Just a short month ago, Syracuse sat at 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the ACC. Their scoring margin was -6 but that reasonable statistic does not show the magnitude of the 16-8 loss to Maryland, 17-12 loss to Virginia and 21-7 loss to Duke. I’ve watched a lot of lacrosse in my life and I can definitively say that Maryland-SU and Duke-SU games easily top my list of the two worst lacrosse games I have ever had to sit through.
Since their humiliating loss to Duke in March, Syracuse went 5-0 heading into the ACC Tournament. The schedule had Syracuse taking on Duke in that first round. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from the Orange in the rematch. I had been watching them throughout the season and had seen their turnaround. Still though, I had visions of Myles Jones just ripping across the Syracuse defense and Jordan Wolf dancing around the crease. Even after beating Notre Dame, Cornell, and UNC, I had the scared memory of the first half of the season in my head affecting my judgment.
As we now know, Syracuse downed Duke 15-14 on Friday. We were treated to two incredibly prepared teams who battled to the end. Of the three tournament games, not one finished with more than a one goal difference. Such is life in the ACC. Just several weeks ago I felt we might have been overrating and overhyping this conference. But after watching a full season, without hesitation I can say we have seen the greatest lacrosse conference of all-time. As Maryland has played their final ACC game, the 2014 ACC season may hold that title for some time.
To be honest, at no point this season did I imagine Notre Dame finishing out as the Conference Champion. But that is thing with the 2014 ACC, I can make a case for any of its six teams winning a National Championship, heck even Virginia beat the number one team in the country. When the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament finish up, don’t be surprised to find at least three ACC teams, or even four heading to Baltimore for Championship Weekend.
This year the NCAA will invite 18 teams to the tournament. There will be two play-in games featuring the four lowest seeded automatic qualifiers. After this weekend we now have two conference champions: Notre Dame and Loyola. Both these teams are now guaranteed spots in the NCAA Tournament. While Loyola probably didn’t need it, there was some concern that Notre Dame might miss out on the post-season if they did not win a game in the ACCT.
As for the at-large bids, Virginia wrapped up a probable invited the NCAAT after beating UNC in the ACC Showcase game. The 13-11 victory over the Tar Heels was just their second conference win, but they are 7th in the RPI and have wins over Loyola and Syracuse.
At #2 in the country, Duke is a lock to get an invite. Also a lock, Syracuse, the team that at one point didn’t look like they would get a win in their own conference turned their season around and won 6 straight games before losing to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship.
North Carolina is just 2-4 in the ACC, but it took a combined 3 overtimes to decide 2 of those losses. North Carolina makes it in because they are one of the most talented teams in the country and hold wins against Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Maryland lost to Notre Dame in an odd game on Friday in the ACCT, otherwise they have just one other ACC loss and that is to UNC.
Penn has the #3 RPI in the country. They fell to Duke at the start of the season by just 3 goals and bounced back to take down Denver. They have put together a six game run and are squarely on the bubble. Penn probably needs a win against Cornell in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament to get into the NCAAT. They might make it in anyway, but I think two losses to Cornell will hurt their case a lot.
Hopkins is legit. That being said, their resume is surprisingly weak. The Jays had a three game losing streak in March, falling to Syracuse, UVA (OT) and UNC by a combined 6 goals. In terms of quality wins, we are basically just looking at their win over Maryland. Again, Hopkins is significantly more talented than many of those teams in the bottom half of the top 20 poll. They currently sit at 10-3, but still have their regular season finale against Loyola coming up. In a lot of other years I would be more concerned about Hopkins, but considering the lack of quality teams outside the top 10 this year and the fact that Hopkins has shown they are not going to get blown out by any of the top teams in the country, I think the committee takes them in the end.
Hofstra’s chances at an at-large bid depend a lot on how the conference tournaments play out. While they’ve lost four games by a combined 6 goals, their latest fall to Penn State could hurt them tremendously. I think Harvard could be a team that might fill Hofstra’s spot if they stumble again.
Automatic Qualifiers (10) (conference champions are bolded):
- ACC – Notre Dame
- America East – Albany
I expect Albany to win the America East, if they don’t Albany will not take up an at-large bid. Even with that outstanding attack and a superb goalie in Blaze Riorden, they’ve had too many bad losses.
- Atlantic Sun – High Point
I can’t believe we have to let in a team from the Atlantic Sun, they will get no at-large bids, but I wouldn’t be shocked if High Point wins the AQ and also takes the play in game.
- Big East – Denver
Denver will make the NCAAT one way or another. If the Pioneers lose in the Big East Tournament, they will still get in and unfortunately in that situation a bad Big East team will take the AQ.
- Colonial – Drexel
I like Drexel and Hofstra from the Colonial. I think either one could win their tourney, and the one who doesn’t is definitely in contention for the final at-large bid.
- ECAC – Fairfield
I’m skeptical about the ECAC, I would expect Fairfield to win their tournament, but no one gets in without an AQ.
- Ivy – Cornell
Cornell could easily not make the championship game. I like Penn and I think the Quakers could make the NCAAT with an at-large bid. As for Harvard and Yale, most likely these two have to win the AQ to get in. I like the Ivy League this year, it’s been by far the second best conference in the country.
- MAC – Siena
Siena is the best by far in the MAC, but they still have no shot to get in without the AQ.
- NEC – Bryant
I like Bryant to win the NEC, but don’t be surprised to see Hobart vying for that league title. There is no realistic chance a second NEC team gets into the Tournament, no matter what.
- Patriot – Loyola
At Large Bids (8) (my locks are bolded):
- North Carolina
- Johns Hopkins