We're 23 days out from Selaxtion -- I'm so clever! -- Sunday. It's starting to feel all too real. Let's take a look at the latest NCAA Tournament projections from people that seemingly have a deep understanding of how the selection committee will populate the field.
Note: Lacrosse Magazine didn't publish a bracket projection this week. They will likely reboot their projection next week.
|INSIDE LACROSSE (4/10/14)||SYRACUSE.COM (4/8/14)|
|ACC||Maryland (2)||Duke (1)|
|America East||Albany (Play-In)||Albany (Play-In)|
|Atlantic Sun||Mercer (Play-In)||Mercer (Play-In)|
|Big East||Denver (U)||Denver (U)|
|THUNDERDOME!||Hofstra (U)||Hofstra (U)|
|ECAC||Fairfield (U)||Fairfield (U)|
|Ivy||Harvard (U)||Harvard (U)|
|MAAC||Siena (Play-In)||Siena (Play-In)|
|NEC||St. Joseph's (Play-In)||St. Joseph's (Play-In)|
|Patriot||Loyola (5)||Loyola (2)|
|Cornell||In (4)||In (6)|
|Duke||In (1)||AQ (1)|
|Johns Hopkins||In (U)||In (U)|
|Maryland||AQ (2)||In (4)|
|North Carolina||In (3)||In (3)|
|Pennsylvania||In (8)||In (5)|
|Syracuse||In (7)||In (7)|
|Virginia||In (6)||In (8)|
|Yale||In (U)||In (U)|
A few things changed from last week's aggregation. Harvard's defeat of Cornell at the 'kopf was the biggest movement-generating result. The win (1) pushed the Crimson from outside the field -- bid stealer! -- into an auto-bid position, (2) leveraged the Red into an at-large spot, and (3) pushed Notre Dame out of the bracket. Other notable changes included (1) Patrick Stevens giving Hofstra the automatic qualifying nod in THUNDERDOME! over Massachusetts (thereby sending the Minutemen to an early end to their season), and (2) both projections tabbing St. Joseph's as the favorite in the Northeast over Bryant after the Hawks stuck a spike through the Bulldogs' heart on Hawk Hill. Otherwise, the field is pretty much the field that was projected a week ago.
There is, however, something interesting about this aggregated projection compared to last week's aggregated projection: The exclusion of the Irish. The NCAA Tournament field in 2014 will be bigger than it has ever been before, featuring 18 teams. The fight for at-large positioning, however, is as fervent as it has been in the past. The Irish are a solid team capable of drowning opponents in pain, even if Notre Dame's record -- currently 5-4 -- is less than stellar. There is a legitimate possibility that solid teams -- like the Irish -- are going to be left on the fringe of May's adventure, but it's more important to understand this: Teams of this nature that are currently on the outside looking in have opportunities to play their way into field.
That's the key to all of this: The regular season is only three-quarters over; tons of games remain that will continue to shape the resumes and candidacies of teams for NCAA Tournament inclusion or exclusion. There are no guarantees -- or near-guarantees -- at this point of the year. Getting excited about which teams are currently projected as "in" or "out" of the field right now isn't the purpose of these projections. Rather, it's to grasp -- conceptually -- which teams have work to do and which teams have a wider margin of error. Complaints and conversation about the quality of included or excluded teams probably requires about a week or two more of development in results.