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Archive for May 7, 2007

May 7, 2007 — Bracket, busted

This evening’s release of the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse bracket showed great insight as to how a tournament committee selects a tournament in a rapidly growing sport.

Here’s what we got if we look as this in terms of seedings:

No. 16 Holy Cross at No. 1 Northwestern

No. 9 Syracuse at No. 8 Vanderbilt

No. 12 Yale at No. 5 Maryland

No. 13 Boston University at No. 4 Penn

No. 14 Princeton at No. 3 Virginia

No. 11 Richmond at No. 6 North Carolina

No. 10 Hofstra at No. 7 Johns Hopkins

No. 15 LeMoyne at No. 2 Duke

Let’s start at the very top. Holy Cross, the Patriot League champion, was seeded lower than the winner of the NCAA play-in game — which is supposed to determine a team coming from the lowest-ranked AQ-eligible conference, either the MAAC or the NEC.

Now, sending LeMoyne (a small college located in Syracuse, N.Y.), would have been a shorter trip than sending Holy Cross (Worcester, Mass.) out to suburban Chicago, which fulfills one of the post-9/11 requirements of “pod” scheduling.

The next game, the 9-8 match, will send Syracuse, the Big East champion and only representative in the field, on the road to Vanderbilt, one of three American Lacrosse Conference entries in the field.

Next, you have Yale, the 12 seed and one of three Ivy League teams in the bracket, at No. 5 Maryland, a team you can argue might have lost a Top 4 seed when it didn’t make it through to the finals of the ACC Tournament.

The winner of that game plays either Boston University, the No. 12 seed and the America East champion, or Penn, the No. 4 seed and the Ivy League champion. Penn, of course, is the “danger” team in this entire tournament, being the host institution of the Final Four. However, the Quakers have to be disappointed with getting the 4 seed after being the No. 2 team in the polls the week before. And if you go by LaxPower.com’s RPI rankings, its RPI of 0.666 is exactly the same as that of Virginia.

And speaking of Virginia, the ACC champs drew the 3 seed as well as the same opponent as in 2006, Princeton. The Tigers, despite having the 18th best RPI rank, got in as a 14 seed on the strength of its close losses as well as a big, big win over Georgetown on Sunday afternoon.

No. 10 Richmond, the Atlantic 10 champs, will travel to North Carolina, the ACC Tournament runner-up. The Heels find themselves one of three ACC teams in its half of the bracket.

Hofstra, the Colonial Athletic Association titlists, travels all the way down to Baltimore to meet No. 7 Johns Hopkins, which, as expected, made the tournament as an at-large.

LeMoyne, the winner of the play-in game, will take on Duke. The Blue Devils’ detractors will say that this seeding is an absolute gift, given the fact that they didn’t make the ACC final. But Duke’s RPI ratings are No. 2 behind Northwestern and the team played a tough schedule.

So, what do we learn from this? Well, RPI does seem to count much more than the college polls when it comes to seeding the top half of the bracket.

I also think the tournament committee regards the quality of lacrosse in the Ivy League and the American Lacrosse Conference as being very good, given the fact that they have three teams each.

Conversely, it might not think that the Big East is very good: three conference teams with RPI ratings higher than the lowest-ranked at-large team — Notre Dame (10th), Georgetown (12th), and Rutgers (14th) — were not selected. And you wonder if Big East fans would have howled even louder if Denver (15th) had won the MPSF title and had been selected at-large.

Conspiracy theorists will have Princeton in the tournament specifically as a matchup meant to give Virginia a tough first-round matchup, and will also point out that three ACC teams are grouped together in the lower half of the bracket.

As for my predictions a few days ago? Well, I guess it speaks to the white-smoke nature of predicting what an NCAA (or, for that matter, ECAC) Tournament Committee is going to do.