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Syracuse women’s lacrosse postseason primer

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A lot hangs in the balance for SU as the ACC Tournament begins.

The regular season is in the books for the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team, and now it’s onto the postseason. No. 17/20 SU (9-8) will start the ACC Tournament on Thursday evening against No. 2 seed North Carolina (12-3) at 5 p.m. ET in the third game of the day.

ACC Tournament First Round Matchups

No. 1 Boston College (17-0) vs. No. 8 Louisville (6-10)

The Eagles finished with their best season in program history and is only one of two remaining teams in the country who are still undefeated (the other is No. 1 Stony Brook). Boston College won the regular season contest between these two teams, 19-10 and this one is probably going to have a similar result. BC is the favorite to win the AQ in the ACCT. For the Cardinals, it’s AQ or bust at this point.

No. 4 Virginia (9-8) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame (9-8)

Both teams are currently jockeying for position to get into the NCAAT. Virginia is probably in due to a strong schedule and finishing in the top half of the conference. However, the Cavaliers have lost the last six out of seven games, with the lone win being over Louisville. Notre Dame might still need a win to get into the dance. The Irish started out 5-2, but then lost three straight before beating Syracuse. They’ve gone 3-3 in their final six games, but that includes a bad loss to Albany last Wednesday. Right now, their only major win is over the Orange so another victory would certainly improve their chances for an NCAAT spot. Virginia did win the regular season game 17-10, but given the stakes and with the Hoos in a slump, it will probably a much tougher fight this time around.

No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Syracuse

The Tar Heels are on a six-game win streak which includes a 20-11 pasting of SU a couple weeks back. SU, meanwhile, finished 3-6 after starting 6-2. But the Orange also fought Boston College to the bitter end last week and picked up an easy win over Louisville on Sunday. Syracuse has the talent to beat the Tar Heels, but the question is which team will show up on Thursday.

Will it be the team that played flat a couple of weekends ago, or will it be the one who played with fire against Boston College and Louisville at the end of the season? North Carolina is in the NCAAT regardless of what happens, but they are playing for a high seed. Although the Orange should be in the NCAAT due to a couple of big wins and a strong schedule, another victory would definitely help their resume. I expect this could be a much closer game than it was a couple weeks ago, as SU will come in hungry for some payback.

No. 3 Virginia Tech (12-5) vs. No. 6 Duke (7-8)

This is definitely the surprise matchup, as I don’t think anyone (myself included) expected the Hokies to finish 3rd in the ACC. However, it’s no fluke that they earned this spot (they lost to North Carolina and Boston College by a total of three goals). Second year head coach John Sung has taken a team that was in the basement three years ago to a very likely NCAAT spot. They will face Duke, which is in big trouble following a loss to North Carolina this past weekend. Since beating Syracuse at the end of March, the Blue Devils have lost four straight and are in danger of missing the NCAAT for the second year in a row due to mathematical elimination. Duke is in a must win situation against Virginia Tech or they will not make the dance. The Blue Devils have a game against East Carolina (2-13, in their inaugural year for D1 women’s lacrosse) after the ACCT, but a loss to the Hokies will still mean a record of 8-9 even with a win over the Pirates.

Once more into the breach, the NCAA Tournament

Most of the conferences will be finishing up regular season play this weekend, but there are two conferences (ACC & Pac-12) holding their tournaments, so we’ll have a couple of AQs in place by Sunday evening. Here is a list of the conferences who have at-large possibilities:

ACC

(assumes Boston College AQ)

Locks: North Carolina (RPI 3), Virginia (RPI 16), Virginia Tech (RPI 14)

Bubble: Syracuse (RPI 21), Notre Dame (RPI 29), Duke (RPI 27)

Quick Notes: Has all been explained above.

Big East

(assumes Florida AQ)

Bubble

  • No. 24/21 Georgetown (11-4), 13 RPI | Good wins: Johns Hopkins & Denver
  • NR/No. 22 Denver (10-5), 20 RPI | Good wins: Colorado & Stanford; Bad loss: Temple

Quick Notes: Georgetown had a couple of one-goal wins over UConn and Marquette this weekend, but have secured a No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas’ game against Loyola on Wednesday should be a big boost if they can win that one.

