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Archive for November 3, 2021

Nov. 3, 2021 — Inside the NCAA Division I Tournament: Conference Tournament Edition

With a whisk of watered turf and the clack of composite sticks on a plastic ball, the first two of nine conference tournaments begin tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Washington, D.C. and Piscataway, N.J.

By Sunday afternoon, we’ll learn which nine field hockey teams will join Harvard in the NCAA Division I championship as automatic qualifiers. At 10 p.m., the brackets get released..

A substantial number of teams are playing for at-large selections. This year’s field includes eight at-large bids, likely swallowed up by just two conferences: the Big Ten and the ACC. Only this year, the Big Ten has seized control of the at-large pool, and the league could go six or even seven deep in the tournament.

Let’s take our annual spin through the conference tournaments:

Favorite: Monmouth
Dark horses: Albany, Maine
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: The quarterfinal match between Albany and Stanford should be an awesome game full of storylines. Stanford, which played most of its season without a kitted goalkeeper, put freshman fullback Cara Sambeth in the goalie pads the last two matches, and even got a clean sheet in the regular-season finale. Maine, despite playing at home, is a young side which, it must be remembered, lost five of its first six matches

 St. Joseph’s
Dark horse: Virginia Commonwealth
How many should get in: 2
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: St. Joseph’s has been playing dynamite hockey the last several years under Lynn Farquhar, and is now the best college team in Philadelphia. Question is, can this team go deep in the NCAAs this year?

Dark horse: Boston College
How many should get in: 4
How many will get in: 4
The skinny: Louisville and Syracuse are in the NCAA Tournament no matter what they do. I think North Carolina has to win its first-round game against Wake Forest in order to seal its place. Boston College and Sky Caron could upset the entire apple cart if they win the tournament

Favorite: Liberty
Dark horse: Old Dominion
How many should get in: 2
How many will get in: 2
The skinny: The Liberty Flames have been building towards this fall for several seasons. The team has recruited well and has gotten great performances from the goalkeeper all the way out to the forward line. The semifinal between Connecticut and Old Dominion is likely to determine which of these two will get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament

Dark horse: Indiana
How many should get in: 6
How many will get in: 6
The skinny: This is the year where the earth shifted in Division I field hockey, as the Big Ten has not only dominated the Top 10 rankings, but, as of this morning, six out of the top seven teams in Ratings Percentage Index are from the conference. The quarterfinal round includes two matches — Michigan vs. Northwestern and Penn State vs. Maryland — which are worthy of a championship final

James Madison
Dark horse: Delaware
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: James Madison showed itself to be the top team in the league with a 4-0 regular-season win over Delaware. That being said, the Blue Hens are likely the best 10-8 team in the country. They have won eight of their last 10 and have a decent argument for an at-large bid if they don’t win the AQ

Dark horse: None
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: Harvard has been designated as the Ivy champion and AQ winner, even though a loss against Brown could result in Princeton drawing level within the league. But the Crimson have the tiebreaker by virtue of winning a 3-0 penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw

Kent State
Dark horse: Longwood
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: Kent State is not a bad side, people. Watch the Flashes when they get into the tournament. They could bust a few brackets before the season is over

Dark horse: Wagner
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: Fairfield should win this tournament. The Stags’ margin of victory (two games) is enormous when compared to some of the nation’s other hockey-playing leagues. Wagner has rebounded from an 0-5 start to get the 2 seed in this tournament

Favorites: American
Dark horse: Lafayette
How many should get in: 1
How many will get in: 1
The skinny: American is the top seed and the host team. I cannot see the Eagles losing this AQ, but Lafayette is a spunky side, having held its own against Rutgers, Ohio State, Penn State, and Indiana in non-conference play