BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 28: General view of the Virginia Cavaliers and Denver Pioneers during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ESPNU will unleash the brackets for the Division I NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship at 9:00 P.M. tonight, and unlike prior years when you could pretty much pick, seed, and site the field on the back of a cocktail napkin while ignoring the yappy broad to your left, the crazy brain worms that have infected college lacrosse over the last month or so has created a vacuum of instability going into tonight's unveiling.
Which is totally awesome.
There are, however, a few certainities. Seven schools, due to their winning of conference championship banners and trophies and making their mothers and fathers proud (What did you accomplish today, tough guy?), are already locked into the field (although their seeding is crazy-brain-worm unstable):
- America East: Stony Brook
- Big East: Syracuse
- THUNDERDOME!: Massachusetts
- ECAC: Loyola
- Ivy: Yale
- MAAC: Canisius
- Patriot: Lehigh
So, seven of the tournament's 16 spots are already off the board with invitations hidden away in undisclosed bank security boxes. Four teams -- Virginia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Notre Dame -- must feel pretty good about their resumes at this point and, because this piece needs to end in under 10,000 words, we'll say that they're safely in the field as well.
That means that there are, more likely than not, five at-large positions that are up for debate. This wouldn't be a problem if there were just five schools that could make a decent argument for those positions, but because 2012 college lacrosse is 2012 college lacrosse, there is a small battalion of teams that can make a case for those five remaining invitations.
Looking at the NCAA Tournament selection criteria, there appear to be eight schools that are going to be talked about behind their backs: Denver, North Carolina, Maryland, Colgate, Fairfield, Cornell, Penn State, and Princeton. Obviously, there are pieces of that group that may not need to worry as much as some others -- North Carolina and Maryland, for example -- but with such an emphasis on the RPI and the relative similarities between a lot of these profiles, there is going to be a lot of sweating and eating of feelings going on across the country prior to the release of the field.
Patrick Stevens of The Washington Times has his bracket here, Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse has his bracket here, and Matt Forman of Lacrosse Magazine has his bracket here. What's really important, though, is what you think the tournament field will look like. The comments, open for business because consumerism rules, are open for your picks.