Denver lost to Florida this weekend, but will wind up with the No. 3 seed in the BET with a regular season finale win over UConn this weekend. If this happens, it will set up a rematch between Georgetown and the Pioneers in the BET semifinals. A Hoya win in the BET would probably finish Denver off given their resume. However, if the Pioneers win, it comes down to whether wins over Stanford and Colorado wins, plus a Temple loss is worth more to the committee than a win over Johns Hopkins (Georgetown’s best victory)?

Big Ten

(assumes Maryland AQ)

Locks: No. 7/7 Northwestern (13-3), RPI 7 | No. 16/16 Penn St. (9-7), RPI 22 | No. 25/25 Johns Hopkins (9-6), RPI 19

Quick Notes: I moved Johns Hopkins into the lock category, and while they do have a win over Loyola early in the season, Hookins is also 2-4 over the last six games. The Towson game on Wednesday is a good chance for them to get another quality win before the B1GT. As it stands, this tournament should be Maryland, Northwestern and Penn State as the 1-3 seeds in that order. Johns Hopkins has the inside track to the 4th seed, but could still lose it to Rutgers this weekend when they play the Scarlet Knights. A loss to Rutgers could hurt the Blue Jays big as it’s rare that a team which does not make their conference tournament gets selected.

Colonial Athletic Association

(assumes James Madison AQ)

Lock: Towson (13-2), RPI 9

Quick Notes: The Tigers are currently tied for 1st with James Madison in the CAA, and the top seed for the tournament will be decided when they play each other on Saturday. But Towson also has a game against Johns Hopkins on Wednesday. Given that the Blue Jays would love to get another quality win for their resume, Towson cannot afford to look past them.

Ivy League

(assumes Penn AQ)

Bubble:

  • No. 21/15 Dartmouth (10-3), 11 RPI | Good win: Princeton | Bad loss: UMass
  • No. 18/18 Princeton (8-5), 18 RPI | Good win: Penn State

Quick Notes: It’s coming down to either Dartmouth or Princeton for an at-large bid. The Ivy League Tournament order is all but settled, with Penn No. 1, then Dartmouth and Princeton. That 2 vs. 3 matchup between the Big Green and the Tigers will likely have major NCAA implications. Dartmouth’s only major win has been over Princeton, and it’s debatable how “bad” the UMass loss really is. The Tigers, on the other hand, do have a win against Penn State. Dartmouth has the head-to-head right now, but Princeton has a better win and no bad losses. Should the Big Green win, it likely cements an at-large bid. Princeton winning probably cancels out Dartmouth’s chances (and hands a bid to the Tigers).

Pac-12

(assume nothing)

Yes, you read the AQ assumption correctly. It truly is the wild, wild west as three teams could potentially wind up with the AQ here. This is the other conference (along with the ACC) that will hold its tournament this weekend, with the first round on Thursday. The top two seeds (Colorado, Stanford) both have byes. USC is the lone at-large contender of the teams that play on Thursday, however.

USC (9-7), RPI 23 | Good wins: Virginia Tech, Colorado, Notre Dame

USC will face overmatched Arizona State for a third time this season (won the past two meetings easily), and will go on to face No. 2 seed Stanford with another win. They’ve already lost to Stanford twice, by just four combined goals. We’ll also see how much that Notre Dame win ends up weighing in their favor. Nothing will be assured for the Women of Troy unless they beat the Cardinal.

Patriot League

(assumes Loyola AQ)

Bubble: No. 11/11 Navy (13-3), 15 RPI | Good win: Virginia

Quick Notes: The Naval Academy will get the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, though they still have one more game left this weekend. It is highly likely that they will face No. 1 seeded Loyola (12-3, 10 RPI) in the final. Should the Midshipwomen win the conference AQ, the Greyhounds would almost certainly get in with an at-large due to wins over Towson, Penn State, Virginia and Princeton (as well as a split with Navy). If Loyola wins the AQ, it should be a tough sell for the Midshipwomen to get into the NCAAT with only one major win over a slumping Virginia squad.

