The ACC's unrepentant RPI bonanza faces off this weekend in the traditional college lacrosse hotbed of Kennesaw, Georgia. ("WHY ISN'T THIS GAME AT JAMESVILLE-DEWITT HIGH SCHOOL, BRENT?!") ESPNU and ESPN3 will carry the semifinals starting at 6:00 P.M. on Friday and the championship game on Sunday at noon. ESPN3 will televise Brown slaughtering Virginia on Saturday night in the showcase beheading. While the ACC is relatively weakened compared to its last few seasons of face-smashing brutality, the league is still tops in Division I and should put on a massive display of soul-crushing as the college lacrosse season approaches its apex.
This, then, presents an important question: Is Syracuse going to die this weekend? The answer: Hopefully not! In fact, lacrosse computing machines are bullish on the Orange heading into the penultimate weekend of the regular season, giving Syracuse the second best odds to earn an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. That's the crazy part of the ACC Tournament: The league's lowest seeded team has a one-in-four chance to erase any doubts about its future in May.
Here is a lacrosse computer table thing:
For all the hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing, and blood spilled on the internet over Syracuse's 8-4 campaign, the Orange are decently positioned in a dense field of predators to survive a carnage-fueled tournament. While standing among the tournament's bottom two according to the examined pool of computer ratings, Syracuse's draw of North Carolina in the semifinal round -- the Tar Heels are ranked as the "weakest" team in the tournament, despite Carolina's recent toppling of Notre Dame -- is a huge benefit for the Orange, if only because it is the best matchup for Syracuse according to robot lacrosse prognosticators. This advantage, though, is muted: The Orange are squarely in a toss-up scenario with Carolina with a goal spread hovering around one.
This is the theme that dominates the entire ACC Tournament: Across the board there are nothing but toss-up games with goal spreads -- on a neutral field -- within the zone of terror (the outlier being Notre Dame as a bulleted favorite against North Carolina). The odds and probabilities dominating this tournament point toward potential chaos, with the presumed favorite holding only a 30%-ish probability of hoisting hardware and no team having worse than a one-in-five chance of taking the gold medal. Even if you view Syracuse as a school bus on fire careening toward a cliff with weeks of graphic news coverage following the disaster, the Orange are situated similarly to their ACC Tournament peers (at least according to these computing machines) and have a reasonable opportunity to make something stupid happen.
Yet, the evenly-leveraged nature of the ACC Tournament is also nightmare fuel: With such balanced participants throwing hands in an effort to brutally commit lacrosse homicide, limiting brain farts, coming ready to annihilate the existence of an opponent from the opening whistle, and lessening the impact of weaknesses becomes drastically important. Syracuse's record in overtime games this year is somewhat concerning in this context, as is the Orange's anomaly against Notre Dame, but despite these macro-level historic considerations, Syracuse is still in the same spot as every other team in the tournament: Play well enough over two games and the Orange will charter a cruise to Marshmallow Island to eat directly from gumdrop trees.