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Syracuse women’s lacrosse bubble watch: Orange outlook improves

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The NCAA Tournament got a little closer to reality over the weekend, somehow.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a week to go until Selection Sunday, the regular season has finally come to an end and two automatic qualifiers have already been decided. A full dozen conference tournaments still have yet to be played, but will be decided this weekend. Despite losing to North Carolina in the 1st round of the ACC Tournament, the Syracuse Orange (9-9) still sit squarely on the bubble for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look at all 14 conferences that are vying for this year’s spots into the tournament.

ACC

Automatic qualifier: North Carolina

Lock: Boston College. Virginia Tech

Bubble: Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame

Quick Notes: North Carolina (15-3) knocked off Boston College (19-1), 14-11, to get the AQ and officially become the first team in for the 2018 NCAAT. This bumps the Eagles into the at-large pool, which doesn’t really change anything. Virginia Tech is almost certainly in with their third-place conference finish in the regular season plus a trip to the ACCT semifinals. Syracuse (9-9), Virginia (9-9) and Notre Dame (10-9) are pretty good bets as at-large candidates. For the second year in arow, Duke will not be included in the NCAAT discussion due to falling below .500 for the season. Even with a win next Sunday in their season finale against East Carolina, the Blue Devils will finish 8-9 on the year.

Pac-12

AQ: Stanford

Bubble: Colorado, USC

Quick Notes: Stanford (15-4) took out their frustrations on Colorado (13-5) in a 15-6 drubbing for the Pac-12 AQ. The Cardinal had lost twice to the Buffaloes in the regular season and were clearly not going to let this one slip away. Colorado should get in as an at-large with wins against Virginia Tech, Stanford (2x) and USC. They do have a loss against Denver, but it remains to be seen if that winds up being a questionable loss. USC (10-8) is still very much on the bubble with a “bad” loss to Oregon. But they also have good wins against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Colorado, plus a good strength of schedule.

America East

America East Tournament (begins May 4): 1. Stony Brook (17-0) vs. 4. New Hampshire (6-10); 2. Albany (8-8 vs. 3. Binghamton (8-8)

Quick Notes: This one should be called the Stony Brook Conference. The Seawolves have the top ranking in both media and coaches polls, and rampaged through the America East this year, winning by an average score of 20-4 and never gave up more than eight goals in any conference game. For Albany, Binghamton and New Hampshire, they need to get an AQ or they’re done. It’s a tall order as Stony Brook has beaten these three teams by an average of 13 goals. The conference final is on Sunday. Even if Stony Brook loses, they’re an at-large lock.

Atlantic-10

A-10 Tournament

  • Thursday, May 3: 3. St. Joseph’s (11-6) vs. 6. George Mason (11-6); 4. VCU (7-10) vs. 5. Davisdson (10-7)
  • Friday, May 4: 1. UMass (13-4) vs. 4/5 winner; 2. Richmond (14-3) vs. 3/6 winner

Quick Notes: UMass and Richmond are the clear favorites for the AQ, but neither is expected to get an at-large bid, so it’s all-or-nothing for this conference. Richmond has a head-to-head loss to the Minutewomen, but UMass lost to VCU in the regular season. The conference final will be on Sunday. AQ Prediction is UMass right now.

Atlantic Sun

Atlantic Sun Tournament (Thursday, May 3): 1. Jacksonville (14-3) vs. 4. Old Dominion (5-12); 2. Coastal Carolina (9-8) vs. 3. Kennesaw State (7-10)

Quick Notes: Jacksonville is the favorite for the AQ here, having gone undefeated in conference play. However, they did only beat Coastal Carolina by two, so if that matchup comes up in the final, it could be a good one. The winner goes to the tournament, and the loser stays home as there are no at-large possibilities here. The conference final is on Saturday. AQ prediction is Jacksonville, obviously.

