficult to imagine the Tar Heels landing anything less than a No. 4 seed.

This week: Regular season complete

MARYLAND

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 7
19th (17.9)
0-1 1-1 4-3 9-@Loyola, 11-@Duke    
13-Yale, 20-@Virginia


The suddenly silent Terrapins have scored just 18 goals over their last three games, but aren't in any danger of missing the postseason. They are, though, at risk of fumbling away a home first-round game with yet another loss to Colgate. That's not what anyone expected when Maryland was 8-1 just a few weeks ago.

This week: Colgate (Saturday)

BUCKNELL

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 8
20th (18.0) 1-1 1-1 3-3 4-@Cornell, 15-Drexel   
16-@Albany


The Bison will likely gobble up an at-large bid after falling to Lehigh for the second time in Sunday's Patriot League final. That defeat does more to damage teams like Drexel, Penn and Yale than it does Bucknell, which possesses a profile likely to snag it just the third NCAA tournament bid in school history (2001 and 2011 were the others).

This week: Regular season complete

LOYOLA

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 9
16th (16.8)
0-1 1-2 2-3 10-@Ohio State, 17-@Hopkins   


The Greyhounds ended a 13-game losing streak to Johns Hopkins, in the process creating some separation between themselves and a fading at-large possibility. The defending national champions don't have an overwhelming profile, but they'll probably be fine if they win their ECAC tournament opener. A home first-round game has to still be in play if Loyola wins the event up at Hobart.

This week: vs. Ohio State (Thursday); possibly Denver or Fairfield (Saturday)

OHIO STATE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 10
5th (13.1) 1-2 1-3 2-3 5-@Penn State, 20-@Virginia   


What an interesting team the Buckeyes have become, with a victory over Penn State that continues to add value to a conference tournament that provides a chance to enhance an already commendable schedule strength. Barring chaos elsewhere, a victory over Loyola probably does the job for Ohio State. Even without upsets in other league, the Buckeyes might wind up OK regardless of how they do this week in the ECAC tournament.

This week: vs. Loyola (Thursday); possibly Denver or Fairfield (Saturday)

DUKE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-5 11
3rd (11.0) 1-3 2-4 3-5 3-@North Carolina, 9-Loyola    
20-Virginia


Could the Blue Devils get shipped on the road in the first round? It's plausible, especially since the trip to Marquette this weekend isn't going to be an RPI helper (but it won't cause too much of a dip, either). Maybe the better question is how long will Duke last in the postseason, a valid question after yielding 16 goals to Virginia and 18 to North Carolina in two of its last three games.

This week: at Marquette (Sunday)

PENN

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-4 12 11th (14.8)
0-2 0-2 3-3 11-Duke, 14-@Lehigh      
18-Princeton   

 

The Quakers' profile continues to grow less and less impressive, and they might turn out to be the biggest losers from Duke's rock-'em-sock-'em ACC tournament loss to North Carolina. The computer numbers are good, but Penn would be advised to avenge an earlier loss to Yale if it wants to return to the NCAAs after a one-year hiatus. For now, modest advantages in RPI and schedule strength combined with a deeper set of victories would probably offset the head-to-head setback against the Bulldogs.

This week: vs. Yale (Friday); possibly Cornell or Princeton (Sunday)

Projected out

Yale faces Penn in an Ivy League semifinal that might turn out to be an NCAA elimination game. 
© John Strohsacker

YALE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-4 13 14th (16.2)
0-1 0-2 2-4 12-@Penn, 16-@Albany    


The Bulldogs find themselves in what might turn out to be an NCAA play-out game in the Ivy League tournament against Penn; the winner probably solidifies its position barring zaniness elsewhere, while the loser is going to have a difficult argument for inclusion. Yale has a decent resume, but nothing on it will absolutely wow anyone. A sweep of Penn would certainly make it difficult to argue Penn (a team with a similar profile) belongs in over Yale.

This week: vs. Penn (Friday); possibly Cornell or Princeton (Sunday)

DREXEL

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 15 31st (21.2)
0-1 0-2 1-3 16-Albany      


This resume, plus a CAA tournament split, just isn't going to get it done for the Dragons even if there aren't upsets in other conferences. Ultimately, Drexel is going to need to win twice in three days up at Penn State if it is to make its first NCAA appearance.

This week: vs. Towson (Wednesday); possibly Penn State or Massachusetts (Friday)

JOHNS HOPKINS

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-5 17 17th (17.3)
0-1 1-3 2-5 7-@Maryland, 20-vs. Virginia    


That might just about do it for Hopkins, which feebly scored only one goal in the second half of its 8-4 loss to Loyola. The Blue Jays' regular-season finale isn't going to do them much good, and they head into the final week of the regular season with one victory over a team more than a game over .500 (Maryland). The 41-year NCAA streak appears set to end at Homewood, another sign of lacrosse's changing landscape.

This week: at Army (Friday)

ST. JOHN'S

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-4 19
45th (25.7)
1-0 1-1 2-1 1-Notre Dame, 13-@Yale   


The Red Storm didn't qualify for their conference tournament, though that didn't stop the likes of 2004 Army and 2010 Hofstra from earning bids. The biggest problem here is the schedule strength, and losses to sub-.500 Georgetown, Stony Brook and Villanova certainly don't help. St. John's made some more progress this season, but an NCAA bid will have to wait at least another year.

This week: Regular season complete

PRINCETON

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-5 20
4th (12.9) 0-2 0-3 2-4 13-Yale, 17-@Hopkins    


Realistically, it's Ivy League title or bust for the Tigers, who will have five days to figure out how to stop a Cornell team that just dropped 17 goals on them Saturday.

This week: at Cornell (Friday); vs. Penn or Yale (Sunday)

Projected Bracket

As a reminder, the projected bracket attempts to follow the NCAA's preference to limit flights/travel costs in the opening round. It also reflects that only the top eight spots in the field are seeded, with geography playing a role in sorting out several of the other matchups in the bracket.

Indianapolis

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

College Park

(4) COLONIAL/Penn State vs. Ohio State
(5) BIG EAST/Syracuse vs. PATRIOT/Lehigh

Indianapolis

(3) North Carolina vs. Penn
(6) IVY/Cornell vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

College Park

(2) ECAC/Denver vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Marist
(7) Maryland vs. Bucknell

Last four out: Yale, Drexel, Johns Hopkins, Princeton

Washington, D.C/Baltimore area sportswriter Patrick 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.


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