I talked about the Syracuse Orange portion of the bracket a couple of days ago, so I'm going to give an overall view of the field this time around. As we know, the Orange grabbed the No. 6 seed, and will face the winner of Boston College and Canisius. This is a look at the rest of the field and how it turned out.
No. 1 Maryland will face the winner of Towson and High Point: No real surprise here. The Terps went 19-0 this season with an RPI of 2 and a Strength of Schedule (SOS) of 4, and got the Big Ten auto bid. Towson made it in as an at-large bid after losing to Elon in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Tournament, but posted a 12-6 overall record with an RPI of 16 and an SOS of 20. High Point (15-3) is on a 15-game win streak after dropping the first three games of the season, and received the AQ from the Big South Conference. That win streak will probably come to an end against the Tigers and I expect Towson to face off against the Terps in the second Round.
No. 2 North Carolina will face the winner of Virginia and Elon: Again, no surprises. The Tar Heels finished the season with a 16-2 record, recorded the top RPI ranking, were sixth in SOS and received the AQ from the ACC. Virginia, also from the ACC, finished 11-8 after starting the season 2-4. They received an at-large bid with an 11 RPI and a solid seventh in SOS. CAA Tournament runner-up Elon (13-6) also received an at-large bid and had a 17 RPI and 28 SOS. This opening round game could be very interesting as these two teams faced each other in the regular season. Elon won that game 11-10 on a last-second goal in Charlottesville, so could they pull off another one in Chapel Hill?
No. 3 Florida will face the winner of USC and Jacksonville; Also an expected result. The Gators posted a 17-2 record, got the Big East AQ, with a No. 4 RPI and a 2 SOS. They actually faced both of these teams earlier in the season in back-to-back games, and both resulted in a Gator victory. The Women of Troy (16-3) got the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) AQ and wound up with a 13 RPI and 17 SOS. I'm a little perplexed that they did not get a seed as I expected the committee to put one of those out west. Jacksonville won the Atlantic Sun Conference AQ, posted a 14-5 record and had a 29 RPI and 37 SOS. I think USC should win in the opening round and create one of the more entertaining seocnd round games. This one also has implications for Syracuse because if they happen to make it out of the second round (by no means a certainty), they could wind up hosting the quarterfinal if the Gators lose and set up a rematch of last year's thriller with USC in the Dome.
No. 4 Penn State will face the winner of James Madison and Louisville. I originally had them in this spot in my predictions, but moved them back a spot going into Selection Sunday. The Nittany Lions wound up with an at-large bid following a loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten semifinals. They posted a 15-3 record, a 7 RPI and 12 SOS. Louisville also received an at-large bid after losing in the opening round of the ACCT. The Cardinals had an 11-7 record, a 31 RPI and a 34 SOS. There's no question that they got in on the late season win over Syracuse. More on this below. James Madison got the CAA AQ, went 13-6 on the year and had a 14 RPI and 10 SOS. This one could be a pretty close first round game and could go either way.
No. 5 Princeton will face the winner of Cornell and Notre Dame: I actually had the Tigers in this spot in my predictions. They had a 14-3 record this year and a strong No. 3 RPI and 5 SOS, and got the Ivy League AQ. The Big Red won an at-large bid with a runner-up position in the Ivy League Tournament, finished 12-5 and had a 15 RPI and 18 SOS. The Fighting Irish are another ACC at-large team, with an 11-7 record, 23 RPI and 23 SOS. Notre Dame has struggled at times this year, while Cornell went 3-4 to end the season after starting 10-1. I think the edge goes to the Big Red on this one and it should set up a third meeting with the Tigers in less than a month. Princeton won the regular season matchup in overtime and held off a late Cornell rally in the Ivy League title game, so is the third time a charm?
No. 6 Syracuse will face the winner of Boston College and Canisius: I wrote an article on this earlier in the week and will be adding a second round preview this weekend. To recap, I expect it will be an #OrangeEagle matchup that could wind up being a heckuva game.
No. 7 Penn/Navy, Colorado/UMass in the first round: In the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament, the 7 & 8 seeds play in the first round. Seventh-seeded Penn went 13-3 this year and received an at-large bid with a semifinal loss to Princeton in the Ivy League Tourney, after posting an 8 RPI and 21 SOS. The Midshipmen received the Patriot League AQ with an unexpected win over Loyola, who has dominated the Patriot League over the last few years. Navy went 15-4 on the year and have a 25 RPI and 45 SOS. The Quakers should win this matchup and move into the second round.
In the other contest, Colorado received an at-large bid after a runner-up performance in the MPSF Tournament. The Buffs posted a 16-3 record, a 9 RPI and 9 SOS. UMass (16-3) won the Atlantic 10 AQ and also have a 15-game win streak after starting 1-3. They have an 18 RPI and 31 SOS. These two teams faced each other in the regular season with Colorado winning 11-7. I believe that the Buffs will win this one as well and create a great second round game against the Quakers.
No. 8 Stony Brook/Bryant, Northwestern/Albany in the 1st round. Eighth-seeded Stony Brook finished the season 18-1 (only loss was to Florida), received the America East Conference AQ and had a 6 RPI and 13 SOS. Bryant made it in after getting the Northeast Conference AQ, went 13-4 on the season, and had a 48 RPI and 91 SOS. The Seawolves should have very few problems getting into the second round. They would face the winner of Albany and Northwestern, two teams they faced in the regular season.
Albany received an at-large bid and was the runner up in the America East final. They went 12-5 on the season and had a 20 RPI and 16 SOS. Northwestern also received an at large bid with a 10-9 record and was the runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament final. They ended up with a 10 RPI, but had the top SOS. I think this one could go either way.
There is a little bit of controversy regarding Northwestern getting into the tournament, and it's their game with Johns Hopkins earlier in the year that had pretty big (in my opinion) postseason implications. The Blue Jays led the Wildcats 9-8 with just .2 seconds remaining when Northwestern was awarded a free position shot. The Wildcat player took a step, launched it and found the back of the net, sending it into overtime.
The first referee signaled no goal, while a second overrode it and awarded the goal to the Wildcats even though he was not facing the clock. In fact, the game was televised and stills clearly show that the Northwestern player was pulling back to shoot when the clock was at 0:00. The Wildcats took advantage of the golden opportunity and won it in overtime. Johns Hopkins, who joined the Big Ten as an associate member this year, filed a direct protest with the conference but nothing was or (to my knowledge) has been done about it.
But here is where it gets really interesting. If Northwestern was not awarded that goal, they would have lost in regulation and would have been 8-9 going into the Big Ten Tournament instead of 9-8. It also would have meant that instead of getting the No. 3 seed against Penn St. (which they won), they would have fallen behind Hopkins and have had to play Maryland in the semifinals instead. While nothing is a certainty, the fact that the Wildcats lost to the Terps 18-9 at the end of the regular season and 14-6 in the B1G finale does suggest that Northwestern probably loses, finishes 8-10 and doesn't make the tournament due to a sub-.500 record.
Louisville certainly got in due to their win over Syracuse at the end of the season so that wouldn't have changed in this alternate universe. So who would have taken the Wildcats' place in the NCAA Tournament? If you guessed Johns Hopkins, you would win the prize as the Blue Jays had a 19 RPI and 11 SOS, went 11-7 but had no major wins to claim. It's certainly speculation but very intriguing nonetheless.