May 5, 2014

Bracket Breakdown: Men's Division II

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

The Top Seeds

Le Moyne and Limestone met up in Baltimore this year for an inter-regional clash, won by the Dolphins, 12-8. Will the two teams meet again on Memorial Day weekend? They'll both have to tame a competitive regional bracket before that happens. (John Strohsacker)

The committee had its hands full this year, but the top seeds were a breeze. Adelphi cemented its spot atop the North bracket by beating Merrimack in overtime of the Northeast-10 tournament. In reality, the Panthers could have taken the loss against the Warriors and still remained in the first chair.

Limestone has led the South from wire-to-wire, and there wasn't anyone within shouting distance of the Saints when the polls closed.

Last Team In

This question is self-evident with such a small tourney size, but yes, it was Queens and Dowling.

First Team Out

This is a little more tricky. Conventional wisdom would say that NYIT was the first out in the North, and it would make sense considering the season they had. Still, Merrimack was likely right on their tail, especially having owned a win against LIU Post (Tech split with the Pioneers). In the South, I would guess that Lake Erie was the first team out considering the heft that the committee gave Post's late conference tourney run. Pfeiffer and Florida Southern were undoubtedly in that discussion, as well.

Doubling back to NYIT's omission, it has to be difficult for the Bears to accept the fact that they were jumped by LIU Post for a shot at the NCAA tournament. Once it shook off the early-season, weather-induced malaise, NYIT was one of the more consistent teams in the country and had the record to prove it. Being undone by a semifinal loss to a team with five regional losses seems like a punishment that doesn't fit the crime.

Snubbed

Mercyhurst

The selection of LIU Post could be considered mildly surprising, but it also gives us a glimpse into what the committee was looking for. Picking the Pioneers was either because the committee put an emphasis on a strong finish resulting in a conference championship, or they put a huge weight on playing a very difficult schedule. It had to be one of those two because they certainly put in-region winning percentage on the back-burner for LIU Post. That's all well and good, but it appears the committee applied a different approach on the South side of the bracket.

If the committee was enamored with strong finishes and conference championships, Lake Erie would have made more sense as the fourth selection. And, more to the point, if strength of schedule took prominence, having Mercyhurst fall behind Tampa in the seeding doesn't fit with the LIU Post paradigm. UT is undoubtedly a good team and has nothing to apologize for by being selected in the second spot, but I don't think anyone can argue that the Lakers played a considerably stronger schedule than the Spartans and had much better wins. Heck, 'Hurst beat both LIU Post and Dowling – two of the four North entrants that count as regional games – and that doesn't even take into account that the Lakers mauled Tampa head-to-head (although H2H competition is a secondary criterion until 2016).

The committee laid down a marker with LIU Post, and then seemingly ignored it while applying it to Mercyhurst, and that's why the Lakers get the snub.

Best First-Round Game

LIU Post at Le Moyne

Garrett Chan (above) and Queens are making their first trip to the NCAA Division II tournament, and they draw regional bully Limestone in the quarterfinals. Can the Royals keep the magic ride going? (Queens Athletics)

Last year it was the Pioneers sitting in the second seed and Le Moyne as the three, forcing the Dolphins to hit the road for the first round contest. It proved to be a barn-burner, with Le Moyne advancing on Andrew Chadderdon's strike one minute into extra time. This year's edition will be in Syracuse, but both teams are playing excellent lacrosse. With each boasting a stout defense, look for the final score to be in the single digits once again.

Seeded Too High

This was touched on earlier in the "snubbed" section, but Tampa should be the three and Mercyhurst the two in the South. One could also argue that a four seed might be more fitting for LIU Post in the North.

Seeded Too Low

[Sigh]. Haven't we been over this?

Upset Alert

With these brackets, the better question is who isn't on upset alert? The lone contest of the four that appears to be lopsided on paper is the Limestone-Queens match-up, but plenty of other teams have said that about the Royals this year and found out quickly that was a mistake. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Dowling, LIU Post and/or Mercyhurst all advanced to the semifinals.

Best Potential Matchup

Limestone-Mercyhurst

Last year, these two played a wild, 18-17 overtime shootout with a trip to Foxborough on the line, and Deven Alves sealed it for the Lakers in the first minute of extra time. Mercyhurst had to score two goals in the final 58 seconds just to tie the game, making it a heart-breaking memory for the Saints. If these two meet again, it's not unreasonable to expect another classic, and there's an underlying sense that there might be some lingering bad blood between the two.

Three Players to Watch

Reid Reinholdt (Limetone): One of the best players on the Limestone roster heading into the season, Reinholdt missed the first 11 games and has only played in six total. The midfielder has three goals and four assists since returning, but he is still trying to regain his form from last year when he had 12 goals and 23 assists as a mainstay on the Saints top midfield line. The fact Limestone has been so successful without him is a testament to the talent J.B. Clarke has stocked up in Gaffney, but with every passing day, Reinholdt is getting healthier and that will cause headaches for opposing coaches.

Conor Whipple (Tampa): The coach's son has posted an incredible rookie season, amassing 46 goals and 40 assists on his way to being named the Sunshine State Conference player of the year. He didn't have his greatest outing in the first meeting with Mercyhurst, however, getting off only two shots and finishing with just three points (1g, 2a) in the Lakers 14-7 romp of the Spartans. The sledding won't be any easier in the postseason, but Whipple will be expected to perform up to potential if UT has expectations of advancing.

Sal Tuttle (Adelphi): Tuttle showed why he was the Northeast-10 player of the year in the league championship game when he scored five goals, including the game-winner in overtime, lifting the Panthers to the No. 1 seed in the North bracket. Just a sophomore, Tuttle did his share to help Adelphi last May, scoring seven goals and dishing out two assists in two games, but just like in the Merrimack game, he may be tasked with carrying a huge load for the Panthers if they want to snap their 13-year championship drought.

Don't Be Surprised If...

All three games in the North head to overtime before being decided. The four teams are battle-tested with plenty of postseason experience, and each has a history with the other three participants on some level. The South will be intriguing, as well, but not quite to the level of what we're going to get in the North.


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