Pity the poor NCAA lacrosse selection committee. They’re going to have quite a mess in their laps in a few weeks.
At the moment, identifying the at-large teams won’t be nearly as much of a problem as seeding the field. That can change, naturally, with conference tournament upsets. But based on the selection criteria (RPI, strength of schedule, quality victories), it was still pretty easy to pick out eight at-larges with solid profiles.
(For what it’s worth, Syracuse again edged out Denver for the last at-large spot this week; each has only one top-20 victory, with Denver holding a slight RPI edge and Syracuse facing the more arduous schedule).
In many season, the sum of a team’s RPI and strength of schedule is a raw, informal tool that also happens to divvy up the teams at the top rather effectively for bracket projecting purposes. With this top five in that simple metric, good luck finding easy answers (data courtesy of LaxPower.com):
7: Virginia (RPI: 3/SOS: 4)
9: Duke (7/2)
10: Johns Hopkins (2/8)
10: Maryland (5/5)
11: North Carolina (10/1)
In short, mathematical formulas might not solve a lot in the committee room, or at least less than usual.
This week’s projection, which qualifies more as a guesstimate:
(1) Virginia vs. AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook
(8) North Carolina vs. Villanova
Virginia, despite its lousy showing against Duke, still owns the best profile —- No. 3 RPI, No. 4 schedule strength, three top-10 wins. But we also know the Cavaliers have a lower floor than anyone would have surmised last week. … Stony Brook edges Albany based on the RPI to take the America East’s spot in this field. … No one has more at stake than North Carolina in this week’s ACC tournament. The Tar Heels have two nifty wins (Maryland and Hopkins) but also lost to Penn. A setback to Virginia on Friday could make them a coinflip to host in the first round. … Villanova staved off St. John’s last week and can get itself into the discussion to host if it upends Notre Dame on Saturday on the Main Line.
(4) Duke vs. Lehigh
(5) Johns Hopkins vs. PATRIOT/Colgate
Seriously, how fantastic would another Duke-Lehigh NCAA tournament game be? Call it the Russ Dlin Special. … Duke, by the way, has won eight straight. It knocked off Georgetown, Brown, Syracuse and Marist by a combined six goals, then followed it up with a 13-5 rout of Virginia. Bizarre. … Lehigh has yielded 19 goals over its last two games, its most in a two-game stretch since surrendering four to Saint Joseph’s and 17 to Villanova to open the season. … In most years, Hopkins’ March sweep of Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia would provide a cushion to earn the No. 1 seed. But with Princeton and Syracuse anything but postseason locks, the Blue Jays’ profile suffers. … Colgate can clinch the Patriot League regular season crown with a win at Bucknell on Friday.
(3) Maryland vs. Syracuse
(6) BIG EAST/Notre Dame vs. Penn State
Maryland solved a lot of issues by beating Johns Hopkins. It’s hard to imagine the Terps going on the road for the first round, but that was the prevailing wisdom after they won the ACC tournament last year. … Syracuse, Denver and Fairfield are the most logical contenders for the final at-large spot. Good luck parsing those profiles. … Notre Dame will get as much of a strength of schedule bump in the next three weeks as anyone. Up next are Villanova, Syracuse and the Big East tournament. The Irish could double their games against top-20 opponents; they’re 3-1 against that group at the moment. … Penn State (RPI: 11; strength of schedule: 6) remains in excellent shape for an at-large. The Nittany Lions will be hard to keep out of the NCAA tournament if they win their next three (Delaware, Hofstra, CAA semifinal).
(2) ECAC/Loyola vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(7) COLONIAL/Massachusetts vs. IVY/Cornell
Loyola might be a stretch at No. 2 thanks to its strength of schedule, but this much is certain: With Hopkins and a likely date with Denver or Fairfield in the ECAC final still to come, the Greyhounds’ SOS should improve. Their RPI, however, can’t; Loyola is No. 1 in that metric. … Siena has won seven straight, reaching double figures in each game during the run. The Saints also haven’t beaten a team that now has a winning record all season. … Massachusetts continues to stir the echoes of 2009 Notre Dame. The Irish went unbeaten, but thanks to a soft schedule earned the No. 7 seed. The Minutemen remain a prime candidate for a similar fate. … Cornell has the same schedule strength problem as Massachusetts, though playing Princeton once (and possibly twice) could help that to some degree. Given the committee’s travel requirements, this looks like an especially plausible game.
—- Patrick Stevens