Big East

AQ (projected): Florida

Bubble: Georgetown, Denver

Big East Tournament (Thursday, May 3): 1. Florida (14-3) vs. 4. Marquette (10-7); 2. Georgetown (12-5) vs. 3. Denver (11-5)

Marquette will have to go AQ or bust, but both Georgetown (RPI 13) and Denver (RPI 17) remain at-large possibilities. Georgetown has one good win against Johns Hopkins and no bad losses. The Pioneers have goodwins against Stanford and Colorado but a bad loss to Temple. Right now,I think Georgetown has the inside track for a Big East at-large with their head to head win over Denver. If the Hoyas win the semifinal rematch, I think they’re in for an at-large spot and will drop the Pioneers out of the at-large pool. If Denver wins, it’ll make thingsmore interesting. Georgetown might not be out in that situation, but their chances will be reduced. Denver would cancel out the earlier Hoya loss and have two good non-conference wins, but would still have that ugly loss to the Owls. The conference final is on Saturday.

Big South

Big South Tournament (Friday, May 4): 1. High Point (15-2) vs. 4. Campbell (9-9); 2. Liberty (13-4) vs. Winthrop (13-5)

Quick Notes: The first round started this past Saturday with Winthrop and Campbell advancing into the semifinals. High Point is the favorite tow in as they are No. 19 in both the media and coaches polls and includewins over Notre Dame and Duke earlier in the year. The Panthers went undefeated in conference play, winning easily in all but one game. Winthrop is the only team who came close to beating High Point this year, but they have to get through a decent Liberty squad in order to take another crack at the Panthers. Despite the ranking, I’m not sure if High Point could get an at-large bid given that their strongest win is against the Irish. The conference final is on Sunday. AQ projection: High Point.

Big Ten

AQ (projected): Maryland

Lock: Northwestern

Bubble: Johns Hopkins, Penn State

Big Ten Tournament (Friday, May 4): 1. Maryland (16-1) vs. 4. Johns Hopkins (10-7); 2. Northwestern (13-4) vs. 3. Penn State (9-8)

Quick Notes: Maryland should get the AQ and we’ll probably see them in the Final Four again this year. Northwestern is also in the NCAAT regardless of what happens in the B1GT. Johns Hopkins has a good winover Loyola and no bad losses and I think they get in at this point as they have played a tough schedule. PSU took a step back on the bubble as they lost to Michigan on Saturday in what was probably one of the wildest finishes in women’s lacrosse this year. The Nittany Lions do have good wins over Johns Hopkins and Virginia, but now has a bad loss to Michigan. While I don’t think this dooms their hopes for an NCAAT bid, it will certainly knock them back on the bubble. The conference final will be on Sunday.

Colonial Athletic Association

AQ: James Madison (projected)

Locks: Towson

CAA Tournament (Friday, May 4): 1. James Madison (16-1) vs. 4. Delaware (8-9); 2. Towson (14-3) vs. Elon (4-10)

Quick Notes: James Madison and Towson faced off against one another on Saturday and the game was as exciting as I expected it to be. The Dukeswon 17-16 in OT after the Tigers scored three straight goals in thelast few minutes of regulation. These two teams should face each other again in the final and that one could go either way. Whatever happens in the final, both teams are definitely locked in for the NCAAT. The conference final will be on Sunday. If that game is between JMU and Towson, the loser is still going to the NCAA Tournament.

Ivy League

AQ: Princeton (projected)

Lock: Penn

Bubble: Dartmouth

Ivy League Tournament (Friday, May 4): 1. Princeton (10-5) vs. 4. Columbia (6-9); 2. Penn (12-3) vs. 3. Dartmouth (11-4)

Quick Notes: Going into the last week of the regular season, it looked like it would go Penn, Dartmouth and Princeton for the top three spots with the fourth being a toss-up between Cornell and Columbia. But after Princeton drubbed Penn 21-8 and Brown upset Dartmouth. Columbia ended up nabbing its first Ivy League Tournament bid ever. The Tigers’ win over Penn should be enough toget them into the NCAAT, and they still have a shot of getting the AQ. Penn will also be in regardless of what happens in the league tournament. Dartmouth needs a win against Penn to truly be back in the mix. The conference final will be on Sunday.

MAAC

Metro Atlantic Tournament (Thursday, May 3): 1. Marist (10-6) vs. 4. Canisius (10-8); 2. Monmouth (8-9) vs. 3. Fairfield (11-6)

Quick Notes: Though this conference has been dominated by Canisius and Fairfield recently, Marist and Monmouth grabbed the top two spots via tiebreaker this year (all four teams finished 6-2 in league play). This tournament couldreally go in any direction, but what is certain is that there are no at-larges in this conference. It’s AQ or bust. The final will be on Saturday. AQ projection: Marist.

