It’s here! It’s actually here! Yesterday, the NCAA Selection Committees dropped their brackets. All six of them. Men’s and Women’s Division I through Division III. For now, we’re going to dive head first into the headliner, the Men’s Division I bracket. For a quick look at the whole thing, take a look here. To read about our NCAA lacrosse bracketology, including matchups and storylines, keep on scrolling!
First off, let’s take a look at who will be hosting the games. The top eight seeds will all be welcoming someone to campus for the first game before hopefully shipping off to one of the two quarterfinals sites. The top eight seeds are:
#1 Penn State
#7 Notre Dame
If you’ve been reading the constant NCAA lacrosse bracketology updates by other publications, this will be little surprise to you. Penn State was without question the No. 1 seed after surviving a scare from Johns Hopkins. Duke getting the No. 2 seed over Penn and UVA is a little surprising to me, but with head-to-head wins over both of them, this makes sense. The important thing to remember for seeding is that early and late season wins are weighted equally, which is relevant here. As hot as Penn is, their early season losses did affect their seeding. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of our NCAA lacrosse bracketology!
NCAA Lacrosse Bracketology: The Matchups
#1 Penn State vs. Play-in
Sunday 12:00 p.m., East Hartford Quarterfinal
Penn State last 5 games: W 18-17 vs JHU, W 18-6 vs Rutgers, W 14-13 vs Rutgers, W 20-9 vs JHU, W 17-7 vs Michigan
This game, and really this entire tournament, is Penn State’s to lose. Their only loss is still the one-point loss on the road to Yale in February. Aside from that, their close calls are a one-point win over Penn, a one-point win over Rutgers, and a one-point win over Hopkins (who they also beat by 11). They have some of the most impressive wins by anyone all season and their offense has the highest ceiling in the country. Their potential opponents, Marist or UMBC, will sort things out in the play-in game Wednesday. Marist took the MAAC title as the top seed, but it didn’t come easy. They had a pair of one-goal games against Canisius and Quinnipiac. If they can keep things close, they know how to handle the late game pressure. For UMBC, they really pulled this appearance out of nothing. They were the fourth-seeded team in the America East, and beat the top-seeded Stony Brook and the second-seeded Vermont. For UMBC, they are all about keeping this magic run going for as long as they can.
#2 Duke vs Richmond
Sunday 5:00 p.m., Hofstra Quarterfinal
Duke last 5 games: L 10-12 vs ND, W 10-9 (OT) vs Marquette, W 12-7 vs UVA, W 14-8 vs ND, L 8-10 vs UNC
Richmond last 5 games: W 15-7 vs High Point, W 7-6 vs AF, L 14-15 vs High Point, W 15-9 vs Mercer, L 7-14 vs AF
The only rematch of the first round, Duke won this game 11-7 back on March 1. However, it was no cake walk. If it weren’t for a 3-0 fourth-quarter run by Duke, Richmond could have come away with the win. The key for Duke stopping the upset will be containing Teddy Hatfield. He had a hat trick in the first meeting, but they all came in the third quarter. Duke has the defense to make sure Hatfield doesn’t get hot, but these are the games where big players have big performances. But looking at where these teams have both ended the season offers little confidence. Richmond avenged their earlier loss to High Point, but also split with Air Force. Duke was on the wrong side of a Notre Dame revenge game, and also lost to UNC while scratching by Marquette. This game is really going to come down to who’s having the good day.
#3 Virginia vs. Robert Morris
Saturday 7:30PM, Hofstra Quarterfinal
Virginia last 5 games: W 10-4 vs Notre Dame, W 14-13 vs UNC, W 22-6 vs Marist, W 24-5 vs VMI, L 7-12 vs Duke
Robert Morris last 5 games: W 11-10 vs Hobart, W 13-21 (OT) vs. Mt. Saint Mary’s, W 16-15 (OT) vs Hobart, W 20-16 vs Bryant, W 13-8 vs Cleveland St.
