North Carolina always seemed like an unlikely team to be left out of the NCAA lacrosse tournament. The Tar Heels had a solid RPI and strength of schedule, and owned victories over Maryland and Penn.
Then came last night, when all doubt was removed. Carolina’s overtime victory over Notre Dame etched it into the tournament field and vaulted it into serious discussion for one of the field’s eight seeds.
At the same time, many of the teams fighting for the final spot or two in the field continued to flail (or just lose to better teams) in the final week of the season. Army and Yale went down Friday, as did a Penn team with a decent resume and a so-so 8-6 record. Loyola fell the day before. And Hofstra and Penn State went down Wednesday.
Harvard was the biggest winner among the bubblers in recent days; a victory over Penn was a significant step for the surging Crimson.
Here’s a look at the remaining bubble teams. Army, Drexel and Yale —- none of which rank in the top 20 in RPI or schedule strength according to LaxPower —- have been removed from the exercise. Only two bids are available for these seven teams:
Based on the data, Loyola effectively has no case at all. Colgate won’t if it can’t beat Maryland on Saturday. Penn State, despite its defeats of CAA finalists Delaware and Massachusetts, has no victories over anyone else in the at-large field.
This basically leaves Hofstra, Penn, Harvard and Delaware for two spots. It’s difficult to envision Penn being excluded without a rash of upsets. The Quakers’ victories over Duke and Bucknell are going to hold up well compared to the rest of the bubblers.
As for the final slot? Well, Delaware either gets in with an automatic berth or its profile is hurt with a loss at Massachusetts. The Blue Hens should be able to sort things out without the selection committee getting involved.
So that leaves Hofstra and Harvard. The Pride has an RPI edge. The Crimson faced a much more difficult schedule. Neither has a top-10 win. Both were respectable against top-20 foes.
Oh, and they played back on March 5, Hofstra winning 15-9. That result could loom incredibly large if Harvard remains in the at-large pool —- which will happen unless the Crimson can upset Cornell on Sunday.
Entering the regular season’s last two days, the nod here goes to Hofstra. But the Pride will be bumped from the field if either Cornell or Denver loses in its conference final.
The projected field:
(1) Syracuse vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(8) North Carolina vs. ECAC/Denver
Syracuse wraps up its season Saturday against St. John’s … Siena will meet Detroit on Sunday for the MAAC title. If Detroit wins, it would be a logical team to send to Notre Dame to save on costs and allow for a more perfect bracket elsewhere … Denver-North Carolina, regardless of where it is played, seems like a very logical first-round matchup. Carolina’s schedule strength gets them the nod here. … Denver meets Fairfield for the ECAC title on Saturday.
(4) Notre Dame vs. COLONIAL/Massachusetts
(5) Duke vs. Penn
The Fighting Irish’s two-game skid likely costs them a top-three seed. The victories over Duke, Denver and Villanova ensure they won’t tumble too far. … UMass meets Delaware in the CAA final on Saturday. … Duke-Penn is one of two regular season rematches in the first round of this bracket. Cornell-Stony Brook is the other.
(3) Johns Hopkins vs. Hofstra
(6) Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Bucknell
Notre Dame’s slide means Hopkins has an excellent chance of avoiding Syracuse until the national title game. … Hofstra’s scoreboard watching continues; no at-large team is more vulnerable to upsets than the Pride. … Maryland’s computer numbers are still outpaced by reality. The Terps might be among the three or four most likely teams to win it all. They meet Colgate on Saturday. … Bucknell could still end up in all sorts of first-round destinations. The Bison are also (for a few hours) still the lone AQ locked into the field.
(2) IVY/Cornell vs. AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook
(7) Virginia vs. Villanova
The Big Red would have a good claim to the No. 2 seed if it can beat Harvard on Sunday. … Stony Brook faces Hartford for the America East’s AQ on Saturday afternoon. … For all of Virginia’s foibles, it’s worth pointing out the Cavaliers played nine of their 14 games against teams in this projected field. Dom Starsia‘s team is nothing if not tested. … Villanova’s best win (Penn) got devalued for the second straight week. The computers like the Wildcats, but the humans in the committee room will be hard-pressed to give them a seeded slot over North Carolina —- and maybe Denver, too.
—- Patrick Stevens