April 2, 2014

WD1 Lacrosse Bracketology: First Look for 2014

by Megan Schneider and Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The only current unbeaten team in women's NCAA Division I, Maryland is the projected No. 1 seed in our first look at the potential bracket. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Last year, the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament experienced some major changes, expanding the size of the field to include 26 teams to represent 13 conferences. Now in its second year, the selection committee hopes to make the tournament a success by remaining true to the integrity of the bracket.

With one month of games remaining before Selection Sunday on May 4, many teams already are well on track for a berth into the tournament, while others might need a late-season comeback to factor in their probability of securing an at-large bid.

Colgate senior associate athletics director Ann-Marie Guglieri, who serves as the chair of the NCAA women's lacrosse committee, said the committee evaluates each team's performance regionally and nationally based on primary and secondary criteria. No formal rankings are made before selection week, and the committee only uses the secondary criteria for a final assessment if the primary criteria isn't enough to make a decision, Guglieri said.

Primary criteria include RPI (ratings percentage index), head-to-head-competition, results against common opponents, significant wins and losses and an overview of the top-rated teams on an institution's schedule to determine SOS (strength of schedule).

But Guglieri made an important distinction regarding those criteria.

"They're all ranked equally," she said. "Head-to-head would have no more significance than results against common opponents versus RPI. Every single piece of primary criteria are all equal."

Secondary criteria are based on late-season performance, which include the last six games on a team's schedule, as well as results against opponents that already have made the NCAA tournament. For several teams this year, late-season performance could play a significant factor, Guglieri said.

Sifting through all the data, with RPI and SOS provided courtesy of LaxPower.com, it's not easy to predict the tournament outcome with a full month of games to go, including conference tournaments. But always the surest way to solidify a spot in the bracket is to win a conference.

BEST BET - AUTOMATIC QUALIFERS (13 TEAMS)

Looking at team's current records and predicting their late-season performance, below are the 13 teams projected to automatically qualify as their conference winner. These projections could change, as many teams have yet to play conference games and upsets always are possible.

Albany

American East

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
9-1 1-0 12 51 N/A

The No. 14-ranked Great Danes are tied with defending conference champion Stony Brook for first place in the America East. Both should contend for the title, but Albany gets the nod for now with higher rankings for both RPI and strength of schedule. With Albany's loss Tuesday to No. 3 Syracuse by just goals in a down-to-the-wire game, its ability to compete against top-ranked teams is evident. The Danes rank first in Division I for scoring margin, beating opponents by an average of 10.11 goals per game.

Florida

ALC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
 12-2 3-0 7 26 Ohio State,
Penn State,
Stony Brook, Loyola

With a 3-0 record in conference games, the No. 5 Gators are in good position to make a run for the ALC title, which they last won in 2012 before Northwestern swiped it last year. The 2014 champion likely will be one of those two teams. Northwestern, currently ranked No. 8 by Lacrosse Magazine, got off to an unusually slow start, dropping games to Ohio State, Notre Dame and Syracuse. But the Wildcats may have turned the corner with a marquee win over No. 1 North Carolina. Shannon Gilroy is a difference maker as the nation's leading scorer with 4.57 goals per game.

UMass

Atlantic 10

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
 9-1 0-0 9 25 N/A

UMass began its season with a 9-0 winning streak until it faced Northwestern, who handed the Minutewomen their first loss of the season by four goals. This loss ended a 31-game home winning streak for UMass, the third-longest in NCAA history. Although they are currently tied with Duquesne atop the Atlantic 10 standings, the Minutewomen will pull ahead. When considering its ninth-ranked RPI, UMass has played much better against stronger opponents, compared to Duquesne's RPI sitting at No. 40 with an easier schedule.

Maryland

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
13-0 4-0 1 10

Syracuse, Penn,
Boston College,
Notre Dame, Duke,
Penn State

Maryland currently projects to win the ACC title. Undefeated with a 13-0 record, the Terps' next test will be against North Carolina, which also is 4-0 in the conference but recently lost in a surprise upset against Northwestern. The Terps have the top-ranked RPI and have defeated a number of notable teams, including No. 3 Syracuse, No. 4 Boston College, No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 10 Penn, No. 12 Duke and No. 15 Penn State, as currently ranked by Lacrosse Magazine.

