April 22, 2013

Bracketology: Who's In, Out and on the Bubble?

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Albany is averaging the 15.92 goals per game, the most of any team since Virginia averaged 18.21 goals in 1997. The Great Danes will be hard-pressed snag a first-round home game, but will present a challenge for any opponent.

A quiet week — well, for everyone other than Denver and Syracuse, anyway — led to minimal changes in the bracket projection.

Denver remains No. 1 in the RPI despite its overtime loss to Fairfield. That means it is hard to send the Pioneers' too far down the seed list, especially given how reliance on the RPI was reinforced by last year's selection committee.

The same eight teams as last week are projected to host first-round games, though Bucknell takes the place of erstwhile projected Big East winner Villanova in the 16-team field now that Notre Dame has a share of the Big East lead.

(RPI data is courtesy of LaxPower; for this week, at least, the strength of schedule data was independently calculated using the LaxPower RPI data.)

Here's a team-by-team look at who is in contention for the tournament just two weeks before the field is unveiled, with RPI used as a tiebreaker for projected automatic bids:

AUTOMATIC BIDS (8)

DENVER (ECAC)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 1 7 0-1 2-2 5-2 7-@Duke, 9-@Loyola
12-@Ohio State, 14-Penn   
17-Lehigh


As a general rule, teams aren't going to win every one-goal game they get themselves into; tight games only serve to amplify the effect of one odd bounce or a fortunate (or unfortunate) break. Denver played its sixth one-goal contest in eight games Saturday, falling to Fairfield in overtime. The Pioneers are still in superb postseason position thanks to fabulous computer numbers and a decent set of victories, but it definitely took a hit in its chase for the No. 1 overall seed.

This week: Michigan (Saturday)

NOTRE DAME (BIG EAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-2 2 6 2-0 4-0 5-1 1-@Denver, 4-North Carolina   
6-@Penn State, 7-Duke    
12-Ohio State


The Fighting Irish takes over as the projected Big East winner after upending Villanova on Saturday. Notre Dame still possesses a resume with everything — good RPI, strong strength of schedule, plenty of of quality victories. With one and perhaps two games with Syracuse still to come, Notre Dame would have a strong case for the No. 1 overall seed if it wins out.

This week: vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J. (Saturday)

CORNELL (IVY)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-2 5 20 0-0 0-2 2-2 11-@Yale, 14-Penn    


The Big Red clinched the right to play host to the Ivy League tournament this week, and would find themselves in fine shape to play a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament with three more victories to close the season. But the absence of a top-flight victory coupled with a double-digit strength of schedule (for now) might limit how high Cornell is seeded next month.

This week: vs. Princeton in East Rutherford, N.J. (Saturday)

Tournament Probabilities

LaxPower.com founder Larry Feldman has developed formulas, based on historical data, to determine teams' chances of making NCAA tournaments across all levels: Division I, II and III men and women.

Probabilities are available and updated at his LaxBytes website.

MD1: Locks — Bucknell, Cornell, Denver, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse

WD1: Locks — Boston College, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia

MD2: Locks — Limestone, Mercyhurst, Seton Hill

WD2: Locks — None

MD3: Locks — Cortland, Dickinson

WD3: Locks — Salisbury

PENN STATE (COLONIAL)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 6 4 1-1 2-1 4-3 1-vs. Denver, 8-@Bucknell     
15-Drexel, 20-Massachusetts


At this stage, the Nittany Lions have to feel good about making their first NCAA appearance since 2005. That means borderline postseason teams will be rooting for Penn State to continue its unbeaten run through the CAA straight through conference tournament. The Nits secured the right to host the four-team CAA tournament with a victory over Delaware on Saturday.

This week: at Hofstra (Saturday)

ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 13 31 0-0 1-1 3-3 10-@Syracuse, 16-@Hopkins   
20-Massachusetts   


There isn't much more to learn about the Great Danes in the regular season. They score and score and score, to the point their 15.92 goals per game average is the most of any team since Virginia averaged 18.21 goals in 1997. Albany would be hard-pressed to snag a home game in the NCAA tournament, but is going to be a ton of fun to watch against a top-10 foe in the first round.

This week: at Siena (Tuesday); at Stony Brook (Saturday)

LEHIGH (PATRIOT)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-4 17 25 0-1 2-1 2-3 6-vs. Penn State, 8-@Bucknell   


Status quo in Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks brushed aside Lafayette to complete a perfect run through the Patriot League. They'll host the conference tournament this weekend for the first time and will likely need to win a title to get back to the NCAAs for the second straight year.