Virginia is feeling great coming off their ACC Championship, their first since 2010. This team is also going to be a very tough out in the tournament, who I would also say has the best path to the Final Four. Not that RMU is a pushover, but the next round is the winner of Towson and Maryland. Given where all the other matchups sit, that seems like the most inconsistent pairing available. For RMU, their late-season push is helping them cope with a horrendous start to the season. They were 1-7 to start, and pulled a conference championship from the ashes of their season. They’ll need more than just some momentum to pull off an upset over UVA, though.
#4 Penn vs. Army
Saturday 5:00 p.m., East Hartford Quarterfinal
Penn last 5 games: W 12-11 vs Yale, W 13-12 vs Brown, W 12-10 vs Vermont, W 22-6 vs Dartmouth, W 26-13 vs Harvard
Army last 5 games: W 11-7 vs Lehigh, W 7-5 vs Loyola, W 14-5 vs Holy Cross, W 19-6 vs NJIT, L 9-13 vs Loyola
Penn’s rocky start to their season is well in their rear view mirror and they now sit with an impressive winning streak. They went through the Ivy League regular season and Ivy League tournament undefeated, and only have losses to Maryland (OT), Duke, and Penn State (by one). Given that background, they’re not invincible. But, if you want to beat them, you better get an early lead and keep it. Winning close games is right in their wheelhouse. For Army, this will all come down to defense. Every game in which they kept their opponent under 10 goals was a win. Sure they won a few where they allowed more than 10, but their best games are when goalie AJ Barretto is a wall between the pipes. Penn is going to give them all they can handle, but if Barretto and Surdick don’t play their best, this game will be all Penn.
#5 Yale vs. Georgetown
Saturday 2:30PM, East Hartford Quarterfinal
Yale last 5 games: L 12-11 vs Penn, W 15-10 vs Cornell, W 22-11 vs Harvard, W 24-8 vs Quinnipiac, W 10-5 vs Albany
Georgetown last 5 games: W 12-9 vs Denver, W 13-12 vs Providence, W 14-10 vs St. John’s, W 23-7 vs NJIT, W 16-13 vs Villanova
If you think Yale isn’t primed for a national title defense, that means you’re not really playing attention. Three losses this season are by a total of three goals over four combined overtimes. It will take everything you have to overtake the Bulldogs. Good faceoffs, aggressive defense, and plenty of scoring is what you’ll need. They can beat you in many ways, and are prepared to do it. Can Georgetown respond? Signs point to yes. Seeing how they were able to handle Denver’s best shot this past weekend is an indicator that they are playing some great lacrosse right now. They’ll take advantage of every unsettled situation they have, but also have the weapons to handle 6-v-6 sets. This may be one of the best first-round matchups in the field.
#6 Towson vs Maryland
Sunday 2:30p.m., Hofstra Quarterfinal
Towson last 5 games: W 16-14 vs Drexel, W 18-11 vs Delaware, W 11-9 vs Drexel, W 14-12 vs Delaware, L 10-14 vs UMass.
Maryland last 5 games: L 7-12 vs Hopkins, L 11-16 vs Hopkins, W 10-9 (OT) vs Ohio State, W 16-13 vs Rutgers, W 16-12 vs Michigan
Each of these teams have question marks, and each is especially dangerous. When you take the talent on the field, combine it with their records along with the in-state rivalry, this is turning into the most exciting matchup of the first round. Maryland had all the makings of the type of season we expect from the ‘Terps. Good wins, coasting through conference play, and competing for the Big 10 title. Instead, a pair of Hopkins losses dropped them from hosting a game and to being a bubble team in this year’s NCAA lacrosse bracket. Despite those losses to Hopkins, this is still one of the best teams in the country. For Towson, remember when they were No. 1 at one point this year? Well, they lost four of their next six, which threw a ton of question marks onto this team. Three of those losses were to teams that are not even in the tournament. Since then, they have four wins over just Drexel and Delaware. So, who will show up for this game? Will it be the team that pounded Hopkins and Georgetown then handed Loyola their first loss, or is it the team that lost by one to Denver and four to UMass?