Jacksonville

Atlantic Sun

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
7-4 1-0 47 56 N/A 

As the only team in the conference with a winning record, the Dolphins are a clear favorite to repeat as the champions. Three of their losses were to ranked teams – Florida, Syracuse and Duke – and the other one was a one-goal loss to James Madison, which is 6-5 but playing a competitive schedule. Jacksonville has led the nation in scoring offense the past three years and currently ranks eighth, averaging 15.09 goals per game.

Louisville

Louisville earned a key early win over Denver and has the inside track to the top seed in the Big East tournament after defeating Georgetown. (Michelle Hutchins)

Big East

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
7-3 1-0 30 29 Denver

The Cardinals have the best overall record in the conference, and their three losses were close games against ranked opponents Duke, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Georgetown entered the season as the favorite, but has struggled with a 3-7 record. The next-best team seems to be UConn (6-4), which hasn't played as challenging a schedule as Louisville.

High Point

Big South

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
4-4 0-0 32 34 N/A

The Big South Conference teams have yet to play a majority of their games, but with how the records look now, High Point likely will become the automatic qualifier. Coastal Carolina has the only win for conference play so far, but also an overall 3-7 overall record. The Panthers currently are 4-4, and looking at common opponents with Coastal Carolina, they have played significantly better. They blew Elon out of the water, while the Chanticleers lost to Elon.

Towson

CAA

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
6-5 1-0 15 12 N/A

Although it doesn't show in the Tigers' record, they have played well against some tough competition this year. They lost four straight games to ranked opponents, falling to No. 3 Syracuse 12-7 for the worst of those losses. No. 6 Stanford and No. 17 Loyola both edged Towson by one, and No. 13 Johns Hopkins handed it a four-goal loss.

Penn

Ivy League

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
5-2 2-0 5 1 N/A

Penn is one of three teams in the Ivy League with seven wins or more, but the Quakers already beat one of them (Yale). Brown could be a contender, but Penn's No. 5 ranking in Division I for RPI is notable. The Quakers are the favorite to repeat as conference champs. Penn ranks sixth nationally for caused turnovers with 11.0 per game, a statistic that could help spark the team as the season winds down.

Canisius

MAAC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
5-4 1-0 13 25 Ohio State

Fairfield (6-3) and Marist (6-2) have slightly better overall records, but Canisius has been much more impressive, considering its schedule. The Golden Griffins have a win over No. 11 Ohio State, and two of their losses were to Syracuse and North Carolina. Fairfield is next best behind Canisius, but the Griffins' RPI ranking (13th) and SOS ranking (25th) – compared to Fairfield's rankings of 37 and 53, respectively – push them to the front of this projection.

Stanford

MPSF

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-1 1-0 13 25 Notre Dame,
Ohio State

Stanford is projected to take the conference title over close runner-up Denver, based on big wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State, which factor into its higher RPI and SOS. With its remaining schedule, the Cardinal likely will continue to rack up the wins in its conference and could secure a top-eight seed in the bracket. A tradition of success in the MPSF also plays into Stanford's favor.

Bryant

NEC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
6-3 0-0 41 59 N/A

It's a toss-up between Bryant and Robert Morris for the title because no NEC teams have played a conference game. But looking beyond their identical overall records, Bryant is playing better with a much tougher schedule and higher RPI. If the Bulldogs continue to play as they currently are, they should come out on top in conference games.

Loyola

Patriot League

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-4 4-0 21 14 N/A

Loyola currently is undefeated in its conference and tied for first with Boston University. However, Boston University has a 5-5 overall record, compared to the Greyhounds' 8-4 mark. With four conference games to finish out the season, including a tough test against reigning Patriot League champion Navy, we will soon see if Loyola is the dominant force in the Patriot League everyone expected it to be when it moved from the Big East.