This week: Colgate (Friday); possibly Bucknell or Army (Sunday)

MARIST (METRO ATLANTIC)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-2 28 60 0-0 0-1 0-1 ----


The Red Foxes clinched the Metro Atlantic regular season title with a defeat of Jacksonville, but even with a gaudy record will need to capture the conference tournament to play past the first weekend in May.

This week: at Manhattan (Saturday)

BRYANT (NORTHEAST)

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
5-9 45 45 0-0 0-1 0-3 ----


Bryant has the best RPI of any of the Northeast Conference's six teams, which is to say whoever earns the league's first automatic berth to the NCAA tournament will almost certainly face the No. 1 or No. 2 overall seed. The Bulldogs lost to Mount St. Mary's on Saturday, falling into a three-way tie with Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart atop the NEC with one regular-season weekend to go.

This week: Brown (Tuesday); Sacred Heart (Saturday)

AT-LARGE FIELD (14 for 8 spots)

Projected in


The Terps survived an upset big from Yale and faces Virginia in an ACC tournament semifinal Friday against Virginia.

MARYLAND

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-2 3 13 0-1 2-1 3-2 7-@Duke, 9-@Loyola    
11-Yale


The Terrapins survived an upset bid from a capable Yale bunch on Saturday and head to the ACC tournament with a miserly defense that has allowed only two teams to score more than eight goals and yielded no more than 10 goals in any game. Maryland's profile continues to improve, and a victory in Friday's semifinal against Virginia would further boost the Terps' strength of schedule.

This week: vs. Virginia (Friday); possibly vs. Duke or North Carolina (Sunday)

NORTH CAROLINA

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 4 5 1-1 1-2 3-3 3-@Maryland, 16-Hopkins   
18-Princeton


It's a big weekend for the Tar Heels, who open the ACC tournament against a Duke bunch that has won 13 of the last 14 games between the teams. The weekend is all about positioning for seeding for the Tar Heels, who would be in fine shape for a top-four seed if they can collect a pair of victories at Kenan Stadium.

This week: Duke (Friday); possibly Maryland or Virginia (Sunday)

DUKE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-4 7 2 1-3 2-3 2-4 4-@North Carolina, 9-Loyola    


Remember the Blue Devils' slow start? Didn't think so. Duke takes a nine-game winning streak into the ACC tournament and, barring a startling loss in its regular-season finale at Marquette, probably has done enough to earn a home game to open the NCAAs. This weekend offers the opportunity to climb to a higher seed — and to build on the Blue Devils' 30-5 record in April in seven seasons under John Danowski.

This week: at North Carolina (Friday); possibly Maryland or Virginia (Sunday)

BUCKNELL

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 8 38 1-0 1-1 4-1 5-@Cornell, 13-@Albany
15-Drexel, 20-Massachusetts    


The Bison take a sneaky-good profile (minus that strength of schedule) into the Patriot League tournament, and a semifinal victory has to potential to be of great help to a strength of schedule index that accounts for only a team's top 10 opponents. A weekend split probably leaves Bucknell right on the cut line, but one exceptional week (the Albany and Cornell triumphs) surrounded by plenty of solid play will keep the Bison in the discussion to the end.

This week: vs. Army (Friday); possibly Lehigh or Colgate (Sunday)

LOYOLA

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 9 15 0-2 0-3 1-3 12-@Ohio State   


The Greyhounds are 0-3 against the top 10 in the RPI (losses to Denver, Duke and Maryland) and 10-0 against everyone else. Considering Johns Hopkins resides outside the top 10 at the moment, the only way to change that is to beat Denver in the ECAC tournament — and if the Greyhounds do so, they'll win the ECAC's automatic bid, anyway. Nonetheless, beating Hopkins would at least provide some more separation from the Blue Jays (who themselves are chasing an at-large berth).

This week: at Johns Hopkins (Saturday)

SYRACUSE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 10 12 1-0 1-0 4-1 5-Cornell, 16-Hopkins   
18-@Princeton, 20-vs. St. John's   


The erratic Orange have played five straight one-goal games against a fascinating medley of opponents: Cornell, Georgetown, Hobart, Princeton and Rutgers. Syracuse would be well-served to knock off Notre Dame at least once before the season's out — either in a neutral-site game Saturday or in the Big East tournament next week at Villanova — just to feel safe about its postseason prospects.

This week: vs. Notre Dame in East Rutherford, N.J. (Saturday)

YALE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-4 11 16 0-2 0-2 2-4 13-@Albany, 14-@Penn    


Yale could wind up regretting its missed opportunity against Maryland after the Terps rallied from a goal down to secure an 8-7 victory on Saturday. The victory over Penn has lost some value, and the Bulldogs could be on the spot to win once (if not twice) in the Ivy League tournament. One thing's for sure: Yale will be in that event along with Cornell, Princeton and either Harvard or Penn.

