May 4, 2013

Bracketology, Saturday Morning: Towson Win Shrinks Bubble

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Towson's 11-10 defeat of Penn State in the CAA final added some anxiety to teams perched around the cutline for the NCAA tournament.
© Craig Houtz

There were only six games played Friday. Nonetheless, life became a whole lot easier for NCAA men's lacrosse committee chairman Jim Siedliski.

The ever-unpredictable Colonial Athletic Association was decided. The Ivy League field was winnowed to two teams, one of which is not top-seeded Cornell. And Johns Hopkins wrapped up its regular season with a defeat of Army.

"I think that will be very helpful," Siedliski, also the Big East associate commissioner, said earlier in the day. "You'll have your second AQ awarded. You'll have a better understanding of what the math is with what Ivy teams play each other a second time and what the record against the top 20 is. It's going to be very, very helpful to continue to have things crystallize toward Sunday."

The most meaningful curveball of the day — and the week — was Towson's 11-10 defeat of Penn State in the CAA final. The Tigers became the first true bid thief of the season and added some anxiety to teams perched around the cutline.

The good thing for Siedliski and his fellow committee members is it came well before they must complete their work. The five-person committee (which will meet starting Saturday in Indianapolis) will have to contend with games on Sunday as they wrap up constructing a bracket in time for the 9 p.m. selection announcement.

Sunday's three games are the finals in the Ivy League and Metro Atlantic, as well as Duke's visit to Marquette.

"What really is a detriment, and we've shared this, are the championship games on Sunday," Siedliski said. "We understand they're there for a variety of reasons ... The sample size is 63 institutions and there is still dramatic movement and significant change in the variables up until the last RPI. The fact we have two AQs on Sunday, it's not insurmountable, but it makes the job exceptionally difficult."

Not that the job is easy, anyway, sifting through RPI (as always courtesy of LaxPower), top-10 opponents' average RPI (which is independently calculated below and appears on the primary nitty gritty page like this one from last year), victories against the top 20 (which are broken down to some extent below and in groups of five on the committee's team sheets) and more.

As for how things shake out entering the final two days of the regular season, here's a glimpse:

IN VIA AUTOMATIC BID (2)

LEHIGH (PATRIOT)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI  
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 14 22nd (18.0) 0-1 3-1 3-2 8-vs. Penn State, 11-@Bucknell   
11-Bucknell


The Mountain Hawks are spending the weekend in enviable fashion: Sitting at home waiting to learn their exact destination as they make their second consecutive NCAA appearance. Lehigh won't get a home game this time around, but it figures to be a tough out in the round of 16. A few logical destinations: Cornell, Maryland or perhaps even a rematch with Penn State.

This week: Regular season complete

TOWSON (COLONIAL)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI  
T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-7 23
18th (17.1) 0-0 1-2 2-5 8-@Penn State, 18-vs. Drexel    


The Tigers pulled off a surprising run in the Colonial tournament, avenging losses to Drexel and Penn State to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. It was an impressive recovery from an ugly 2-4 start in coach Shawn Nadelen's second season, and there's a decent chance the Tigers earned a ticket to North Carolina for the opening round with the victory.

This week: Regular season complete

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 — Lehigh, Cornell, Denver, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Syracuse

WD1: Locks — High Point, UMass, Monmouth, Navy, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Northwestern, Syracuse

MD2: Locks — Limestone, Mercyhurst, Seton Hill

WD2: Locks — None

MD3: Locks — Cortland, Dickinson, RIT

WD3: Locks — Cortland, Salisbury

PROJECTED AUTOMATIC BIDS (6)

SYRACUSE (BIG EAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-3 2
8th (13.7)
2-0 3-0 7-1 1-vs. Notre Dame (x2), 6-Cornell   
16-@Princeton, 17-Hopkins,   
19-vs. St. John's, 20-Virginia   


Two neutral-field thrashings of Notre Dame in a week has done wonders for Syracuse's profile. A week ago, it might have worried about what back-to-back losses would do if chaos developed in other conference tournaments. Now, the Orange has a case for the No. 1 overall seed if it can avenge an earlier loss to Villanova in the Big East title game.

This week: at Villanova (Saturday)

DENVER (ECAC)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-3 3
6th (11.5) 1-1 2-2 5-2 5-@Ohio State, 9-@Loyola
12-@Duke, 13-Penn   
14-Lehigh


Denver isn't perfect and it loves to play one-goal games, but it still possesses superb RPI-based numbers and a decent set of victories. The Pioneers are probably still in play for the No. 1 overall seed at this stage and will certainly require a defeat of Ohio State in the ECAC final to secure it. Nonetheless, Denver will be at home to open the NCAA tournament and almost certainly a top-four seed with a victory Saturday.

This week: vs. Ohio State in Geneva, N.Y. (Saturday)

YALE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-4 10 14th (15.5)
0-0 0-2 3-4 13-@Penn, 13-vs. Penn  
15-@Albany    


The Bulldogs got the job done against Penn in the Ivy League semifinals, and can now wrap up their second straight conference tournament title Sunday against Princeton. At stake is the first back-to-back NCAA appearances in school history. There's been just enough unpredictability so far that the Bulldogs might be wise to avenge an earlier loss to the Tigers.