AT-LARGE BEST BETS (13 TEAMS)

With the remaining teams in the pool, we look to the top teams in the country that may end their seasons just shy of winning conference titles. As usual, the ACC and ALC (which is in its last season before teams disperse, mostly to the new Big Ten) will dominate the at-large bids.

Stony Brook

America East

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-2 1-0 31 67 N/A

The Seawolves' two losses were to No. 5 Florida in a rout and No. 7 Notre Dame by one. They still have some decent competition ahead, but if they stay on track, they should be good for a second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Stony Brook ranks first nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 5.0 goals per game.

Northwestern

ALC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
6-3 1-1 8 4 North Carolina
Duke
Massachusetts 

The Wildcats rebounded from their third loss of the season with wins over No. 9 UMass and No. 1 North Carolina. They also have a notable win over No. 12 Duke, and their schedule ranks as the fourth-toughest in Division I, so one-goal losses to No. 11 Ohio State and No. 7 Notre Dame and an 11-7 loss to No. 3 Syracuse won't be held against them.

Penn State

ALC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
7-4 2-1 19 20 Loyola

The Nittany Lions are 2-1 in the ALC and still have a tough road ahead with games against No. 8 Northwestern, No. 11 Ohio State and No. 13 Johns Hopkins. But the quality of teams in the conference helps make their case. Two of Penn State's losses were to No. 5 Florida and No. 2 Maryland, and the other two were one-goal losses to unranked opponents. Penn State has a win over No. 17 Loyola.

Ohio State

ALC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-4 1-1 18 24 Northwestern,
Louisville

The Buckeyes own wins over No. 8 Northwestern and No. 19 Louisville. Three of their losses were to top-10 teams (Florida, Boston College and Stanford) and all were by two goals or fewer. Ohio State's other loss was by one goal to Canisius. The Buckeyes face three more ranked opponents but should still reach 10 wins, at the very least.

Johns Hopkins

A 10-0 start including a win over neighbor and Top 20 foe Loyola has Johns Hopkins in good position at this point. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

ALC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
10-1 1-1 25 14 Loyola

The Blue Jays were on a nice run – including a win over No. 17 Loyola – before a 12-11 slipup at Vanderbilt. The quick start puts them in a good position for the postseason, but doesn't guarantee anything. Johns Hopkins still plays four ranked opponents, but with a defense that ranks third nationally (6.09 goals allowed per game), the Blue Jays should still remain competitive.

North Carolina

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
11-1 4-0 3 8 Boston College,
Florida, Penn
Notre Dame 

The Tar Heels has been ranked No. 1 all season long, but that's likely to change after Northwestern handed them their first loss Tuesday. Right behind Maryland with a third-ranked RPI and notching notable wins against No. 4 Boston College, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 10 Penn, North Carolina, if the season ended today, would deserve one of the top seeds in the NCAA tournament with its No.1 scoring offense.

Syracuse

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
11-1 3-1 2 6 Boston College,
Florida, Duke,
Northwestern,
Albany 

Another ACC beast, Syracuse boasts the second-highest RPI in the country and an 11-1 overall record. The Orange's lone loss came from ACC rival and powerhouse Maryland by two goals. Syracuse defeated No. 4 Boston College, No. 5 Florida, No. 8 Northwestern and No. 12 Duke and likely will continue to net more wins in the remainder of the season, despite a possible challenge from North Carolina.

Duke

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
7-4 2-2 17 13 Louisville

Currently ranked fourth in the ACC, Duke should take a spot in the tournament bracket as another true contender to the top-ranked teams in the NCAA, namely those in the ACC. Duke is among the top 20 teams in terms of RPI and SOS, with a 7-4 overall record thus far and a win over projected Big East champ Louisville. Currently fifth for total points (56) in the NCAA, junior attacker Kerrin Maurer spearheads the Duke offense.

Boston College

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-3 1-3 4 5 Notre Dame,
Ohio State

Following in true ACC fashion, Boston College has made its name known this season. Despite a 1-3 conference record, the Eagles were the first team in the NCAA to even come close to defeating Maryland, North Carolina and Syracuse. With their performance this season, the Eagles likely will earn a spot in the bracket with notable wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State, especially when you take into consideration their fourth-ranked RPI and fifth-ranked SOS.

