Projecting the NCAA Tournament Bracket

Posted on April 23, 2013 by

Categories: D1


The one thing that really stuck out when we did bracket projections for this year’s NCAA tournament is just how much is unsettled. Any number of teams could play their way in or out of this year’s tournament and final week games and conference tournaments mean more than ever this year.

While only a handful are locks to make the tournament at this time, there’s also only a small pool of teams that actually have a shot of making the tournament. There are only about 16 teams that have any shot at an at-large berth (and as you’ll see, that’s really probably only 14). Let’s say that the conference leaders wrap up their conferences get automatic qualifier bids. Those include Notre Dame (Big East), Denver (ECAC), Penn State (Colonial) and Cornell (IVY) (all teams that are good enough to get at-large bids that instead get automatic qualifiers) and Bryant (NorthEast), Marist (MAAC), Lehigh (Patriot) and Albany (America East) (all of who probably wouldn’t get into the tournament without AQs) If this pans out, you really have just 10-12 teams fighting for 8 spots.

Let’s look at those teams in terms of probability of getting into the tournament:

Locks: Maryland, North Carolina, Duke, Bucknell
Probably In: Syracuse
Bubble: Pennsylvania, Yale, Loyola, Ohio State
Probably Out: Johns Hopkins
Definitely Out: Princeton, Drexel

Keep in mind that only teams 1-8 are seeded, with the other teams matched up according to a variety of factors. With that, we are projecting the NCAA tournament field to look something like this:

1. Notre Dame vs. Bryant
2. Denver vs. Marist
3. Maryland vs. Lehigh
4. North Carolina vs. Loyola
5. Penn State vs. Albany
6. Duke vs. Pennsylvania
7. Bucknell vs. Yale
8. Cornell vs. Syracuse

What do you think? Sound off below with your opinion or write a question and our bracket expert will respond to you.

Please note, this is if the season were to end TODAY. We are not projecting future contests. So how did we get to this? The NCAA selection criteria states that teams will be selected based on:

• won-lost record
• strength of schedule
• eligibility and availability of student-athletes.

And further notes that SOS and won-lost record should be based on using the RPI and evaluating the following primary criteria:

• Strength of schedule index [based on a team’s 10 highest Results of the RPI
o record against ranked teams 1-5; 6-10, 11-20; 21+;
o average RPI win (average RPI of all wins)
o average RPI loss (average RPI of all losses).
• Head-to-head competition.
• Results versus common opponents.
• Significant wins and losses. (wins against teams ranked higher in the RPI and losses against teams ranked lower in the RPI)
• Locations of contests

Below is a chart detailing out where teams fell in these evaluations, as well as on overview of each team. Because NCAA RPI was not yet available for this week, LaxPower’s RPI data was used, as was the SOS and quality win ranking information. They do a great job of updating this information and we encourage you to visit their page with links to rankings that relate to NCAA Selection Criteria.

Summary of each team

1. Notre Dame (10-2)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (Big East)
RPI: 2
SOS Rank: 4
Quality Win Rank: 1
Good wins (RPI top 15): Duke, Penn State, North Carolina, Denver, Ohio State
Bad Losses (RPI 21+): Hofstra
Why they are here: For most of the year Notre Dame held the #1 RPI, which only recently slipped to #2. While the selection committee highly values SOS, there were a few factors that gave Notre Dame the top spot instead of Denver. Notre Dame has the highest quality wins and is 4-0 against top 10 RPI teams. In addition, they have the highest average RPI of their losses, too. Further, Notre Dame won the head-to-head against Denver. If the selection committee heavily values SOS, which they tend to do, there is a chance Denver could get this top spot, but due to the criteria just mentioned we are pegging the Fighting Irish #1 for now.

2. Denver (10-3)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (ECAC)
RPI: 1
SOS Rank: 1
Quality Win Rank: 2
Good wins: Duke, Penn, Ohio State, Loyola
Bad Losses: Fairfield
Why they are here: Denver has the #1 RPI and #1 SOS. We almost put them as the #1 overall seed, and should Notre Dame drop one more game this year then the Pioneers may be able to take over that top spot. But, their loss to Notre Dame was one of several factors that ultimately slotted them in at #2.

