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Syracuse men’s lacrosse bubble watch: Pre-ACC Tournament edition

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We think the Orange are in... but let’s be sure.

Via @CuseMLAX

Earlier today, orangebookworm provided an extensive look at the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team’s NCAA Tournament chances. But obviously the men’s team is in the thick of the postseason chase as well.

Though MLAX is a little more safely in the field, nothing is necessarily assured right now as we’re just two days away from the ACC Tournament. Syracuse has once again gone undefeated in the ACC and secure a one-seed, sure. But first-round opponent Virginia is ranked similarly in this week’s polls, and gets a home game since the tournament’s in Charlottesville. An Orange loss could certainly create some doubts — especially since it would give SU just a 7-6 record overall.

For right now, though, we’ll operate on what we know. Going into the ACC Tournament, here’s what the overall NCAA picture looks like (for Syracuse and others):

ACC

Locks: Duke

Bubble:

  • Syracuse (7-5), RPI 10; Big wins: Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, North Carolina
  • Virginia (10-4), RPI 9; Big wins: Loyola, North Carolina, Vermont
  • Notre Dame (6-5), RPI 8; Big wins: Denver, Virginia
  • North Carolina (7-7), RPI 20; Big wins: Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame | Bad loss: Hofstra

UNC’s probably out with a .500 record, no ACC Tournament bid and a bad loss to Hofstra. But Syracuse and Virginia should be in win or lose -- though obviously for Syracuse, especially, a loss in the first round would make for a more difficult case. Falling to UVA would virtually cancel out the earlier win over the Hoos, and give Virginia just as many quality wins as SU. Notre Dame probably needs to beat Duke in th ACC Tournament, despite the high RPI number.

America East

Locks: Albany

Bubble: Vermont (10-3), RPI 21; Good wins: N/A | Bad loss: Stony Brook

Vermont’s included here since they’re a good team, but the America East schedule doesn’t do them many favors here. The Catamounts have lost big games to Albany and Virginia. If they can beat the Great Danes next time around in the conference tournament (seems unlikely), that would mean an automatic bid, versus an at-large.

Big East

Locks: Denver

Bubble:

  • Villanova (9-4), RPI 11; Big wins: Penn State, Yale | Bad loss: Brown
  • Georgetown (9-4), RPI 22; Big wins: Robert Morris, Villanova | Bad loss: Drexel

Villanova would probably be locked in without the loss to Brown, as the Yale win in particular is huge for the resume. Georgetown’s RPI and their own bad loss (to Drexel) put them at a disadvantage for now. If either of these teams can knock off Denver in the Big East Tournament, they’re in. Georgetown needs a first round win (probably over Marquette) in the league tournament to feel better about their chances.

Big Ten

Locks: Maryland, Johns Hopkins

Bubble:

  • Rutgers (9-4), RPI 12; Big wins: Robert Morris, Syracuse, Penn State | Bad loss: Army
  • Penn State (8-5), RPI 17; Big wins: Ohio State, Johns Hopkins
  • Ohio State (7-6), RPI 18; Big win: Maryland | Bad loss: Towson

The Big Ten is arguably the strongest league in the country this year, hence why they have so many teams in the conversation (and in even better shape than some ACC squads). Rutgers isn’t a lock, but the win over the Nittany Lions last weekend helped them out quite a bit. Penn State likely needs just one victory in the Big Ten Tournament to better footing as part of the field. Ohio State started making its case with a win over Maryland. However, they probably need another big victory for an at-large berth.

Ivy League

Locks: Yale, Cornell

Bubble: Penn (7-7), RPI 14; Big wins: Duke, Navy, Bucknell | Bad loss: Brown

Penn’s probably a big win away from locking themselves in. That could come in the Ivy Tournament against either Yale or Cornell, too. The bad loss to Brown will put them below Syracuse when evaluating teams around .500. But not by much.

NEC

Bubble: Robert Morris (10-3), RPI 19; Big win: Penn State

Realistically, RMU is the only team that can make the field as an at-large given the fact that the Colonials actually tested themselves in the non-conference schedule and have a quality RPI number. St. Joseph’s and Bryant are also possibilities, but they don’t have the resumes needed to make it without an auto bid.

Patriot League

Locks: Loyola

Bubble:

  • Bucknell (11-4), RPI 16; Big wins: Loyola, Lehigh
  • Navy (9-4), RPI 15; Big wins: Bucknell, Syracuse, Lehigh | Bad loss: Jacksonville
  • Lehigh (9-6), RPI 27: Big wins: N/A

Bucknell already has that Loyola win, and another win over the Greyhounds or a victory over Navy should be enough. Navy’s in a similar boat, with one more win likely clinching a bid for them (and really, the Midshipmen have better wins anyway, plus the Jacksonville loss isn’t really that bad). Lehigh’s situation is much more precarious, however. No bad losses or great wins there. Just a challenging schedule and an expected result. They probably need to win the league tournament.

One-bid leagues

CAA: UMass

MAAC: Quinnipiac

SoCon: Richmond

That leaves us with the following breakdown of bids (reminder — there are 17 total, including AQs):

AQ: Albany, Denver, Maryland, Yale, Robert Morris, Loyola, UMass, Quinnipiac, Richmond

At-large locks: Duke, Cornell, Johns Hopkins

With 12 spots accounted for above, that leaves just five more for at-large teams. This is where things could potentially get harrowing for Syracuse, especially if an unexpected team manages to steal a bid. This isn’t basketball, so it doesn’t happen often (and most lacrosse conferences are smart and don’t invite bid-stealers to begin with).

If you look at LaxBytes’ at-large probabilities, those five teams would be Syracuse, Virginia, Notre Dame, Villanova and Rutgers (in that order). US Lacrosse Magazine’s Patrick Stevens felt a bit differently, picking Syracuse, Notre Dame, Villanova, Virginia and Bucknell. That Bucknell pick was before the Bison were upset by BU last night, however. He swapped Rutgers in as an update.

Rutgers’ biggest challenge is the fact that they may not even make the Big Ten Tournament. If that were to happen (and it could if they lose to Ohio State this weekend), their odds sink much more. That could potentially open the door for Navy, who’s already just a big win away from getting in.

From my less-than-expert point of view, those five spots probably belong to Syracuse, Virginia, Villanova, Rutgers and Penn State right now, but that’s not projecting what will be -- just what is at the moment.

If we’re going with my own picks, here’s what the bracket would look like:

No. 1 Duke vs. Qunnipiac/UMass

No. 2 Maryland vs. Richmond

No. 3 Yale vs. Robert Morris

No. 4 Albany vs. Penn State

No. 5 Loyola vs. Villanova

No. 6 Denver vs. Rutgers

No. 7 Johns Hopkins vs. Virginia

No. 8 Cornell vs. Syracuse

From a Syracuse perspective, the Orange could move themselves up as high as the sixth seed, depending if they win the ACC and some combination of Denver/JHU/Cornell suffer early exits in their respective conference tournaments. If Denver doesn’t win the Big East, that puts Villanova in good position to jump both Rutgers and Virginia, assuming the Wildcats are the beneficiaries there. If it’s Georgetown (or Marquette), that knocks Rutgers/Penn State/Virginia out.

Your “first four out” in my scenario are probably Notre Dame, Bucknell, Navy and North Carolina