The field is tightening up on the women's lacrosse side of the NCAA tournament. What impact does the Big East Tournament have on all of this?
Syracuse faces Georgetown in the no.1 vs. 4 matchup tomorrow night in the Dome (follows the Notre Dame-Loyola game). This might be a tighter matchup than most people think. SU ran into some problems with Loyola (a 13-12 win) Friday night in what was the Orange's biggest challenge in some time. You would have to go back to the first half against Rutgers on April 7th (SU only led 7-6 at the half) to see the last time SU in a tight situation. Between Rutgers and Loyola, SU posted wins of 22-4 over no. 16 Dartmouth, 22-11 over no. 21 Georgetown, 16-9 over no. 13 Cornell, 16-9 over Louisville and 22-5 over Cincinnati (plus an 18-3 win over Villanova on Sunday).
Conversely, Georgetown has lost three out of its last four games following a 19-11 victory over Louisville also on April 7. Including the Syracuse loss, Georgetown lost in 2OT to no. 7 Notre Dame, 19-10 to no. 3 Maryland and earned the number four spot in the BET with a 9-7 come from behind win over Rutgers on Saturday.
What's at Stake: Regardless of what happens in the BET, the Orange will be in the NCAAs. With a current RPI ranking of no. 2 and a 15-2 overall record (plus big wins over Maryland and Florida earlier in the year), there's no way that Syracuse isn't making it. For them, it's a question of NCAA Tournament seeding. If the Orange win both games, they will most likely end up as the no. 2 seed. Losing either game in the BET will probably set SU back to no. 3 or 4.
Georgetown's position is much more fragile. The Hoyas are currently 9-7 overall and have an RPI ranking of 21. While they have an outside chance at an at-large bid, but will need some help in other conference tournaments for them to get this. Right now, Duke, Virginia and North Carolina have definite locks on three of the eight at large spots with the loser of Florida-Northwestern picking up another. With Penn St., Notre Dame and Loyola being definite possibilities (the latter two have wins over Georgetown this year) on the inside track, it could come down to the Ivy League as to whether the Hoyas sneak in. Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn all have legitimate shots in the Ivy League tournament and if the Big Red does not win the championship game, they could get the last at-large bid.
Perversely, even if the Hoyas beat SU, it will not guarantee them an NCAA spot as it would kick the Orange into the at-large category. At this point, the best chance for Georgetown to get into the NCAAs is to get the automatic qualifier.
Chances: The Orange have the home field advantage as the BET is being played in the Dome this year. SU has lost only one game this year in the Dome and that was to no. 1 Northwestern in OT. Syracuse is packed with talent on the offensive end and are solid in the midfield and on defense. Perhaps the most frightening thing for other teams is that the Orange will be bringing back practically everyone next year (there are a few holes defensively they'll have to fill). As shown in the regular season game, SU has the ability to totally dominate the Hoyas.
Georgetown has its back to the wall, no question about it. It's pretty much do or die for them and you can expect the Hoyas to throw everything they have at the Orange. Forget about the 22-11 demolition earlier in the year; this will be a tighter game for certain. Can the Hoyas win it all? Absolutely. Georgetown lost to Loyola 15-14 in OT and came very close to knocking off the Irish.
Pick: Georgetown has a talented squad and should not be overlooked. These two teams have had an intense rivalry since the Big East has started (The Hoyas have dominated the early years, but the Orange have won most of the games lately). SU also has had a tendency this year to start slow in games but can make up for it by scoring in bunches. The 8pm starting time means that this could become a trap game for the Orange as they'll know who their opponent is for the final by game time. SU needs to stay focused and if they can do this, they should pick up the win. Lapses of focus almost cost them the Loyola game (the Greyhounds scored three goals in the last 75 seconds of the first half to make it an 8-7 game and then scored the last five goals of the game). Can the Hoyas shake off their slump and surprise the Orange? Although I do think this will be a closer game than several weeks ago, I still feel that SU has too much firepower. My pick is the Orange by 5.