Well, we’ve almost arrived at the end of a truly weird and largely frustrating 2021 season for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team.
On Friday, SU will play their regular season and Dome finale when they host Robert Morris. Two days after that is selection Sunday, where we’ll learn the Orange’s ultimate fate for 2021.
The question is the same as always, although it’s slightly more dicey than usual: with no automatic bid available to the ACC, will it be an at-large bid or time to clean out the lockers?
For me, it’s a relatively easy question. Syracuse should be in this year’s NCAA tournament thanks to their RPI (5), SOS (4) and two wins over Virginia.
As I said in my Notre Dame fiasco recap, no team has failed the all-important eye test more than Syracuse and their four blowout losses this season, but even that recurring nightmare can’t stand in the way of the Orange making the tournament in an incredibly weak year for the “bubble”.
Teams in other leagues across the country simply do not have the resumes to measure up to a 6-5 SU team, which is saying a lot. The Orange have a built-in advantage by the fact that they play in the ACC. Yes, they’re piling up the losses, but they’re doing so against one of the most difficult schedules in the country while other teams fill up on empty-calorie wins.
As a quick example, let’s take a look at Georgetown and Rutgers. The Hoyas and Scarlet Knights are two teams who look headed for postseason play with a combined record of 18-4. But do you know how many of those wins have come against teams with winning records? A grand total of three. THREE of 18. That’s 15 wins against teams with losing records. The Orange by themselves have five wins over above-.500 teams. This certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all of selection criteria, but it’s simply to point out that much easier schedules have helped to color the resumes of other bubble teams.
Somehow, with four days to go before selection Sunday, the committee has still given no indication of what their selection criteria will be beyond the eye test taking on greater importance than normal. Restricted schedules due to the pandemic have altered usual criteria such as head-to-head matchups and common opponents. There are simply fewer of them this season, meaning the RPI will likely mean less than ever before.
What will mean a lot in the selection process? Who knows? Thanks, selection committee!
Alright, let’s break this down so we have an idea of what we’re looking at. We’ve got eight at-large teams to join the eight automatic bids from the America East, Big East, Big Ten, Colonial, MAAC, Northeast, Patriot and Southern. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the regular season champion as the automatic bid. Here they are:
- America East: UMBC
- Big East: Denver
- Big Ten: Maryland
- CAA: Delaware
- MAAC: Manhattan
- NEC: St. Joseph’s
- Patriot: Lehigh
- SOCON: Richmond
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we’re diving into the eight at-large spots. Right off the bat, half of them are gone thanks to our ACC brethren. They make up the top tier of at-large teams, and after them we’re looking at a group of roughly seven or eight teams competing for the final four at-large spots. So, let’s take a look
- North Carolina
- Notre Dame
Second Tier and Bubble Teams
- Syracuse (6-5): RPI 5, SOS 4, Quality wins: Virginia twice, three decent America East teams
- Rutgers (8-2): RPI 13, SOS 54, Quality wins: Ohio State twice? Buckeyes are 4-7
- Georgetown (10-2): RPI 12, SOS 19, Quality wins: Denver, Villanova twice
- Army (7-3): RPI 8, SOS 21, Quality wins: Syracuse, Loyola, St. Joseph’s
- Loyola (8-5): RPI 15, SOS 7, Quality wins: Georgetown, Navy twice, Richmond
- Villanova (7-4): RPI 21, SOS 18, Quality wins: Lehigh
- Navy (6-3): RPI 22, SOS 23, Quality wins: Army, Loyola (lost to Loyola twice)
Okay, for my money, these are the seven teams looking to fill the final four at-large spots to this year’s tournament.
As you can see, Syracuse has the worst record but the best metrics while having, arguably, the best individual win of the group over Virginia.
What will those strong metrics mean for SU in this weird, COVID year? Impossible to say since the committee has kept everyone in the dark about their intentions. But a quick comparison of resumes still looks pretty good for the Orange.
I’m going to go ahead and pick the first four teams I listed in that group. I think the UVA wins will do the trick for ‘Cuse. I think Rutgers and Georgetown are going to score big in the eye test despite the severe lack of wins over above-.500 teams. And I think Army’s win over Syracuse will be the clincher for them ahead of Loyola and Villanova, who are my first two teams out. Although to be honest, Army and Loyola play each other in the Patriot League semifinals on Thursday, and the winner of that game could very well be playing themselves right into the tournament with the loser in an uncomfortable position.
The even more difficult task than selecting a tournament may be seeding that tournament, which looks to be borderline impossible this season. How on earth do you compare Maryland to Duke and UNC with their disparate schedules? I have no clue, but here’s my shot in the dark at seeding this tournament:
- North Carolina vs. Manhattan
- Duke vs. St. Joseph’s
- Maryland vs. UMBC
- Notre Dame vs. Richmond
- Virginia vs. Delaware
- Denver vs. Army
- Georgetown vs. Syracuse
- Lehigh vs. Rutgers
Hey, why not, right? Let’s bring the SU-Gtown rivalry back into the men’s lacrosse realm!
But seriously, what a mess. But, you know what, at least I can be comforted knowing the actual selection committee feels the same way I do.
How do you feel? What do you think about my selections and where I’ve got SU slotted? Why is it all horribly wrong? Let me know in the comments...