There are times when it is less than fun to invoke the Parcellsian axiom of a team’s quality in relation to is record.
Yet whether it is what its record says it is or not, a 4-7 Navy team still has hope of reaching the Patriot League tournament.
Of course, it all depends on beating Army on Saturday, a priority that tends to carry a little more oomph in Annapolis than a mere conference title.
Still, even if it’s a secondary concern, it’s a concern. Without a spot in the PL tournament, Navy’s season ends on April 23 when it visits Johns Hopkins. A 6-7 mark is the best the Mids can muster without a spot in the four-team conference tournament, and that’s a ticket to turn in the equipment rather than play on.
Fortunately, the folks over at Navy have deciphered the tiebreakers. But first, let’s set the table for what remains for the PL’s top five teams:
Bucknell (4-0): at Lehigh (Friday), at Colgate (April 23)
Colgate (4-0): at Lafayette (Saturday), Bucknell (April 23)
Army (2-2): at Navy (Saturday), at Holy Cross (April 23)
Lehigh (2-2): Bucknell (Friday), Lafayette (April 23)
Navy (2-3): Army (Saturday)
Assuming Navy wins, there are four paths it can take to make the Patriot tournament.
1. Hope Lehigh loses out. The Mids would actually take the No. 3 seed with a win and two Lehigh losses, since they would hold the head-to-head with Army. This would require Lehigh to fall at home to 2-9 Lafayette.
2. Hope Army loses out. Stranger things than the Black Knights losing in Worcester have occurred, but banking on that is a bit of a long shot.
3. Hope Lehigh springs an upset. Obviously, a 4-2 Lehigh team would ensure an Army/Navy scramble for the last spot. If Navy wins and Lehigh beats Bucknell, the Mids would get in regardless of whether Lehigh won its game against Lafayette thanks to the Patriot League’s quirky tiebreakers. If there was a three-way tie at 3-3 in that scenario, Lehigh would get in first because it owned the best league win (Bucknell). Navy would win the remaining tiebreaker on goal differential with Army, which ultimately is a really convoluted way of saying head-to-head.
4. Get a rout and hope Army and Lehigh have a fairly predictable finish to the season. Let’s say Army beats Holy Cross, and Lehigh falls to Bucknell but rallies to topple Lafayette. Toss in a Navy win Saturday, and it’s a three-way tie at 3-3 with no results to break the gridlock.
At that point, it comes down to goal differential between the tied teams, with the top two teams in that category playing on. Lehigh is +1 (beat Navy 14-10 and lost to Army 12-9) and will finish ahead of at least one of the other two teams. Army is +3, while Navy is -4. So to move ahead of Army, the Mids would have to win Saturday by four goals.
Not that history matters a ton, but here it is anyway: Of the teams’ last 22 meetings, 15 were decided by three goals or less. Also, Navy has won the last four meetings in Annapolis by at least three goals.