3. Maryland (9-2)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 3
SOS Rank: 9
Quality Win Rank: 3
Good Wins: Duke, Loyola, Yale
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: The Terps are one of only 6 teams that have multiple wins over top 10 teams (Notre Dame, Denver, Penn State, Duke and Lehigh are the others). Ultimately their quality wins are what netted them the #3 spot over similar teams. The Terps are in a precarious position though, as they don’t have enough quality wins or high enough SOS to feel comfortable about this spot. Losses in the ACC tournament or to Colgate could drop them several spots. In fact, two losses could find the Terps unseeded again. Maryland needs to keep winning to keep a top four seed.

4. North Carolina (10-3)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 4
SOS Rank: 8
Quality Win Rank: 6
Good Wins: Maryland
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: North Carolina has one win over a top 15 team. Fortunately for them it is also a top 5 win (#3 Maryland). Their RPI and SOS are good, but ultimately they could use another win against a team with a high RPI. Fortunately, they can do that this weekend. Should UNC beat Duke, they might pass Maryland for the #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels do have a loss to #19 UMass — not the worst thing in the word, but certainly not a good loss, either.

5. Penn State (10-3)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (Colonial)
RPI: 6
SOS: 11
Quality Win Rank: 4
Good Wins: Denver, Bucknell, Drexel
Bad Losses: None.
Why they are here: Penn State is in as the CAA automatic qualifier, but has a very solid resume and is a lock for the tournament even if they don’t get the CAA AQ. Wins over Denver and Bucknell have helped boost their overall quality win ranking, with the fourth-best average RPI over opponents they’ve beaten.

6. Duke (11-4)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 7
SOS: 10
Quality Win Rank: 5
Good Wins: Loyola, North Carolina
Bad Losses: None.
Why they are here: After a 2-3 start Duke reeled off 9 straight wins, but the two most important were wins over Loyola and North Carolina, which are the games that got them into the tournament and got them a #6 seed in our bracket. Their overall RPI and SOS are sold, and they are one of a handful of teams that can say they beat multiple top 10 teams.

7. Bucknell (11-3)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 8
SOS: 16
QW Rank: 7
Good Wins: Cornell, Albany, Drexel
Bad Losses: Mt. St. Mary’s
Why they are here: Bucknell may be ranked lower in the polls (13 coaches/16 media), but has one of those resumes that was built for the NCAA tournament. Their SOS is a bit low, but the other teams they were competing against for this spot also had a low SOS or low number of quality wins. Bucknell has two quality wins, against Cornell (#5 RPI) and Albany (#13 RPI).

8. Cornell (11-2)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (IVY)
RPI: 5
SOS: 18
QW Rank: 8
Good Wins: Yale, Penn
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: Cornell has just 2 losses, but also lacks quality wins. Wins over Yale and Penn are good, but neither are in the top 10. As a result, Cornell is one of only five teams in the top 20 RPI without a top 10 win (Loyola, Yale, Drexel and Princeton are the others) and one of only four teams in our bracket without a top 10 win (Loyola, Marist and Bryant are the others). They are seeded because of their RPI and because of wins over Yale and Penn.

Unseeded Teams (in order)

Syracuse (10-3)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 10
SOS: 15
QW Rank: 12
Good Wins: Cornell
Bad Losses: Hobart, Villanova
Why they are here: At a glance you might be impressed that Syracuse has four top 20 RPI wins. However, three of those four came against teams ranked low in the top 20 (#16 Hopkins, #18 Princeton, and #20 St. John’s). Syracuse does have a top 5 RPI win over Cornell, but played only one other team in the top 15 RPI (Albany, a loss). The Orange also have a loss to #26 Hobart. Ultimately, keep in mind how important SOS plays for the NCAA tournament. The Orange are down at #15. Cornell and Bucknell are the only teams seeded above Syracuse with lower strengths of schedule, but Bucknell has more quality wins than Cuse and Cornell has a significantly higher RPI.

Pennsylvania (7-4)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 14
SOS: 5
QW Rank: 14
Good Wins: Duke
Bad Losses: Harvard
Why they are here: Penn is bolstered by one of the 5 toughest schedules in the country and a top 10 win over Duke. However, after that, the resume is mostly average, with wins over #17 Lehigh and #18 Princeton, but a loss to #27 Harvard.

