To start things off this week, let’s play a game called “Who’s Earned A Home Game?”
These are the blind profiles of the three teams that appear most worthy of the final seeded slot in the NCAA lacrosse tournament began today (data courtesy of LaxPower):
It’s not an easy call. Given the impact of the RPI on selection decisions in recent years, Team A probably has the edge. But Team C, with its top-five win and better schedule, makes it close. Both Team A and Team B have losses to teams outside the top 20 (though Team A’s was against the current No. 21 and Team B’s was against the current No. 40).
Team A is Johns Hopkins. Team B is Villanova. Team C is Penn State. It’s quite a different world in the sport when a 9-3 Hopkins team is in danger of going on the road to face a program that’s never won an NCAA tournament game (both Villanova and Penn State are winless in two NCAA trips).
That’s why Saturday’s game at No. 1 Loyola is huge for both teams. The Greyhounds have knocked off Duke and Denver, but upending the team just down Charles Street would provide additional validation to their remarkable season. And Hopkins needs to snap out of its funk —- fast —- after dropping three of its last four (with the lone win against 3-9 Albany).
The full bracket breakdown for the week:
(1) Duke vs. AMERICA EAST/UMBC
(8) Johns Hopkins vs. Penn State
Duke has an RPI of 2, a strength of schedule of 2 and twice as many top-10 wins as Loyola, Massachusetts and Notre Dame put together. Yes, the Blue Devils lost to Loyola, but their overall body of work should make them the No. 1 seed if they win at Denver on Friday. … It’s UMBC‘s turn again to be acknowledged as the America East leader, with the current tiebreaker the Retrievers’ RPI edge over Albany and Stony Brook. Whoever wins that league will be fodder for a top-two seed. … Johns Hopkins has scored two goals in its last 89 minutes. Chew on that for a moment. The Blue Jays’ struggles over the last two weeks are arguably more perplexing and worrisome than Virginia’s mini-skid. … The most intriguing potential conference tournament game might involve Penn State. If the Nittany Lions get a rematch with Massachusetts in the CAA final, they’d have a credible chance to earn a home game for the first time. Hiring Jeff Tambroni is already paying big dividends in Year Two in Happy Valley.
(4) North Carolina vs. PATRIOT/Colgate
(5) Maryland vs. IVY/Princeton
North Carolina is nearly in the clubhouse, with only a home game against Michigan to go. Only Duke has more top-10 wins than the Tar Heels, who have knocked off Maryland, Hopkins and Virginia in the last month. … Colgate has scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games. Peter Baum and Co. will be well-prepared to match anybody in a high-scoring game next month. … Maryland‘s 7-4 record doesn’t jump off the screen. The Terps will get the chance to pad it against Mount St. Mary’s (RPI: 46) and Bellarmine (RPI: 42) this week in games that won’t do anything for their RPI, which currently sits at No. 5. … Princeton moves into the field this week after Cornell’s shocking loss to Brown. Realistically, any at-large hopes for the Tigers hinge on beating Cornell this week. Princeton is 9-3, but its only victories over teams with winning records are Villanova and Yale, the latter triumph in five overtimes.
(3) BIG EAST/Notre Dame vs. Fairfield
(6) Virginia vs. Lehigh
Notre Dame is two spots lower in the RPI than Loyola, one spot higher than the Greyhounds in strength of schedule and both teams are 1-0 against the top five and top 10. Loyola is 4-0 against the top 20, while Notre Dame is 5-1. At the moment, it would be tough to separate the seedings of those teams by much. … The last spot is basically a coin flip between Fairfield and Cornell at the moment. The Stags have better RPI and strength of schedule numbers, while the Big Red has a pair of top-20 wins to Fairfield’s one. Neither team has a top-10 win. … Virginia just looked tired at times in the second half of its last two games. Playing once in a three-week span (out in Denver on Friday against Penn) should reinvigorate the Cavaliers to some extent. … What a huge weekend for Lehigh, and it had nothing to do with demolishing Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks got a big strength of schedule bump as both North Carolina (over Virginia) and Navy (over Hopkins) got huge victories. Lehigh beat both the Tar Heels and Midshipmen earlier in the season.
(2) ECAC/Loyola vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(7) COLONIAL/Massachusetts vs. Villanova
Loyola did what was expected and demolished Hobart. The Greyhounds (12-0) have matched the best start in school history and will go for the record Saturday before a likely capacity crowd at home against Hopkins. … Siena has clinched the Metro Atlantic regular season crown and will be the favorites to win the league tournament for the third time in four years. … For anyone in the Baltimore/D.C. corridor, the best chance to see Massachusetts in the regular season is Friday when the Minutemen visit Delaware. UMass already clinched the top seed in the CAA tournament and can tie the school record for victories in a season (13, in 1981, 1989, 2003, 2005 and 2006) with a win. … Villanova is probably safely in barring an absurd number of conference tournament upset —- assuming the Wildcats beat woeful Providence in their regular season finale, that is.
—- Patrick Stevens