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Archive for May 3, 2007

May 3, 2007 — Who’s in?

Last night, Maryland edged Princeton 13-12 in another overtime classic that seems to happen when the Red and Black meet the Orange and Black.

But yesterday’s match meant a whole lot more: NCAA Tournament positioning.

Here are the Top 17 teams in last weekend’s Nike/Inside Lacrosse poll:

  1. Northwestern
  2. Virginia
  3. The University of Pennsylvania
  4. North Carolina
  5. Maryland
  6. Duke
  7. Syracuse
  8. Georgetown
  9. Yale
  10. Vanderbilt
  11. Johns Hopkins
  12. Notre Dame
  13. Princeton
  14. James Madison
  15. Denver
  16. Rutgers
  17. Penn State

It’s important here to point out who the automatic qualifiers are. Though Virginia won the ACC Tournament over the weekend, it does not give an AQ bid to the NCAA Tournament.

As of today, only five of the nine AQs have been determined. In regular-season play, Penn has won the Ivy League. Last weekend, several automatic berths were determined through post-season tournaments. Syracuse won the Big East, Holy Cross won the Patriot League, LeMoyne won the MAAC, and Monmouth won the Northeast Conference. LeMoyne will be playing Monmouth in the NCAA play-in game at either Virginia or Northwestern, depending on what happens this weekend.

This weekend sees America East, the American Lacrosse Conference, the Colonial Athletic Association and the Atlantic 10 determine their AQs through conference tournament play. The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation will also play a post-season tournament and its champion will hope for an at-large bid from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

I believe that the ALC’s inaugural tournament, to be held at Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University, could be the biggest single bracket-buster on the weekend. Top-ranked Northwestern will be trying to hold off No. 10 Vanderbilt, No. 11 Johns Hopkins, No. 17 Penn State, and No. 19 Ohio State.

Indeed, Friday night’s semifinal between Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins could very well be a tipping-point match for entry into the postseason. The Commodores are 8-2 in their last 10 games, whilst the Blue Jays are 6-4 in their last 10 games. A win for either team would likely guarantee an NCAA berth and deny their opponent the same.

You might say the same thing when it comes to Hofstra and James Madison should they meet in the CAA Tournament. Hofstra is 8-2 in its last 10 games, JMU is 7-3.

Now, I’m not the kind of person who can predict an entire field like my former colleague Harvey Yavener, of whom it was once said when predicting an NCAA men’s basketball field, “Yav gets 61 right; NCAA committee gets 3 wrong.” But having attended 16 Final Fours, I’m willing to make a stab at this.

In the upper half of the Division I bracket:

No. 17 Monmouth vs. No. 16 LeMoyne, winner to meet No. 1 Virginia

No. 12 Atlantic 10 champion vs. No. 5 Maryland

No. 13 America East champion at No. 4 North Carolina

No. 9 Vanderbilt-Johns Hopkins winner at No. 8 Georgetown

In the bottom half:

No. 14 Holy Cross at No. 3 Penn

No. 11 America East champion at No. 6 Duke

No. 10 Yale at No. 7 Syracuse

No. 15 MPSF champion (if Denver) at No. 2 Northwestern

You’ll note here that I am assuming that Northwestern will win the ALC, but I am also assuming the NCAA Tournament Committee will be making some of those Sept. 11-era travel criteria to keep travel down for the first round. I also am assuming the NCAA Tournament Committee would like to put a worthy MPSF team in the tournament; Denver’s RPI is a 14, but the conference’s next-highest RPI is Stanford at 28.

This means that there are some bubble teams that are left out of the mock bracket:

  • Notre Dame: three straight losses to end the season, 6-4 in its last 10 games. However, the Irish have an 11 RPI.
  • Princeton: Has a 6-4 record in its last 10 games and an RPI of 18. However, the Tigers’ six losses were by a grand total of 10 goals.
  • Rutgers: Only 6-4 in its last 10 games and three losses in its last four matches. However, the Knights have a 12 RPI and an April 21 win over Notre Dame.

All I know is that I’d hate to be in that tournament selection committee room this weekend, believe me.

Who would you choose?