Oh, what a 2021 it has been for the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team.
They have gone 14-3 against one of the toughest schedules in the country in THE toughest conference in the country. More than half of their wins (eight) have come against top-10 ranked teams.
Time and time again, they’ve proven to be one of the best teams in college lacrosse this year, and they’ve done it all while suffering season-ending ACL injuries to two of their best players. They’re not just incredibly talented, they’ve also shown their toughness with their ability to overcome said injuries.
Given all of that, I think we all expect one of the top seeds to be assigned to Gary Gait’s group come the NCAA Tournament selection show on Sunday night at 9 PM on ESPN U, part of the first ever joint selection special for both the Division I men’s and women’s tournaments.
Sunday, ESPNU will exclusively present the first-ever joint NCAA Division I Men's & Women's Lacrosse Championships Selection Special— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 6, 2021
May 9 | 9p ET | ESPNU, ESPN App
More: https://t.co/IThXMpJldX | #NCAALAX | #NCAAWLAX pic.twitter.com/d18kSHX4xB
This year’s women’s tournament is the biggest ever — literally. With 15 AQs and 14 at-larges, 29 teams is the most ever for a women’s lacrosse tourney.
Just like in the men’s, the selection committee seeds the top eight seeds, and then fills in the rest of the bracket with the unseeded teams using geography to limit flights while also keeping bracket integrity based on merit as much as possible.
Since 29 is such a weird number for a postseason tournament, the way it works is the top three seeds get a bye to the second round while the other 26 teams play the first round. When the 13 first-round winners remain, they join the top three seeds to make a simple 16 for the second round. From there, it’s pretty standard tournament procedures.
Alright, let’s take a look at all the main contenders for the eight seeds in this tournament, and how Syracuse stacks up against them.
North Carolina (18-0): RPI 1, SOS 4, vs. Top 20 10-0
Syracuse (14-3): RPI 2, SOS 2, vs. Top 20 7-3
Northwestern (13-0): RPI 6, SOS 67, vs. Top 20 0-0
Boston College (13-3): RPI 3, SOS 3, vs. Top 20 6-3
Notre Dame (9-6): RPI 5, SOS 4, vs. Top 20 3-6
Stony Brook (13-2): RPI 7, SOS 21, vs. Top 20 1-2
Loyola (10-2): RPI 9, SOS 36, vs. Top 20 1-1
Drexel (12-1): RPI 4, SOS 12, vs. Top 20 4-1
Florida (15-2): RPI 10, SOS 19, vs. Top 20 4-2
Duke (9-7): RPI 16, SOS 15, vs. Top 20 1-5
The eight seeded teams should come from the crop of 10 that I listed above. Now, let’s start with where our Orange are going to fall in, and I want everyone to pay particular attention to Northwestern. I purposely listed the Orange and Wildcats right next to each other to make it easy on the eyes.
As you can see, the disparity between the schedules of these two teams is the size of the Grand Canyon. SU has the No. 2 SOS, a ridiculous 65 slots higher than Northwestern’s. The point is really hammered home, though, by each team’s record vs. teams in the top 20. Syracuse has an impressive 7-3 record in 10 top 20 games, while Northwestern also faired impressively in top 20 games, emerging with an unblemished record. Oh wait, that’s because they went 0-0 in such games. That’s right, the Wildcats did not play a single team in the top 20 all year.
I’m not saying Northwestern’s a bad lacrosse team, but anyone trying to tell me they deserve to be seeded higher than Syracuse based on resumes has an eye roll coming like they’ve never seen before.
Hey, it’s not Northwestern’s fault that the Big Ten decided to play conference-only this year, but that still doesn’t change the fact that an unblemished record that’s the result of an easy schedule doesn’t deserve the be put ahead of a team that lost three games but played a top-10 ranked team in 11 of their 17 games. There’s just no getting around that fact, right selection committee?
Alright, that’s more than enough of my rant about where Northwestern should be seeded, so here’s what I’ve got for the eight teams:
- North Carolina
- Boston College
- Notre Dame
- Stony Brook (Florida just misses out on the seeds)
I think the top 4 in this tournament is clear, although the order is a little fuzzy. But I have no doubt North Carolina, Syracuse, Northwestern and Boston College will be the top four.
The Tar Heels are the obvious No. 1, and I clearly think SU’s resume clearly put them No. 2. I could even be convinced to put BC ahead of Northwestern, but I think the committee will slot the Wildcats in between the Orange and Eagles at No. 3 and drop BC to No. 4. I genuinely don’t know how you evaluate Northwestern’s schedule vs. all the ACC teams and their schedules, but that’s why I’m not on the selection committee.
I’m not going to get into the placement of the unseeded teams here because there’s too many of them and, to be honest, I don’t know enough about the teams down the bottom of this tournament and their resumes.
That’s alright, the great season the women are having means we only need to concern ourselves with the seeds, anyway.
What do you guys think? Agree with me about placing the Orange No. 2? Feel like talking any additional smack about Northwestern’s schedule? Let me know in the comments...
And don't forget to tune in to the joint men’s and women’s selection show this Sunday at 9 PM on ESPN U.
I’ll also be joining Steve, Andy and Christian on the Nunes LiveStream as we watch and react to the selection for both the women and (hopefully) the men, so come join us on YouTube for that, as well.
And, as always, Let’s Go Orange!!!