On Sunday, May 7, the selections for the 2017 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Tournament will finally be revealed. The women's tournament has 26 teams in all; 13 automatic qualifiers and 13 at-large, with eight seeds that host the first and second rounds. This article will attempt to project what the field will look like, so let's just dive right in.
Two teams have punched their ticket with conference final victories this past Sunday: North Carolina (ACC) and USC (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation; MPSF).
Projected AQ teams are:
ACC: North Carolina already has AQ
MPSF: USC already has AQ
America East: Stony Brook
*Atlantic 10: UMass
*Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville or Coastal Carolina (loser stays home)
Big East: Florida
*Big South: High Point
Big Ten: Maryland
Colonial: James Madison, but Towson/Elon/Delaware could get in as well.
Ivy: Princeton, but Cornell and Penn have legitimate chances also.
*Metro Atlantic: Canisius
*denotes conferences who will not send at-large teams to the NCAAs
Potential at-large by conference: 15 teams fighting for 13 spots
ACC: Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville
America East: Albany
Big East: Denver
Big Ten: Penn State, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins
Colonial: James Madison, Towson, Elon (at least two of these three teams should get at-large)
Ivy: Princeton, Cornell, Penn (regardless of who wins the tournament, these teams will be in)
Definite At-Large: Breaking it down further (RPI/Strength of Schedule)
Syracuse (4/3) , Boston College (10/10), Virginia (11/6), Colorado (9/8), Penn State (3/11), Northwestern (13/1), Johns Hopkins (18/9), Princeton (5/5), Penn (8/18), Cornell (14/20), James Madison (16/15), Towson (15/13)
Ivy League situation: Cornell, Princeton and Penn all finished with identical conference records. Goal differential gave the top spot to the Big Red, who will face Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals. Penn and Princeton will play in the other game. Right now the Crimson have a 36 RPI and 25 SOS, so they would have to win the AQ in order to get into the tournament. In the unlikely event that this happens, you could very well see four Ivy teams in the NCAAs. Penn and Princeton are sitting firmly inside the top 10 polls and Cornell is just outside. Such a scenario would mean that one of the bubble teams would be bumped out of consideration.
Colonial Athletic Association situation: The Colonial Tournament has James Madison in the top spot facing Delaware. The Blue Hens have a 25 RPI and 24 SOS, so they would probably have to win the AQ. However, they did beat the Dukes at the end of the year. Should Delaware win an unlikely AQ, that leaves James Madison, Towson and Elon (the latter two have to play in the first round of the tourney) fighting for at-larges. Both JMU and Towson are ranked in the top 20 and have solid RPI and SOS ratings. Elon, on the other hand, lost to both in the regular season so they're probably needing a strong tournament showing to get in.
Bubble: Five teams fighting for three spots, assuming that there are no upsets in the Ivy or Colonial.
Notre Dame (RPI 23, SOS 22): 11-7 record, notable win against Syracuse, head-to-head wins over Elon and Louisville in the regular season, no real bad losses. Probably in.
Louisville (RPI 29, SOS 34): 11-7 record, notable win against Syracuse, head-to-head losses to Notre Dame and Denver in the regular season, no real bad losses. Probably out.
Albany (RPI 21, SOS 23): 11-4 record, notable win against Cornell, no head-to-head against other bubble teams, no real bad losses. Probably in.
Denver (RPI 26, SOS 44): 13-3 record, head-to-head win over Louisville, bad loss to Georgetown. Toss-up.
Elon (RPI 17, SOS 30): 12-5 record, notable win over Virginia, did lose to Towson and James Madison in the regular season. Toss-up.
I think it's probably going to come down to how Denver and Elon do in their respective tournaments. Both teams have the chance to make up losses in their tournaments as the Pioneers will take on the Hoyas in their semifinals, while Elon starts Colonial Tournament play against Towson. Denver, while having a much lower RPI/SOS, does have geography on their side and the committee could take them for the western USC bracket.
Seeds: There are eight seeds in the tournament, all of which (technically) play home games in the first and/or second rounds. Top six seeds get a first-round bye, seeds No. 7 & 8 play first round games. Seeds 1-4 also get home field advantage in the quarterfinals.
No. 1 Maryland (17-0 record): This is pretty much a no-brainer. Even a loss in the Big Ten Tournament will not change this.
No. 2 North Carolina (16-2): ACCT AQ and a head-to-head win over Florida.
No. 3 Florida (15-2): Losses to Maryland and North Carolina, should have no problems with the Big East Tournament.
No. 4 Penn State (15-2): Losses to Colorado and Maryland, higher RPI and SOS, plus tougher conference.
No. 5 Stony Brook (16-1): Loss to Florida, but relatively weak SOS should keep them out of the top four.
No. 6 Princeton (12-3): Losses to Penn, Penn State and Maryland, very strong SOS and RPI, head to head win over Syracuse.
No. 7 Syracuse (15-6): Strong RPI and SOS should get them into this spot, despite a couple of bad losses.
No. 8 USC (16-3): Losses to Florida, Stony Brook and Cornell, relatively weak RPI (12) and SOS (14) will keep them behind the Orange, but the MPSFT AQ and western location will be enough to give the Women of Troy the final spot.
The only other potential candidates that could also get seeds are Cornell, Penn and Colorado. The Orange actually moved up in both the IWLCA (from 10 to 9) and the Cascade Inside Lacrosse (from 10 to 8) polls, so that's a good sign for a potential spot. Colorado correspondingly moved outside both the top 10 in both polls and SU still has an advantage in RPI and SOS. SU has a head-to-head win over Cornell and Penn's SOS is pretty weak comparatively, but...
That said, the Ivy League Tournament could be the only thing that trips up the 'Cuse's chances of landing a seed. Cornell winning the tournament probably won't impact Syracuse, but Penn knocking off Princeton and (assuming the Big Red beat Harvard) Cornell could actually bump the Orange out. The Penn-Princeton matchup on Friday will be one to watch closely.
I'd like to make a hat tip to laxbytes.com and laxpower.com for the information on their sites. These are must-read sites if anyone wants to look at some great concise lacrosse data.