Notre Dame

ACC

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
8-4 1-3 6 7

Northwestern,
Stony Brook,
Louisville 

Despite a 1-3 record in conference, similar to Boston College, Notre Dame's sixth- and seventh-ranked RPI and SOS, respectively, prove its 8-4 overall record to be noteworthy. The Fighting Irish have defeated Northwestern, Louisville and Stony Brook, all of whom likely will contend for a spot in this bracket.

James Madison

CAA

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
6-4 0-0 14 9 Penn State,
Loyola 

The Dukes might be questionable with a record just over .500, but they have yet to play three teams with losing records. Notable wins against Loyola and Penn State should also help. James Madison lost to Maryland by just three goals March 22, a major improvement since Florida thumped James Madison early in the season. The other three losses were close games against UConn, Rutgers and Virginia. The Dukes' ninth-ranked SOS proves for consideration for a tournament berth.

Denver

MPSF

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
9-1 3-0 24 66 N/A

Denver's performance so far this season has earned it the top spot in the MPSF for now, but with a lower RPI and SOS than conference rival Stanford, we project the Pioneers to be knocked off their conference pedestal by the Cardinal. They play each other Friday in Palo Alto, Calif. Even if Denver does not win the MPSF, the Pioneers would deserve a spot in the tournament with their overall winning percentage. Their only loss was in a close game to Louisville.

Navy

Patriot League

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
10-1 4-1 35 76 N/A

Navy's lone loss was by one goal to conference rival Boston University, which only has a 5-5 overall record. While that hurt, the Mids have the best overall winning percentage in the conference. They are tied with Stony Brook, another projected at-large team, for first in the NCAA in scoring defense. With a star player in Loren Generi, currently the top scorer in Division I, Navy has several assets going for it despite its lower RPI and SOS.

ON THE BUBBLE

Georgetown

Big East

Overall Record Conference Record RPI Rank SOS Rank Top 20 Wins
3-7 0-1 23 1 Duke

Georgetown has been on our radar all season long, but six straight losses have jeopardized the Hoyas' chances of finishing even at .500. With the weakest portion of its schedule ahead of it though, we project a late-season comeback for Georgetown. The Hoyas have the nation's 20th-ranked RPI and to date have played the most difficult schedule, which will sit well with the selection committee — as will a win over Duke earlier this year. But Georgetown might need to win out.

PROJECTED BRACKET

Despite a recent loss to Northwestern, the defending champion Tar Heels still look like they'll be a top seed when all is said in done with their tremendous strength of schedule and RPI numbers. (North Carolina Athletics)

Seeds

1. Maryland
2. North Carolina
3. Syracuse
4. Boston College
5. Florida
6. Northwestern
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame

Matchups

At Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, College Park, Md.

First round - Ohio State vs. Canisius
Second round - 1. Maryland vs. Ohio State-Canisius winner

At Loftus Sports Complex, Notre Dame, Ind.

First round- Duke vs. Navy; 8. Notre Dame vs. High Point
Second round - Duke-Navy winner vs. Notre Dame-High Point winner

At Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

First round - Albany vs. Towson
Second round - 3. Syracuse vs. Albany-Towson winner

At Lakeside Field, Evanston, Ill.

First round - Johns Hopkins vs. Denver
Second round - 6. Northwestern vs. Johns Hopkins-Denver winner

At Donald R. Dizney Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

First round - Penn vs. James Madison
Second round - 5. Florida vs. Penn-James Madison winner

At Newton Lacrosse Field, Newton, Mass.

First round - Penn State vs. Louisville
Second round - 4. Boston College vs. Penn State-Louisville winner

At Laird Q. Cogan Stadium, Stanford, Calif.

First round - 7. Stanford vs. Bryant; Stony Brook vs. Loyola
Second round - Stanford-Bryant winner vs. Stony Brook-Loyola winner

At Fetzer Field, Chapel Hill, N.C.

First round - UMass vs. Jacksonville
Second round - 2. North Carolina vs. UMass-Jacksonville winner


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