This week: at Harvard (Saturday)

PENN

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-4 14 10 0-2 1-2 3-3 7-Duke, 17-@Lehigh      
18-Princeton   


When you play an opponent with a bad record, bad things tend to happen to your RPI regardless of outcome — especially if you're in a cluster of teams with a similar RPI figure. That's the lesson the Quakers can take from their rout of Dartmouth on Saturday. Penn's best hope to further improve its profile would come in the Ivy League tournament; a Yale victory over Harvard clinches a place in that four-team field for the Quakers.

This week: vs. Bellarmine in Radnor, Pa. (Saturday)

Johns Hopkins handled Navy on Saturday, but must beat defending national champ Loyola to have a realistic shot at the tournament.

Projected out

OHIO STATE

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 12 17 0-2 1-3 1-3 6-@Penn State   


No change for the Buckeyes, who edged Air Force on Saturday. Ohio State is playing for the No. 3 seed in the ECAC tournament when it hosts Fairfield this week, but it's a game that might not matter much for the Buckeyes' overall profile. While a victory certainly wouldn't hurt, Ohio State's postseason fate will be determined by games against Denver and/or Loyola in the ECAC tournament. At the moment, the Buckeyes barely sit outside the projected field behind Penn and Yale.

This week: Fairfield (Saturday)

DREXEL

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-3 15 34 0-0 0-2 2-2 13-Albany, 20-@Massachusetts   


Same old, same old for Drexel: The Dragons' postseason chances realistically rest upon winning the CAA tournament. Drexel will face Towson in the CAA semifinals, with a possible date with Penn State in the conference title game. But first up is a visit from High Point (3-11), a game that will do little to benefit Drexel's overall profile.

This week: High Point (Saturday)

JOHNS HOPKINS

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-4 16 14 1-1 1-2 1-4 3-@Maryland    


The Blue Jays handled Navy 15-4 on Saturday, and benefited when Maryland surged into the top-five. While Hopkins will be rooting for the Terrapins to win out and make that mid-April victory look even better, the reality is the Blue Jays have to handle their own business to have a realistic shot at the tournament. That means defeating defending national champ Loyola on Saturday in a significant game for both teams.

This week: Loyola (Saturday)

PRINCETON

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-4 18 8 0-1 0-2 2-3 11-Yale, 16-@Hopkins    


The Tigers toyed with Harvard for 60 minutes, a quality rebound from a costly loss at Dartmouth. In the process, they clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament. That's a chance to pick up a useful victory or two, but so is Saturday's game against Cornell at the Meadowlands. Few teams have as much to gain in the next week as Princeton.

This week: vs. Cornell in East Rutherford, N.J. (Saturday)

ST. JOHN'S

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-4 20 47 1-0 1-1 2-1 2-Notre Dame, 11-@Yale   


Any postseason hopes the Red Storm harbor rest not on their date with Marquette but rather Georgetown's visit to Rutgers. A Hoyas victory eliminates St. John's from the Big East tournament and any takes away any remaining opportunity for the Red Storm to improve their profile. What they have now — notably with their RPI and schedule strength — just isn't going to be enough.

This week: Marquette (Saturday)

FAIRFIELD

W-L      RPI     SOS    
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-5 23 19 1-1 1-2 1-3 1-@Denver      


Even with a stellar victory at Denver, the Stags are a longshot for an at-large bid. At the very least, though, they'll play in the ECAC tournament and have a chance to make a run at an automatic berth.

This week: at Ohio State (Saturday)

PROJECTED BRACKET

As a reminder, the projected bracket attempts to follow the NCAA's preference to limit flights/travel costs in the opening round. It also reflects that only the top eight spots in the field are seeded, with geography playing a role in sorting out several of the other matchups in the bracket.

Indianapolis

(1) BIG EAST/Notre Dame vs. NORTHEAST/Bryant
(8) Syracuse vs. Bucknell

College Park

(4) Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Lehigh
(5) COLONIAL/Penn State vs. Yale

College Park

(3) North Carolina vs. Penn
(6) Duke vs. Loyola

Indianapolis

(2) ECAC/Denver vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Marist
(7) IVY/Cornell vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

Last four out: Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Drexel

Washington, D.C/Baltimore area sportswriter Patrick Stevens will be providing NCAA Division I men's tournament projections for LaxMagazine.com every Monday through Selection Sunday with special editions in the days leading upto May 5.

Stevens was USA TODAY Sports' bracket/bubble specialist for the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament — correctly predicting all 68 teams — and has also projected the lacrosse tournament bracket over the years for various publications. Tweet him @D1scourse.


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