Putting it all together

Out of 13 potential at-large spots, I would say seven are already filled. These are:

  • North Carolina (biggest wins over Maryland and Northwestern, no bad losses, strong SOS)
  • Northwestern (biggest wins over Penn and Colorado, potentially bad loss to Duke, strong SOS)
  • Towson (wins over Penn St. and Florida, strong SOS)
  • Virginia Tech (wins over Denver, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia, strong SOS)
  • Penn St. (wins over Johns Hopkins & Virginia, strong SOS)
  • Virginia (wins over Princeton & Syracuse, strong SOS)
  • -Johns Hopkins (win over Loyola, strong SOS)

That leaves 11 teams for the remaining six spots. They are:

  • Syracuse (wins over Florida and Loyola, but potentially bad losses to Notre Dame and Duke, strong SOS)
  • Notre Dame (win over Syracuse but a bad loss to Albany, medium SOS)
  • Duke (wins over Northwestern and Syracuse, strong SOS, but could be mathematically eliminated)
  • Georgetown (wins over Johns Hopkins and Denver, medium SOS due to Big East)
  • Denver (wins over Stanford and Colorado, bad loss to Temple, medium SOS due to Big East)
  • Dartmouth (win over Princeton, but bad loss to UMass, medium SOS)
  • -Princeton (win over Penn St., strong SOS)
  • Colorado (wins over Virginia Tech, Stanford (2x) and USC, strong SOS)-Stanford (wins over USC (2x) and a potential win over Duke, medium SOS)
  • USC (wins over Virginia Tech, Notre Dame & Colorado, strong SOS)
  • Navy (win over Virginia, medium SOS due to Patriot League)

How do the Orange fare against this field?

Well, there’s no disputing that they have a lot of head-to-head losses against many of these teams -- North Carolina, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Notre Dame, Duke. It’s safe to say there’s no way Syracuse will catch Northwestern, but they could make up a loss against North Carolina if they beat them in the ACCT. SU could also make up another win against either Virginia Tech or Duke if they get past the Tar Heels, so there is the possibility of getting back two of those losses in the upcoming ACCT.

Of course, if this happens, they’re probably in anyway as I find it hard to believe that a Syracuse team that beats Florida, Loyola and North Carolina/Virginia Tech or Duke doesn’t get in.

But let’s assume that SU loses to the Tar Heels on Thursday evening. How does a 9-9 Orange team match up?

In my opinion, six teams would then be ahead of Syracuse: North Carolina, Northwestern, Towson, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke (assuming a win over Virginia Tech in the ACCT)

Another six would be relatively even with Syracuse:

  • Notre Dame (head-to-head win, but Syracuse has better wins)
  • Penn State (good SOS, but only big win is over Virginia)
  • Johns Hopkins (same as Penn State and both SU and JHU have a Loyola win)
  • Colorado (strong SOS, several wins are inside Pac-12, but did beat Virginia Tech)
  • Stanford (beat USC twice, plus Duke but also weaker SOS)
  • USC (beat two teams that SU lost to in Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, strong SOS, but lost to Oregon team SU beat)

Five additional teams would sit below Syracuse:

  • Princeton (only at-large possibility that SU has a H2H win against, strong SOS, win over Penn State)
  • Georgetown (weaker SOS and only real win over Johns Hopkins)
  • Denver (SU has better quality wins and Pioneers still have a bad loss to Temple)
  • Dartmouth (could end up with two wins over Princeton as only highlight, and also have a loss to UMass)
  • Navy (weaker schedule than SU, has win over Virginia, but SU has wins over Florida and Loyola for similar opponents)

I have to emphasize that one of those three Pac-12 teams will get the AQ, plus Duke might be mathematically eliminated. Also, Georgetown/Denver and Dartmouth/Princeton could be either/or situations for their respective conferences.

On the flip side, projected AQs in several other leagues could lose and bump them down into the at-large pool, making things interesting (which I will go into more detail around in a post-ACCT article next week). That said, I do think Syracuse will make the NCAAT given the above information, but it won’t be a seeded spot. If they get in, well, where do they go? Here is the list of teams who I think will get the top eight seeds in order from 1 to 8:

  1. Maryland
  2. Boston College
  3. Stony Brook
  4. James Madison
  5. Florida
  6. North Carolina
  7. Northwestern
  8. Towson

I could definitely see the Orange going to either Stony Brook or Boston College due to geography if they do make it in. Seems likely, especially if they can knock off UNC. But the reward for a bid could be a very difficult opponent.