The calendar has flipped to April, and the end of the 2022 regular season is near. Selection Sunday for the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament is only a month away (May 8th), and the time has come to analyze the bracket. There is so much to discuss about the NCAA tournament. How many Ivy’s will qualify? Is the ACC a two bid league? What happens to Jacksonville if they don’t win the SoCon?
For the sake of this article, I will analyze four teams that are on the bubble but still have work to do. These teams will range from last year’s No.1 overall seed to programs who have never been to the dance. This won’t be the last article relating to the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, but it’s an appropriate time to take a deeper look at the teams fighting for the last at-large bids. The following teams still have work to do in order to secure their spot in the postseason.
Best Wins: Richmond, Brown, Denver
Worst Loss: Ohio State
It’s crazy how fast things can turn south; the Heels were the top seed in last years tournament, and have the consensus No.1 overall pick in the upcoming PLL draft. What happened in the last year? Carolina lost their top five midfielders (Tanner Cook, Will Perry, Justin Anderson, Alex Trippi and Connor McCarthy), 1st team All-American Will Bowen, and their fourth attackman Brian Cameron. This is a lot of talent to replace, and the midfield production hasn’t been good enough. Chris Gray has been phenomenal, but other guys around him need to step up. I feel like a broken record writing about the role players, but it’s April and if they don’t step up soon they can kiss the postseason goodbye.
The RPI is a flawed metric, but the selection committee uses it as part of their criteria so I will do the same. UNC is #12 in RPI which is right on the bubble. They don’t have any bad losses (Ohio State, Virginia, Duke) but they don’t have good wins either. Their best win is against Richmond on February 11th which doesn’t mean a whole lot. Luckily, the Spiders upset Virginia over the weekend in a game that featured over 4,000 fans. Their resume isn’t all that impressive, and the ACC is starting to look more like a two bid league.
The good news – North Carolina faces the meat of their schedule in the coming weeks. The bad news – the Heels have four games remaining against all four other ACC schools.
Three of the four games are on the road, and it’s crucial that North Carolina wins three of these games to lock up a spot. Syracuse at home should be a gimme. The Heels have already faced Virginia and Duke at home, but they’ll need to win one of these games in order to stay alive. I’m most intrigued by the primetime game against Notre Dame on Thursday April, 21st. The Irish appear to be the No.2 team in the ACC, and they’re building momentum coming off a 22-6 walloping against Syracuse. It’s not too late for Chris Gray and company to get the wheels turning and find some success in conference play, but it will certainly be an uphill battle in order to receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament.
Best Wins: North Carolina, Notre Dame, Harvard
Worst Loss: Denver
The Buckeyes have put together a really nice resume with three ranked wins against the teams listed above. Nick Myers’ team has to be feeling good; they’re 7-3 in an improved Big Ten conference, and they’ve won the games that matter. Beating three bubble teams is huge. Beating two ACC teams is even better. The Big Ten is looking like a two to three bid league with Ohio State being that third team.
If the season ended today the Buckeyes would be in. Ohio State needs to take care of business against Hopkins, and avoid an upset against rival Michigan. If the Buckeyes can check these boxes there’s no reason why they wouldn’t hear their name called on selection Sunday.
Best Wins: Navy, UMass, Bucknell
Worst Loss: Harvard
The Terriers have been one of the biggest surprises this spring. They started 6-0 with quality wins over local foes like UMass and Bryant, and they’ve improved their resume with Patriot league victories over Navy and Bucknell. Their achilles heel seems to be Ivy league opponents whom they’ve fallen 0-2 against with losses to Harvard and Yale. The Terriers have a chance to change that on Saturday when they travel to New Jersey to face the Princeton Tigers.
Boston University hosted Yale in a Tuesday matinee this week, and the game was a lot closer than what the final reflects. A poor second quarter was ultimately the difference; Yale couldn’t miss and they scored half of their goals in that quarter alone. If you remove the second quarter, Boston University actually won the game 14-11. Lacrosse is a 60 minute game, and you can’t show up for 45. The Terriers learned that lesson on Tuesday.
BU faces the toughest portion of their schedule as they travel to Princeton, Loyola, and Lehigh before hosting Army in the season finale. Their 5-0 start in league play earned BU the first playoff spot in the Patriot league, and now Boston University transitions their focus to earning a top 2 seed and earning a bye to the semifinals. Currently ranked #10 in the RPI, it is not out of the question for BU to earn an at-large bid. This program has never been to the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, but Boston University has set themselves up in great position to make history as long as they don’t plateau. This is a hungry team who could steal a bid from familiar ACC or Big Ten regulars.
Best Wins: Boston University, Michigan, Brown
Worst Loss: Ohio State
Ah, the Ivy’s. Where do I start? The Ivy league picked up exactly where they left off when the pandemic canceled the remaining 2020 season. Fans are quick to forget that the Ivy’s finished with three of the top five in both the media and coaches polls. This league is no stranger to success.
How many teams will make the tournament? That’s a tricky question. Five teams are currently in the five teams ranked inside the top ten, and the Ivy league has the best record in non-conference games. I think it’s safe to say that at least four teams will qualify for the NCAA tournament – likely the four that qualify for the Ivy league semifinals. But what about a 5th team? The RPI would say yes, but I doubt the selection committee will invite five Ivy teams if that means that the ACC or Big Ten only receive two bids.
The good news for Harvard is they’re 2-0 in conference play with wins against Brown and Dartmouth. They’ll truly be challenged down the stretch as they face the four other top ten Ivy programs. April will be very telling of Harvard. The Crimson get to write their own destiny. If they steal a win or two and qualify for the Ivy tournament they’re in. If not, May 8th is going to be really interesting.