What Would the '13 Tournament Look Like with '14 Settings?
With this week's news that the Division I men's lacrosse tournament is expanding to 18 teams for this upcoming spring with two play-in games to narrow the field to its normal first-weekend configuration, we got a little excited.
Excited enough to play a little mental exercise of looking at this season's NCAA season through the prism of what it would have looked like with 2014 conference alignments and tournament opportunity. With 10 AQs, would a bubble team from this spring have made it in? Would a team that got in have actually been left out?
It's entirely speculative, and the argument that teams with new conferences would have vastly different schedules and therefore different RPIs and conference tournament foes is totally valid. I tried to account for such things where I could, and just made some judgement calls.
Ultimately, I realized that first, we'd have to figure who would have taken the AQs, then see what teams would be on the at-large pool, and go from there.
So, without further ado – here we go. Jump on twitter and inform me where you disagree. That's half the fun (as long as you're civil. I'm very sensitive.)
ACC – North Carolina
The ACC will be an automatic bid conference in 2014, though the winner of this league would never need an AQ unless the world of lacrosse shifts drastically. But for this exercise, the interesting thing to note is that, the Big East champ and its AQ from a year ago – Syracuse – is here now.
The only question is do we call North Carolina (which won the ACC tournament) our AQ, or do we call the Orange the AQ? It's academic since both would make it in either way, but we'll do the Tar Heels for consistency's sake.
Patriot League – Lehigh
Bucknell was a hard bubble pop after a 12-4 season, and now this crew has Loyola in the mix as well, which made an at-large in its last ECAC season and gave Duke a 2OT scare before the Blue Devils made their run to the title.
Big East – Denver
The AQ that Syracuse won in 2013 is up for grabs in this simulation, and runner-up Notre Dame – which also got an at-large bid went with the Orange to the ACC. So who gets the nod out of this bunch? Since Denver was the No. 3 RPI school and took an at-large bid after Ohio State edged them for the AQ out of the ECAC, we'll say Bill Tierney's guys get it for this simulation.
CAA – Towson
Penn State got in as an at-large after falling to the Tigers in the tournament, and they'll have to get similar luck in this simulation, since the league has declined to let them compete for the championship in 2014 before their Big Ten departure. Drexel was also on the bubble but didn't make the cut.
ECAC – Ohio State
Loyola was an at-large bid from this league as well, but they're gone now.
Ivy League – Yale
Cornell earned an at-large bid in the spring and advanced to the final four. Penn and Princeton were in the mix but didn't make it.
Atlantic Sun – Jacksonville
Another tough one to assign, since this conference didn't exist a year ago. We'll go with Jacksonville, since they had head-to-head wins over High Point, VMI and Mercer in non-conference play before falling in the MAAC semifinals to Siena.
America East – Albany
Albany survived a scare in the league tournament semifinals against Stony Brook, but only Hartford (7-7) finished at .500 or better besides the Danes, so there's no chance of an at-large berth coming once Albany captured the AQ.
MAAC – Detroit-Mercy
The Titans upset their way to the AQ by topping No. 1 seed Marist in the semifinals and No. 3 Siena in the finals. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the MAAC is unlikely to be a two-bid league any time soon.
Northeast – Bryant
Another one-bid conference, Bryant held serve in the league tournament to earn the bid. Newcomers Hobart and St. Joseph's should challenge in coming years, but Bryant would likely have still earned the bid if they were there a year ago.
At Large candidates (8 spots)
If we allow that all seven teams that would be at-large in this group who made it in last season would also be selected, this field would actually have one more berth for a team that had its bubble burst a year ago.
Patrick Stevens' projections had Bucknell as the first team out, so lets say the Bison get that final at-large spot and get to pack their bags for the first round.
Syracuse (No. 1 seed in '13)
Notre Dame (No. 2)
Ohio State (No. 3)
Denver (No. 4)
North Carolina (No. 5)
Maryland (No. 6)
Duke (No. 7)
Penn State (No. 8)
So which four conference winners find themselves in the unenviable position of playing a mid-week contest for the right to make it to the field of 16? It's pretty fair to assume that the sub-.500 Detroit-Mercy (MAAC) and Bryant (NEC) teams would be on the block. Jacksonville (A Sun)'s RPI in the low 30s would put them there too. Finally, I'd go with Towson, which also had a lower RPI than the other entrants.
Detroit would travel to Towson, and Bryant would head south to Jacksonville.
It comes down to this – our final field. Keeping seeding the same (dubious, since we're making our No. 1 seed a team that would have had to lose in its conference tournament... but lets just look past that shall we), here's how it would shake up.
Bryant/Jacksonville winner at No. 1 Syracuse
Detroit/Towson winner at No. 2 Notre Dame
Bucknell at Ohio State (No. 3)
Albany at Denver (No. 4)
Lehigh at North Carolina (No. 5)
Cornell at Maryland (No. 6)
Loyola at Duke (No. 7)
Yale at Penn State (No. 8)
So after all this, we have a largely similar-looking tournament bracket. The only real difference is that Towson almost gets punished for winning their league compared to Bucknell finishing second in the Patriot, since Towson would have to travel to the second seed after playing a mid-week game, while the Bison take their place in heading to Ohio.
What does any of this mean? Not much, but it's fun to think about how things are going to shake up next year with an expanded field.