May 9, 2011

Bracket Breakdown: NCAA Division III Men

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


Rookie Jake Smith and Colorado College are flying to Salem, Va., and a date with Roanoke on Wednesday. Could that have been the worst possible matchup for the Tigers?

© Charlie Lengal

Bracket Announcements: MD1 | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3
Bracket Breakdowns: MD1 | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3

The NCAA Division III men's lacrosse bracket was released Sunday, and the 26 teams know where they are headed -- except top seeds RIT and Stevenson, who know they will stay home until they lose or travel to the national championship game in Baltimore.

It's time to analyze the field and answer some pertinent questions. Here's the bracket breakdown for NCAA Division III men.

Last Team In

Nazareth
It could technically have been Gettysburg, but since the Bullets drew a higher seed in the watered-down South, we'll call it Nazareth.

First Team Out

Haverford
Conventional wisdom says it's the Squirrels, but that might not necessarily have been the case. Regardless, Haverford is the team that is most heartbroken today.

Snubbed?

Long first-round travel distances
With the expception of Colorado College, which would fly wherever it ended up, the committee has kept the first round downright neighborly. Seven of the remaining nine first round matchups feature teams from the same state. The other two -- Keene (N.H.) State traveling to Amherst and Adrian (Mich.) trekking to Wittenberg (Ohio) -- were about as close as you can get, all things considered. The second round holds the potential for more travel, but the committee was obviously keeping a close eye on the budgets at the outset.

Best First Round Matchup

Springfield at Endicott
This is a teacher-pupil game, as Keith Bugbee will bring his Springfield team to Endicott, which is coached by Sean Quirk, one of Bugbee's former players with the Pride. The two teams played March 2 in Beverly, and the Gulls pulled out a 9-6 win in a game that was tied late in the third quarter. The game within the game to watch is the faceoff battle between Endicott's Sam Ocyzc and Springfield's Mark Eaton.

Upset Watch

Nazareth
The Golden Flyers are a grizzled bunch who have played a very difficult schedule, but they better be careful in their first-round game with Union. The Dutchmen have quietly played their way into the tournament with outstanding goalie play by Sean Aaron and a balanced scoring attack. Nazareth should feel good about receiving a bid, but it'll be a short stay if the Flyers overlook Union.

Easiest Title Route

Stevenson
Wake me up in the semifinals. The Mustangs have been put in a bracket with a bunch of grinders (Gettysburg, Cabrini) and one explosive team (Roanoke) that Stevenson has already defeated 16-6 this season. The only difficult part about the Mustangs' draw is the bye means they will be idle for a full two weeks. But that's about it.

Five Burning Questions

1. Did the committee break with precedent by taking Nazareth?
No, actually it held precedent. Nazareth's body of work is very similar to the 2008 Bowdoin team that finished with the same 11-6 record, a loss in the conference finals and a powerful strength of schedule before qualifying for the tourney. The only oddity about Naz -- and perhaps the reason the Golden Flyers aren't a comfortable pick for a lot of people -- is the frequency with which they've been blown out. On three different occasions, the Flyers lost by at least 13 goals, including the Empire 8 final on Sunday when they bowed, 24-10, to RIT. A loss is a loss, however, and the margin inconsequential for selection purposes.

2. What do the three bids from the Empire 8 tell us?
It finally confirms what we've known for a while -- that the E8 is a power conference -- but haven't had the tangible evidence to prove prior to this year. We had grown accustomed to seeing E8 teams being left out of the mix. There was the 14-2 Ithaca team in 2009 and the 12-3 RIT team in '07, both left wanting on Selection Sunday. Now, with RIT holding the No. 1 seed in the North, Stevens easily qualifying as one at-large and Nazareth muscling out some really strong competition for the last spot, the E8 no longer takes a backseat to anyone.

3. Should the South teams feel like they aren't getting a fair shake in the Pool C discussions?
At first blush it might be easy to believe that, especially considering the frequency in which the North teams are snagging a majority of the at-large berths. But one must keep in mind that Pool B, which expanded to four teams this year, is the exclusive domain of South teams (the NCAC and MLC are considered part of the South region). If the southern teams want to gripe about the selection process, they should turn their gaze westward -- at the NCAC in particular -- not northward.

4. Did Colorado College get an unlucky matchup?
No question. With the possible exception of the two NESCACs, the Tigers would rather play any of the other first-round teams available than try to tame Roanoke. Despite the undefeated record, CC was going to have to grind out its first-round game regardless the opponent, but the Maroons' style and ability to score in bunches will be very difficult to prepare for.

5. Did No. 2 seed Salisbury get a worse draw than No. 3 Dickinson?
Hard to say it didn't. While the Sea Gulls demolished Springfield last year in the second round, the Pride or Endicott is going to be formidable opponent for Salisbury. Endicott, remember, handed Tufts its first loss of the year. Certainly Salisbury's potential foes have more heft than the Wittenberg-Adrian duo, the winner of which will head to Dickinson. Both the Red Devils and Sea Gulls are heavily favored to advance to the quarterfinals and face each another, but it will be a tougher road for Salisbury.


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