#7 Notre Dame vs Johns Hopkins
Sunday 7:30PM, Hofstra Quarterfinal
Notre Dame last 5 games: L 4-10 vs UVA, W 12-10 vs Duke, W 12-10 vs UNC, L 9-11 vs Cornell, W 13-6 vs Marquette
Johns Hopkins last 5 games: L 18-17 (OT) vs Penn State, W 12-7 vs Maryland, W 16-11 vs Maryland, L 20-9 vs Penn State, L 13-14 vs Ohio State
Notre Dame is a weird one. Sitting at 8-6, they have losses to Richmond, Ohio State, and Cornell. Among those are good losses to UVA (twice) and Duke. But wins? Maryland, Syracuse, and Duke. At times, Notre Dame looks like a terrible lacrosse team. Other times, they may be one of the best teams in the field. That also sound exactly like their opponent. Hopkins was not looking good for awhile.
After their Syracuse loss, Coach Petro was saying how they were making the “easy, wrong” decisions. As he described “rather than making the hard, right decision, we would make the easier wrong. When a slide is there, instead of making that extra effort to make the right play, we would make the easier decision that was closer”.
That seems to have changed. They were just a mere two games from finishing under .500 and missing the postseason completely. But no, players are stepping up on offense and defense and Hopkins is now dictating the tempo of games. Their Big Ten final against Penn State was nothing short of impressive. Even though they fell short, they were just one or two plays from that win, which should concern the Irish.
#8 Loyola vs Syracuse
Saturday 11:00 a.m., East Hartford Quarterfinal
Loyola last 5 games: L 5-7 vs Army, W 15-4 vs Lafayette, W 13-9 vs Army, L 11-18 vs BU, W 16-14 vs Georgetown
Syracuse last 5 games: L 10-11 vs UNC, W 18-9 vs Navy, W 12-9 vs UNC, W 13-8 vs Cornell, W 17-5 vs Hobart.
Loyola does not have much confidence going into this game. As a former No. 1 team in the country, they are coming off a split with Army and are not far off from that loss to BU where just nothing seemed to be going right. With the way they have been struggling, Syracuse is not a good matchup. For the Orange, the biggest question facing them is if they are going to play four quarters of lacrosse. Their losses this season are all due to taking too many possessions off and giving up goals they shouldn’t. But they still have the best midfield in the country when you’re looking at the combined offense and defense. If hey make a run in this tournament, that will be the reason why. Diversity of weapons and being a complete team on both sides of the field.
NCAA Lacrosse Bracketology: Storylines
I have a few things that I’m watching for in this first round which we’ll talk about here in our NCAA lacrosse bracketology. One of the biggest to me is how Duke and Syracuse will respond to so much time off. Every other team played at least one game this past weekend. That is good and bad. It does allow teams to do two of their favorite things. The first of course is heal up and get everyone healthy. The second is to “focus on yourself.” Few teams ever get that much time to really focus on their areas of need at this point in the season without scouting reports looming over their heads. But, all the time off can also let rust build up, and this is not the time of year for slow starts.
Secondly is how Maryland responds to not playing Hopkins. After going 11-2 all season, their last two games were losses to Johns Hopkins, which almost cost them a postseason. Trading the Jays for another in-state team may be a little too close for comfort, though.
If you’re into individual matchups, the best in the first round in Spencer vs. Mellen, but there are some potential fireworks in the second round. Penn State and Syracuse would be worth well more than the price of admission. Mellen-Ament & Bomberry-O’Keefe would be a total chess match, but Sabia vs. Spencer would also be great to see. There is also the potential of a Yale/Penn rematch looming, which has previously resulted in a triple overtime game and a single goal game that went down to the final seconds. Either Maryland or Towson playing Virginia is another game where it could go any way. If those teams are at their best, it would be a high speed back and forth game for all 60 minutes. Finally, should Duke win, you’ll see either a rematch with Notre Dame (they split their two previous meetings), or a game against a red hot Hopkins team.
What do you think of the first-round matchups in this year’s NCAA lacrosse bracketology? Share in the comments.