MD3 Bracket Breakdown: It's A Wide Open Field
|Luke Wooters and Nazareth are a
dangerous and confident team. If the Golden Flyers' defense gives
them a chance, they are one of numerous teams who could make a deep
run in the tournament this spring.
© Nazareth Athletics
It's always a weird year when Salisbury is a bubble team, but that's what we had this spring. The Sea Gulls managed to earn their way into the tournament through an at-large bid, one of the many South region teams who prospered this season. The top teams in each region — Cortland and Dickinson — appear ticketed for Philadelphia, but there are plenty of other contenders lurking on the periphery.
It's time to analyze the field. Here's the bracket breakdown.
The Top Seed
No surprise here. Cortland and Dickinson are the only two teams left in Division III with an undefeated record, and it was easy for the committee to give them their respective regional due. While infallible to this point, the Red Dragons and Red Devils have received their share of close shaves.
Cortland played double overtime games against Ithaca and RIT and were taken to extra time by Stevens. Dickinson had a run in the middle of the season when they won four of five games by a lone goal.
Last Team In
Salisbury. Pretty crazy, huh? The Sea Gulls had five regional losses, including a 12-10 setback to St. Mary's in the CAC title game that threw them into the rare situation of needing an at-large. They've done battle on the big stage several times, but Salisbury got the best of Middlebury again, as the Panthers had a 13-3 record and a serious case for admission. Alas, it's good to be the champ.
First Team Out
Middlebury. Selection Sunday was a kick in the teeth for the NESCAC. In years past, a first-place regular season finish and a 13-3 record would not only mandate admission to the tourney, but probably a couple of home games. This year? Bupkus. The frustrating part for the Panthers is all three of their losses came by a goal, and two of them were at home. In hindsight, one of those probably would have made all the difference.
Eastern. One of the drawbacks of the numbers-driven nature of the current NCAA selection process is it blinds — or perhaps handcuffs — otherwise reasonable committee members to the obvious. Centre finished 11-3 against a soft schedule, including a 17-4 beatdown at the hands of Denison. Eastern amassed a 15-2 record against an equally zaftig slate, but went to overtime with Gettysburg and hung around with Ursinus.
Again, I get it. The numbers must have rolled out in Centre's favor. And the Colonels certainly don't need to apologize to anyone. Alas, Eastern is the better team, and the digits let them down.
Best First-Round Game
St. Mary's at Lynchburg. The top team out of the CAC travels to take on the third team in the ODAC in a matchup of two programs with disparate amounts of momentum. St. Mary's enters the game fresh off slaying Goliath while Lynchburg is limping into the tourney as losers of two of its last three.
The Seahawks are no stranger to knocking off highly-regarded ODAC teams, as they bounced Roanoke in the season opener. Meanwhile, the Hornets last NCAA tournament experience was not a pleasant one, losing to Denison at home after entering last year's playoff as the South's second seed.
Seeded Too High
Adrian. Judging by a normal bracket, the Bulldogs are an eight seed, and hosting Otterbein in the first round. It's tough to get too bothered about this seeding because it was obviously done to skirt geographical necessities — a natural seeding would have undoubtedly meant the NCAA would have had to spring for a plane flight. Plus, the winner of this game gets Dickinson on Saturday, which is no advantage.
Seeded Too Low
Cabrini. Because there were so many South region teams this year, somebody had to be shifted North, and the Cavaliers received the honor, although it will be Springfield making the drive. Cabrini is a seventh seed judging by the bracket — a relatively high number for a team as dangerous as it has proven to be. RIT better enjoy the bye because the Cavs are no picnic (if they beat Springfield).
Stevens. The Ducks aren't exactly running hot right now after flaming out in the semifinals of the Empire 8, and they'll get Montclair State in the first round — a team that only lost by a goal to Stevens during the regular season and is brimming with confidence. Michael Dorn is one of the top goalies (65.2 sv%) in the country and the defense has allowed less than six goals per outing. You know the Red Hawks are licking their chops about possibly ousting their more-publicized Garden State rival.
Best Potential Matchup
Tufts vs. RIT. This potential quarterfinal tilt will be a rematch of last year's quarters (won by Tufts) and a contest to determine who gets the last shot at knocking Cortland off its perch prior to Philadelphia. Both teams have offenses that can explode at any point and defenses that can run both hot and cold.
Three Players to Watch
Luke Wooters, Nazareth, Fr. A
The Golden Flyers have had their ups and downs this spring, but Wooters has been a constant. The precocious freshman scored 59 goals in his inaugural campaign, breaking the school's single-season record for markers that has stood for nearly 20 years. Naz will only go so far as their defense takes it, but Wooters will make sure that the offense does its share of the heavy lifting.
Richard Lachlan, Roanoke, Sr. A
The Maroons' 12-game winning streak has been the product of a team effort, but it has been Lachlan leading the way. The ODAC Player of the Year has 50 goals and 12 dimes this season, along with four game-winning markers. He'll be a handful for any defense 'Noke runs up against this postseason.
Patton Watkins, Tufts, Jr. G
It feels like Watkins has been around forever, mostly because he guided the Jumbos to a national championship game his rookie season, and the Tennessee native holds the key to Tufts' longevity in the postseason. He has been up and down this year, drawing the hook on occasion, but if he gets into the zone, the Jumbos will be difficult to beat.
Don't Be Surprised If...
The five Pool B entrants get escorted from the dance with extreme prejudice. The independents have been matched up with some relatively heavy hitters, and the final results could be ugly. Otterbein might be able to run with Adrian and Colorado College won't be intimidated by Washington College, but the NCAA's effort to reward teams in burgeoning areas may result in some critical beatdowns.