Yale (8-4)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 11
SOS: 7
QW Rank: 16
Good Wins: Albany, Penn
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: The last three spots are a tossup between Yale, Loyola and Ohio State. We’ve switched them around about 5 or 6 times today. Yale has two good wins, over Albany and Penn, and the #7 strength of schedule. However, good wins by Loyola and Ohio State down the stretch could leave Yale on the outside looking in. The Bulldogs must avoid a loss against Harvard and take at least one game in the IVY League tournament to feel a bit more comfortable.

Loyola (10-3)
Type of bid: At Large
RPI: 9
SOS: 12
QW Rank: 9
Good Wins: Ohio State
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: Ohio State and Loyola were neck and neck for this last spot. Loyola has a better RPI and SOS, but Ohio State had better quality wins. Ultimately, it was a head-to-head win that landed Loyola in this spot. Outside of their win over #12 Ohio State, the defending National Champions are 1-4 against top 20 RPI teams, with 9 of their wins coming against teams ranked 21 or lower. Loyola really needs a win this Saturday against Hopkins to help take step towards solidifying tournament spot, and adding an ECAC tournament win is also a must. Even then, upsets in conference tournaments could drop them out. The key for the Greyhounds right now: keep winning.

Albany (10-3)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (America East)
RPI: 13
SOS: 19
QW Rank: 11
Good Wins: Syracuse
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: Albany’s SOS is a bit low (#19), but they racked up a good win over #10 Syracuse. They have three top 20 wins, but Syracuse is the only one in the top 15. The others are against #19 UMass and #16 Johns Hopkins. Albany is projected as the America East champion, and may need to win it to get in the tournament, as they are squarely on the bubble.

Lehigh (10-4)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (Patriot)
RPI: 17
SOS: 32
QW Rank: 15
Good Wins: Penn State, Bucknell
Bad Losses: Air Force
Why they are here: Lehigh is projected as the AQ for the Patriot League due to its 6-0 record. However, the Patriot League tournament is a tournament to watch because it could turn this whole bracket upside down. Lehigh is the projected winner now because of their conference record, but anyone is capable of winning it. Teams like Loyola, Yale and Ohio State are hoping that Bucknell can pull off the Patriot League championship, because that would open up another at-large berth. Despite wins over Penn State and Bucknell in the regular season, Lehigh probably won’t make the NCAA tournament without an automatic qualifier due to its extremely low SOS.

Marist (9-2)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (MAAC)
RPI: 28
SOS: 58
QW Rank: 17
Good Wins: None
Bad Losses: Delaware
Why they are here: Undefeated in conference play, Marist will likely win the MAAC automatic qualifier and make the NCAA tournament. With a low RPI and SOS, without the AQ Marist would not get an at-large bid.

Bryant (5-9)
Type of bid: Automatic Qualifier (NorthEast)
RPI: 45
SOS: 37
QW Rank: 52
Good Wins: None
Bad Losses: Colgate, Fairfield, Vermont, Harvard, Providence, Mt. St. Mary’s
Why they are here: There’s still a lot left to play in the NorthEast conference, so we took the team with the highest RPI and put them at our at-large bid. However, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart and Robert Morris also all earned NEC conference bids and the fight for this spot is wide open.

Just Missed (First Four Out)

Ohio State (9-3)
RPI: 12
SOS: 13
QW Rank: 10
Good Wins: Penn State
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: At about 3 p.m. today we had Ohio State in the tournament. Then we changed our minds. Ohio State has a very, very solid resume. And “solid” is the best way to describe it. Nothing spectacular, but a solid RPI and solid SOS, with a top 10 win over #6 Penn State. Still, they have a very similar resume to many teams who have been left out of the tournament in past years. Ohio State will get a chance to add a quality win in their conference tournament and they must make the most of it.

Johns Hopkins (8-4)
RPI: 16
SOS: 23
QW Rank: 18
Good Wins: Maryland
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: A lot of things have to go right for Hopkins to make the tournament and the chief reason is because of strength of schedule. Right now they have only one quality win and a very low SOS for a tournament team. Even if Hopkins manages to beat Loyola and Army, the Blue Jays are not locks for the tournament. It seems every year Hopkins manages to find a way into the tournament, but one thing is different this year: Princeton and Virginia, who often help bolster the Blue Jays strength-of-schedule, are likely going to miss the NCAA tournament. Combine that with only one quality win so far and Hopkins is on the outside looking in.

