There’s only a month until the NCAA men’s lacrosse committee confers and decides on the nine at-large teams that will join seven automatic qualifiers in this year’s tournament.
So while there’s plenty of time to go and the sample size of data still isn’t tremendous, it’s not absurdly early to try to take a stab at looking at how the field might shape up today.
The criteria is generally the same: RPI and strength of schedule data (courtesy of LaxPower), as well as top-5, top-10 and top-20 wins are what the committee is supposed to weigh. All those numbers will fluctuate in the weeks to come.
At this stage especially, it’s a guess. What is clear is there are some noteworthy teams that still have plenty of work to do.
As usual, there will be home sites in the first round and two quarterfinal doubleheaders —- one at Navy, the other at the Philadelphia Union’s soccer stadium in Chester, Pa. The semifinals and final will be in Foxborough, Mass.
(1) Johns Hopkins vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(8) Maryland vs. IVY/Cornell
Johns Hopkins is the only team with both a top-five RPI and top-five strength of schedule, and it beat Virginia. The Blue Jays have the inside track on the top seed. … Siena is the lone unbeaten in Metro Atlantic play, and one of two teams in the league with a winning record (Marist) is the other. … Maryland has top-10 RPI and strength of schedule numbers, and the latter number will only get better. The Terps will safely be in without another puzzling loss. … Cornell doesn’t own a top-10 win and has played the third-weakest schedule among this projected field. A home opener in the tournament is no sure thing.
(4) BIG EAST/Notre Dame vs. PATRIOT/Colgate
(5) North Carolina vs. Penn State
At the moment, strength of schedule keeps Notre Dame out of a top-three seed. Finishing with Villanova, Syracuse and perhaps another game or two against those teams in the Big East tournament will help. … Colgate can earn home-field advantage in the Patriot League tournament if it can defeat both Lafayette and Bucknell … North Carolina has both a brutal loss to its name (Penn) and also the shiniest victory of all (Johns Hopkins). With four top-20 wins already, the Tar Heels will end up seeded higher than they are ranked to end the regular season. … The most helpful ugly win in the field will be Penn State‘s 4-3 defeat of Notre Dame in February. The Nittany Lions are far from an at-large lock, but they would be in the field right now despite a 6-5 record.
(3) ECAC/Loyola vs. Lehigh
(6) Duke vs. Villanova
Loyola has done what it could so far, but the Greyhounds will really be defined over the next three weeks. They visit Denver this week and face Johns Hopkins at home on April 28. … Lehigh is the last team in the field, largely because of its victory over North Carolina and a solid RPI. Strength of schedule is a concern for the Mountain Hawks, who barely edged out Denver for the last nod in this projection. … Duke might actually be underseeded here. The computer numbers like the Blue Devils. … Villanova‘s profile doesn’t stand out either in a good or bad way. The Wildcats swapped places with Syracuse to limit the number of flights to two.
(2) Virginia vs. AMERICA EAST/UMBC
(7) COLONIAL/Massachusetts vs. Syracuse
Virginia has three top-10 wins (Cornell, Maryland and North Carolina), the most in the field. … Despite a 4-5 record, UMBC actually has RPI and strength of schedule numbers in the top half nationally. The Retrievers are the best of a bad lot on the America East, which is a combined 10-38 in nonconference play. … Yes, Massachusetts is undefeated. But with a dreadful strength of schedule figure (No. 41 of 61 teams), the Minutemen aren’t in as safe a spot as most 10-0 teams would be. … There’s a lot of 2010 Johns Hopkins in 2012 Syracuse. The Orange have the nation’s No. 1 schedule to fall back on, and beating Princeton on Saturday certainly helped their at-large hopes.
—- Patrick Stevens