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In This Economy: NCAA Lacrosse Bracketology Explained

0 - Published April 28, 2009 by in College

Year after year the crown jewel of the season is the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament.  16 teams make the D1 field but the way they are selected is a far from neutral process.  The NCAA factors in cost, flights, and revenue in determining the first round matchups. Did you ever wonder about the lacrosse selection process? Guess what? The economy is going to have an impact.

With fans forced to make hard choices when it comes to their wallets, ticket sales for this seasons tournament are expected to be down.  With that in mind, many observers are wondering how drastically the NCAA is going to cut costs when it comes to the non-BCS championship tournaments like lacrosse.  Of the 16 teams that make the post-season, only 8 are seeded so the league has wiggle room to alter matchups to limit travel and expenses.  Here is the process explained by Inside Lacrosse:

…How do they pick the matchups? And why are there only eight seeds?

A) Eight seeds

Each year, people who aren’t familiar with the selection system complain that the No. 1 seed should play the No. 16 seed, and are perplexed when they find out there are only eight seeds. That’s right, the committee seeds the top eight teams, but leaves the other eight squads unseeded.

Why? This setup exists largely because of financial considerations. What they want to do is create the most competitive matchups, but do so in a way that allows them to sustain the postseason tournament without taking financial losses. Which means developing games based on geographic proximity, to minimize travel cost. It usually works out, but unfortunately, sometimes you get games like the UMBC-Virginia first rounder last year, which would have been great as a quarterfinal.

But until the NCAA is able to see that it’s worth it, financially or otherwise, to invest heavily in the first round of the tournament, it’s going to stay this way for the foreseeable future. The best way for this to be rectified is for you, our readers, to get out to as many first-round games as possible and bring your friends. The more interest in the sport, especially early on in the tournament, the more incentive for future development.

B) More about creating matchups

As of right now, the NCAA allows for two flights in the first round, but due to the economic downturn, they will probably try to limit flying as much as possible this year. In the scenario we’ve created in the latest bracketology, there is only one flight in the first round —Maryland traveling to Notre Dame.

This is because they’ve increased the mileage limitation on bus travel to 400 miles, an increase from 350 last year. This allows a game like UMass-Johns Hopkins to take place with ease, which last year would have pushed the 350-mile provision to its limit.

Pavlechko says that in addition to creating matchups by geography, they try to limit first-round conference rematches wherever possible. Our bracket has reflected that, too.

Finally, if quarterfinal host institutions make the playoffs (see Navy or Hofstra this year), they have to be placed on a track to play at their quarterfinal sites because they don’t have the staffing ability to travel on the road and host a quarterfinal at the same time.

(via Inside Lacrosse)

Another questionable factor in this process is that the selection committee includes current coaches of championship contending teams (like Maryland’s head coach Dave Cottle.)  It’s amazing that the seemingly “superior” organizational  ability of the NCAA still relies on committees with obvious biases (and I thought that these conflict of interest only happened in the MCLA selection committee!).

I would like to see the entire tournament seeded 1 through 16 to wipe away any of the irregularities that come from this “half-seeding” plan they currently use.  The MCLA manages to hold a national tourney with two divisions and seeds EVERYBODY in a way that seems much more fair.  Doesn’t this set-up seem a little backwards for the NCAA? Sound off!