Princeton (8-4)
RPI: 18
SOS: 25
QW Rank: 19
Good Wins: Yale
Bad Losses: Dartmouth
Why they are here: Princeton has a low RPI and a low SOS with only one top 15 win (Yale). They will need to make win the IVY tournament in order to get a NCAA berth.

Drexel (10-3)
RPI: 15
SOS: 24
QW Rank:13
Good Wins: Albany
Bad Losses: None
Why they are here: After a close loss to Virginia and a win over Albany early on people were high on Drexel. However, Virginia ended up outside the top 20 and the Dragons failed to pick up quality wins the only other two chances they had (against Bucknell and Penn State). Due to Drexel’s strength of schedule it is unlikely they’d get a bid to the NCAA tournament (regardless of what other teams do) unless they win their conference crown. Teams like Hopkins and Loyola have similar strengths of schedule and better wins.

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  • zebralax

    I just do not understand why there is a coaches/Nike rank. lacrosse teams should be ranked based on the RPI, much like college football and BCS. To me it makes no sense to rank these teams and then completely ignore that ranking. Take for example, Syracuse and Loyola-both 10-3-but Loyola doesn’t get in and Syracuse is a JUST SQUEAKED IN team? With this system, good teams that could easily make a serious run are being left out. Also, with my confusion, how is Bucknell a for sure in team? They are ranked #13/#16 where as Syracuse and Loyola are top 10. I just do not see the correlation or point between these rankings and RPI.

    Also, I think the field needs to expand. As more teams add lacrosse, more conferences will get AQ’s thus leaving less open spots. By having mainly only AQ’s, you do not necessarily get the best teams in. Some of those great teams, like Loyola maybe, will be at home not because they had a poor season but because they did not win their conference tournament.

  • LPGBracket

    zebralax,

    To answer your questions, the polls mean nothing. There is no correlation between the polls and the RPI. Those are just people’s opinions of where teams are ranked and have no bearing on NCAA selection. In fact, looking at the polls will often cause people to make the wrong judgement about which teams should make the tournament. You have to look at teams in relation to the selection criteria, which is why the chart above is so helpful.

    You mention Bucknell and ask why they are a lock but not Syracuse or Loyola. The reason is the selection criteria, chief of which are RPI, SOS and quality wins. The reason why Bucknell is a lock to us is because of their RPI (8) and their quality wins (Cornell, Albany, and Drexel). The worst Bucknell can finish is 11-4 if they lose to Army this weekend. Even if this happens, their RPI will remain relatively high and they have three top 15 wins (Albany, Drexel and Cornell). Compare Syracuse, which has just ONE top 15 win (Cornell), a lower RPI and a roughly equal SOS. Syracuse also has two games left. While this will likely raise their strength-of-schedule they also could lose both games and finish the season 10-5. At that point, if other teams like Loyola, Yale or Ohio State get quality wins, or if teams get upset in conference tournaments, that might not be enough to make the tournament. However, we feel regardless of what happens to Bucknell this weekend they will still get a bid.

    Now, this is all just a snapshot in time. This can and will all change based on what happens this weekend. So be sure to check back next week and see an updated bracket.

  • zebralax

    Thanks and makes sense.

    To me, I just do not understand why have a poll then. College football/basketball have polls and they actually are pretty relevant. Or even do what football does, when the BCS rankings come out, teams use that. Use the polls but once RPI comes out, use those or something.

    To me, it is confusing because why have a poll where a team could be ranked #6 and then miss out. This seems to be the only sport when a ranking/poll is completely useless.

  • zebralax

    Thanks and makes sense.

    To me, I just do not understand why have a poll then. College football/basketball have polls and they actually are pretty relevant. Or even do what football does, when the BCS rankings come out, teams use that. Use the polls but once RPI comes out, use those or something.

    To me, it is confusing because why have a poll where a team could be ranked #6 and then miss out. This seems to be the only sport when a ranking/poll is completely useless.

  • zebralax

    Thanks and makes sense.

    To me, I just do not understand why have a poll then. College football/basketball have polls and they actually are pretty relevant. Or even do what football does, when the BCS rankings come out, teams use that. Use the polls but once RPI comes out, use those or something.

    To me, it is confusing because why have a poll where a team could be ranked #6 and then miss out. This seems to be the only sport when a ranking/poll is completely useless.