This week: vs. Princeton in Ithaca, N.Y. (Sunday)

ALBANY (AMERICA EAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 15 30th (20.8)
1-0 1-1 2-3 2-@Syracuse, 17-@Hopkins       


It's hard to believe Albany hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2007. One more win, and the explosive Great Danes will be in position to create all sorts of commotion in the first round. The story remains the same for Scott Marr's team: The profile probably isn't worthy of an at-large bid — especially after Towson's CAA title triumph nudged Penn State into the at-large pool — so Albany had best take care of UMBC in the America East final.

This week: vs. UMBC in Stony Brook, N.Y. (Saturday)

SIENA (METRO ATLANTIC)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-8 
32
48th (26.7)
0-1 
0-1 1-3  
15-Albany


The Saints, which ousted Jacksonville in the MAAC semifinals, are the top remaining seed in the event after regular-season champ Marist lost to Detroit. Siena is seeking its third NCAA bid in five years and would be an ideal candidate to get shipped to Syracuse should they defeat the Titans (RPI: 53) in Sunday's conference title game.

This week: vs. Detroit in Buffalo, N.Y. (Sunday)

BRYANT (NORTHEAST)

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
7-10 46 49th (26.8)
0-0 0-1 0-3 ---


The Bulldogs remain the favorite to earn the Northeast's first NCAA tournament berth. After handling Sacred Heart in Thursday's semifinals, Mike Pressler's team plays host to Robert Morris (RPI: 40) on Saturday; only the winner will move on out of this one-bid league.

This week: Robert Morris (Saturday)

With its overall play from start to finish, Notre Dame could still garner a top-four seed despite ending the season with blowout losses to Syracuse.
© TD Paulius

AT-LARGE FIELD (13 for 8 spots)

Projected in

NOTRE DAME

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
10-4 1
3rd (10.1) 3-2 4-2 5-3 3-@Denver, 4-North Carolina   
5-Ohio State, 8-@Penn State   
12-@Duke


There's a real chance the Fighting Irish finishes No. 1 in the RPI, regardless of its back-to-back blowout losses to Syracuse. That's a good illustration of why the RPI isn't an end-all, be-all. Realistically, Notre Dame has earned a top-four seed with its overall play from start to finish, and there should be no complaints from anyone if the Irish land somewhere between the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds.

This week: Regular season complete

NORTH CAROLINA

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-3 4
11th (15.1) 0-1 1-1 6-2 7-@Maryland, 12-Duke
16-Princeton, 17-Hopkins   
20-@Virginia, 20-Virginia


The Tar Heels haven't earned a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament since they earned a No. 1 nod back in 1993. That happens to be the last time North Carolina advanced to the final four. The ACC tournament champions are in solid shape to wind up with one of the top three places in the draw, and there's little doubt Carolina will be expected to end its two-decade absence from Memorial Day weekend thanks to a potent offense an a dangerous faceoff game.

This week: Regular season complete

OHIO STATE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-3 5
7th (13.5) 0-2 2-3 3-3 8-@Penn State,  9-vs. Loyola   
20-@Virginia   


Thursday's victory over Loyola should be enough to push the Buckeyes into the postseason for the first time since 2008, and now comes the chance to solidify a home game should they defeat Denver in the ECAC final. Something particularly noteworthy about Ohio State: All three of its top-20 victories have come away from Columbus.

This week: vs. Denver in Geneva, N.Y. (Saturday)

CORNELL

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-3 6
17th (16.9)
0-1 1-1 4-3 10-@Yale, 13-Penn
16-vs. Princeton, 20-@Virginia   


The Big Red lost in overtime to Princeton in the Ivy League semifinals, and in the process might have frittered away a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Cornell might yet get another game in Ithaca, and it surely will be back in the field after a one-year hiatus, but there was a striking difference between the Big Red's dominance of Princeton on Saturday and Friday's Ivy tournament game.

This week: Regular season complete

MARYLAND

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-3 7
21st (17.9)
0-1 2-1 4-3 9-@Loyola, 10-Yale
12-@Duke, 20-@Virginia    


The Terrapins aren't going to miss the postseason, but their regular-season finale Saturday is important for a team struggling to score. Maryland has only 18 goals in its last three games, and that sort of output just isn't going to cut it in May. That includes this week's date with Colgate, which has some experience in spoiling the Terps' last game before the postseason in recent years.

This week: Colgate (Saturday)

PENN STATE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 8
9th (14.0)    1-2 1-2 3-3 3-vs. Denver, 11-@Bucknell     
18-Drexel


The Nittany Lions did no favors to borderline tournament teams on Friday, losing 11-10 to Towson in a Colonial final that lived up to the league's reputation for postseason wackiness. That might turn out to cost Penn State its first NCAA tournament home game, something that seemed highly likely to happen just a couple days ago.

