Just three games on the final day of the regular season, and all are going according to form.
Notre Dame completed its first perfect regular season, thrashing Ohio State in the GWLL final to earn an automatic bid and leave an extra at-large spot in the field.
Siena finished off its MAAC title run, going 10-0 against league opponents after dispatching Manhattan. It’s Siena’s first NCAA tournament berth, and it marks the sixth school to represent the league in eight seasons with an automatic berth.
Duke, meanwhile, is scrimmaging handling St. John’s 12-1 at the half. It’s safe to stick that one in the Blue Devils’ win column.
So that completes things, and means the bracket concocted this morning still makes sense. And since this is supposed to replicate what the committee can be expected to do rather than be pure opinion, Brown takes the last at-large spot ahead of Loyola.
To be sure, this weekend only bolstered my belief Loyola would make things tougher on a first-round opponent than Brown. But the criteria (other than strength of schedule) would seem to point in Brown’s favor.
So, to review, here’s the final projected bracket – nearly seven hours before we get to see the real one.
(1) Virginia vs. CAA/Villanova
(8) GWLL/Notre Dame vs. Maryland
(5) Princeton vs. PATRIOT/Navy
(4) North Carolina vs. AMERICA EAST/UMBC
(3) Syracuse vs. Brown
(6) Johns Hopkins vs. ECAC/Massachusetts
(7) IVY/Cornell vs. Hofstra
(2) Duke vs. MAAC/Siena
* The top half of the draw funnels into Annapolis. The bottom half of the draw funnels into Hofstra for the quarterfinals.
* The two teams flying are Siena (to Duke) and Maryland (to Notre Dame).
* The No. 1 seed came down to how many different good teams Duke and Virginia defeated and where they defeated them. The Cavaliers did a lot of work outside of Charlottesville, so while they aren’t playing especially well, they’ve still done enough for the top spot.
* Duke, meanwhile, benefits from the geography rule limiting the committee to two flights (theoretically). Villanova-to-Duke is just outside the 400-mile window, so the Wildcats go to Charlottesville and Duke draws the No. 16 team (Siena). Only one team can fly (since Notre Dame’s opponent takes the other spot), so Duke gets to play what amounts to a 2-16 game.
* Not only are there no conference matchups in the first round, there is only one possible meeting of league foes in the quarterfinals (Virginia-Maryland).
* There are no regular-season rematches in the first round, which is nothing short of perfect for the committee’s purposes.
* The quarterfinals are travel-friendly for the committee. Only Notre Dame (to Navy) and Duke (to Hofstra) would have a 400+ mile trek.
* Loyola is inside the 400-mile window for a trip to Syracuse (as are UMBC and Navy). If the Greyhounds got the nod, those three schools could shuffle around destinations.
* Despite that 15-0 record, it’s hard to see Notre Dame getting rewarded for its weak schedule. It beat North Carolina, Loyola … and not a whole lot else. A home game is appropriate for the first-round, but anything higher than a No. 7 seed is a shock.
* The eight teams seeded here make a lot of sense. The only other plausible candidate is Hofstra, and even that’s a stretch.