It is finally here! We have finished an entire season of NCAA lacrosse and the Selection Committee has announced who will be moving on. Only 17 teams have a chance at winning a national championship. Sadly, that leaves 54 others cleaning out their lockers and moving on. But for those teams still playing, stuff just got real. Only one of these teams will not lose another game. Everyone else will.
Also remember, that this is a single elimination tournament. That does not mean the best overall team will win each game. Matchups matter, and this year’s calling card has been inconsistency both within teams and across all teams. This bracket is full of interesting matchups. There are definitely a few seedings and matchups that made me raise my eyebrow, but this bracket sets up for some fantastic games from the first weekend on.
While geography has always been a factor each year, this particular edition of the bracket seemed particularly reliant on it. There have been a few season where flying teams to games did not seem like a big deal, but that was not the case this time around. Proximity was a big deal. Now, let’s walk through the matchups.
Saturday, Noon Eastern
Penn State (7) vs. Towson
As you would expect with the lower seeds, this is one of the best matchups in the first round. Penn State is a former #1 team who struggled in Big Ten play.
— Penn State Men’s Lacrosse (@PennStateMLAX) May 8, 2017
Towson on the other hand, ran through the CAA and locked up their AQ with a win over underdog UMASS. Both are well coached teams who are going to come out firing.
Saturday, 2:30PM Eastern
Johns Hopkins (6) vs. Duke
Speaking of well coached teams, Duke visiting Hopkins is going to just keep the momentum going that is started by the game in State College. Duke has been playing well, but they are not even close to the championship teams from years past. That probably doesn’t matter this year, though.
Hopkins on the other hand is another poster child for inconsistency. I can see them losing this game just as easily as I can see them playing on Memorial Day.
Saturday, 5:00PM Eastern
Denver(5) vs. Air Force
Air Force was one of those teams that was a great candidate to be flown somewhere. That was not a pun. They were the underdog champs in a weak conference, which makes them a great team to send off to a highly seeded team. Sending them right down the road creates a good matchup, though.
Denver lax coach Bill Tierney talks about NCAA opener against Air Force pic.twitter.com/mNQWgmBDmt
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) May 8, 2017
This is the best regional rivalry not on the east coast right now. The stadium will sell out, and those fans should get a treat.
— Southern Conference (@SoConSports) May 6, 2017
Saturday, 7:30PM Eastern
Albany (8) vs. North Carolina
During the selection show, Anish & Co. were raving about this game. They were right. I do not understand how Albany became an eight seed, but here we are. Yes, their strength of schedule was bad, but their only losses were to the top two seeds in the tournament, and both were by a goal.
We are the 8-seed, the NCAA Tournament starts at home! pic.twitter.com/hkiJWdh1s8
— UAlbany Lacrosse (@UAlbanyMLax) May 8, 2017
UNC snuck into this tournament, but will be a challenge. If they play like that did in the ACC Championship, this game is UNC’s to lose. Albany may get their largest crowd ever, so this game under the lights will be a great one to wrap up your Saturday.
— UNC Men's Lacrosse (@UNCMensLacrosse) May 8, 2017
Sunday, Noon Eastern
Notre Dame (4) vs. Marquette
Starting Sunday, things move to the Midwest in what I think is the toughest game to predict of the bunch. Notre Dame is hurting. They lost to Army in OT, but were without some of their big players in that one. The Irish are trending down, but playing in South Bend is not an easy shore.
#4 SEED! Can't wait to play another game in front of the Irish faithful this weekend in Arlotta! pic.twitter.com/EI2iYDUnJD
— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 8, 2017
Marquette has their work ahead of them. But, they are here because they beat Denver and won the Big East. If that team turns up, this could be a huge upset.
— Marquette Lacrosse (@MarquetteMLax) May 8, 2017
Sunday, 2:30PM Eastern
Maryland (1) vs. winner of Bryant vs. Monmouth
Maryland will take on the winner of the play-in game that happens midweek. The way the Terps have been playing, this game should be almost a formality. Their second round game against UNC or Albany is where everyone is looking, though.
Sunday, 5:00PM Eastern
Ohio State (3) vs. Loyola
As the bracket was coming out, Ohio State being the three jumped out at me. Not because they aren’t deserving, but it showed how much weight the committee was giving the Big Ten. As things went on though, it became clear that other somebody was going to be “gifted” Loyola.
— Ohio State Men's LAX (@OhioStateMLAX) May 8, 2017
I’m not sure the three seed is the right spot for the Greyhounds to visit. The Patriot League was off this year, and Loyola can be very shaky. This will be another game to schedule your weekend around.
Sunday, 7:30PM Eastern
Syracuse (2) vs. Yale
The annual nightcap game. Usually Syracuse is tossed whichever weak conference team wins from upstate or the northeast in general. Bryant, Siena, etc. Every once in awhile, though they get a doozy.
— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) May 8, 2017
I know the Ivy is weak this year, but how ridiculous is it that the #1 team from the Ivy regular season wins the tournament, and then hits the road to the #2 NCAA seed in the first round? Brutal.
— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) May 7, 2017
The Ins and Outs
When Denver lost their conference game to Marquette, that dashed the hopes of many teams that were close, but not quite there. Army, who the committee has since stated was the next team in was looking good after their win over Notre Dame this weekend. Rutgers was idle, but it was their late losses that sealed them out for a second straight season. BU want another team that was close, as were Providence, Richmond, and Princeton. For all of them, they had some great wins, but too many losses.
Fans of each of those teams will be upset seeing someone like Bryant or Monmouth in over them, but that is just how things fall right now. I still don’t think the tournament is undersized given the pool of teams in the NCAA. You will always be able to argue for teams to get in. Always. But every year, the complaining about who didn’t get in lasts right up until the first game is played. Once this tournament gets going, all is well.
Now let’s play some games!