Northeast

NEC Tournament (Thursday, May 3): 1. Bryant (11-5) vs. 4. Mount St. Mary’s (10-6); 2. Wagner (11-5) vs. 3. Robert Morris (9-8)

Quick Notes: Bryant edged Wagner 11-10 to get the top spot in the NEC Tournament and they’ll most likely end up in the final game. This one could go either way, but there are no at-large possibilities for any of the teams in this conference. Wagner is currently coached by former SU offensive great Katie Rowan, who’s in her third year there. The final will be on Saturday. AQ prediction: Wagner.

Patriot League

AQ: Loyola (projected)

Bubble: Navy

Patriot League Tournament

  • Tuesday, May 1: 3. Lehigh (12-5) vs. Holy Cross (6-11); 4. Colgate (10-6) vs. 5. Boston U. (9-7)
  • Friday, May 4: 1. Loyola (14-3) vs. 4/5 winner; 2. Navy (14-3) vs. 3/6 winner

Quick Notes: Loyola and Navy have dominated this conference this year and will most likely be facing each other in the final. A semifinal loss for the Greyhounds would reduce their chances of getting an at-large bid, but a loss to (assuming) Navy in the final would still get them in as an at-large bid due to their strength of schedule and several key wins over Towson, Princeton, Penn State and Virginia. Navy would almost certainly be out of the at-large picture with a semifinal loss and be on the outside track of an at-large bubble with a loss to (assuming) Loyola in the final. Right now, the Midshipmen have only a big winagainst Virginia and a relatively weak SOS but no bad losses. The conference final will be on Sunday.

Southern

Southern Tournament (Thursday, May 3): 1. Detroit Mercy (10-7) vs. 4. Mercer (7-10); 2. Central Michigan (11-6) vs. Furman (7-10)

Quick Notes: This conference is in its first year after several teams brokeaway from the Atlantic Sun Conference. Detroit Mercy beat CMU handily in the regular season, but lost to Mercer in OT. The Titans will most likely pick up the AQ in this conference and there are no chances for an at-large bid. The Southern final will be on Saturday. AQ Prediction: Detroit Mercy

What does this mean for the Orange?

If anything, I think the overallsituation has improved for the ‘Cuse. Duke is no longer a threat due to mathematical elimination. Dartmouth and Penn St. had bad losses, Penn dropped a bit with their loss to Princeton and the Tigers’ sudden rise in the Ivy at the end actually helps our win against them gain more credibility.

Where does SU stand in the general mix of things?

As with the last version of this article, I’ve broken the at-larges into three steps:

  • Above Syracuse (meaning these teams have better chances than we do of getting in): Boston College, Northwestern, Colorado, Virginia Tech, James Madison/Towson loser
  • Equal to Syracuse (meaning we’re competitive with them for selection): Virginia, Notre Dame, USC, Johns Hopkins, Princeton/Penn loser
  • Below Syracuse (we have a better chance to get in): Penn State, Dartmouth, Navy, Georgetown/Denver winner

As it stands, I think we’re still in the inside track/middle of the bubble’s at-large discussion. A lot would have to happen to change this, and that scenario would involve four conference AQs getting knocked off and bumped into the at-large pool at the same time. The possible candidates there: Stony Brook loses to Albany, Georgetown or Denver beats Florida, Dartmouth beats Penn and Princeton in Ivy, Navy beats Loyola.

These outcomes would only truly screw Syracuse up if three or four of them all occurred. With one or two happening, we may be sweating it out a bit more.

Okay, so we’ve made it in — now where are we headed? We’re definitely not getting a seeded spot, so we’re going to be traveling this year. Here are my picks for the eight seeds:

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

The NCAA usually picks the majority of teams by geography, but not always (400-mile rule). I think the most likely possibilities are Boston College or Stony Brook, which means we’d have a first round matchup before we play a seed. If we don’t start doing a better job of taking care of possessions, it’s likely to be a short stay in the NCAAs.