This week: Regular season complete

Loyola is in for nerve-wracking weekend after falling to Ohio State in Thursday night's ECAC semifinal round. One more bid thief could keep the Greyhounds' home and two almost certainly.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

LOYOLA

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-4 9
12th (15.2)
1-2 1-3 2-4 5-@Ohio State, 17-@Hopkins   


The defending national champions are in for a nerve-wracking weekend, though they might get a bit of a bump should Ohio State win the ECAC tournament. Of course, it's the Buckeyes that have left Loyola in such a tenuous situation in the first place after Thursday's 18-11 defeat of the Greyhounds. Two teams Loyola surely is rooting against: Villanova in Saturday's Big East final, and Princeton in Sunday's Ivy title game.

This week: Regular season complete

DUKE

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-5 12
4th (11.2) 1-3 2-4 3-5 4-@North Carolina, 9-Loyola    
20-Virginia


With final four trips in their last seven NCAA appearances, there's no doubting the Blue Devils' ability to string together some decent performances in May. The question this year is whether Duke can start off the tournament at home. Much of that could depend on who wins Saturday's ECAC final; a Denver victory does plenty to help the Blue Devils' case to open the postseason at Koskinen Stadium.

This week: at Marquette (Sunday)

Projected out

BUCKNELL

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
12-4 11
26th (19.3) 0-0 1-1 3-3 6-@Cornell, 15-@Albany    
18-Drexel


The Bison, who closed out their season with a Patriot League tournament loss to Lehigh on Sunday, are in the same spot as Loyola: Hoping Princeton and Villanova lose and that the selection committee shows some mercy and allows it to continue its season. Bucknell trails Loyola in both the RPI and the top 10 opponents' average RPI, but has an extra decent victory. However, an early-season loss to Mount St. Mary's (RPI: 44) very well might do the Bison in.

This week: Regular season complete

PENN

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
8-5 13 10th (14.6)
0-1 0-4 3-4 12-Duke, 14-@Lehigh      
16-Princeton   


The Quakers have a decent set of victories against the second 10, but they really needed to do a little bit more this weekend to make a better case for themselves. Instead, Penn fell to Yale (for the second time) while both Cornell and Penn State were bumped into the at-large pool. All in all, it was a lousy Friday for the Quakers, who could have used more help over the course of the season from Duke to lift them up a bit.

This week: Regular season complete

PRINCETON

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-5 16
5th (11.4) 0-2 2-3 3-4 6-@Cornell, 10-Yale     
17-@Hopkins    


One down, one to go. The Tigers came into the week knowing they probably needed to win the Ivy League tournament to extend their season, and are halfway there after dispatching Cornell in overtime. A sweep of Yale cements Princeton's place in the field.

This week: vs. Yale in Ithaca, N.Y. (Sunday)

Unless the selection committee veers away from the way it has interpreted data the last several seasons, Johns Hopkins' NCAA tournament streak will end at 41 straight seasons.
© Lee Weissman

JOHNS HOPKINS

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
9-5 17 15th (16.1)
0-2 1-3 2-5 7-@Maryland, 20-vs. Virginia    


The Blue Jays wrapped up their season with a 9-4 defeat of Army, but it probably won't be enough to extend their season. Hopkins' profile is relatively limited, and it might be one of the teams most let down by Towson's upset of Penn State in the Colonial final. The Blue Jays' remarkable 41-year NCAA tournament streak is likely to end unless the committee veers considerably away from the way it has interpreted data over the last several seasons.

This week: Regular season complete

DREXEL

W-L      RPI     T10 OPP. AVG RPI   T5     
T10    
T20    
T20 wins     
11-4 18 30th (20.8)
0-0 0-1 1-3 16-Albany      


There wasn't enough going for the Dragons before the CAA tournament, and an 11-8 loss to Towson in the semifinals effectively finished them off. Drexel's RPI is decent, but not overwhelming. It played a middle-of-the-road schedule, and lost by a combined margin of 30-14 in losses to Bucknell and Penn State. The Dragons have four 10-win seasons in the last seven years and no NCAA bids to show for it.

This week: Regular season complete

PROJECTED BRACKET

As a reminder, the projected bracket 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. In addition, with Maryland and Notre Dame as host schools for the quarterfinals, both the Terrapins and Fighting Irish are placed in quadrants of the bracket leading into their respective sites.

Indianapolis 

(1) BIG EAST/Syracuse vs. NORTHEAST/Bryant
(8) Cornell vs. Duke 

College Park

(4) North Carolina vs. COLONIAL/Towson
(5) Ohio State vs. Loyola

College Park 

(3) ECAC/Denver vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany
(6) Maryland vs. PATRIOT/Lehigh 

Indianapolis

(2) Notre Dame vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(7) Penn State vs. IVY/Yale

Last four out: Bucknell, Princeton, Penn, Johns Hopkins

Washington, D.C/Baltimore area sportswriter Patrick 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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