The Weekend in Stick is exactly what it sounds like -- a recap of all the important things that happened in the universe while you were enjoying two days of not-work. Part I features thoughts on the big stories from the weekend.
This much about the Patriot League is known and real and not likely to evaporate into the ether:
- Navy, Colgate, Loyola, Army, and Bucknell have locked up spots in the Patriot League Tournament. That means that one bid is available. Navy has finished its season and is the clubhouse favorite to serve as the top seed in the league's postseason event as it has already closed its conference season with a 6-2 record. Colgate and Loyola (each are 5-2) are a win stronger than Army and Bucknell (each are 4-3), but it's interesting that the Raiders will play the Black Knights this weekend while the 'Hounds will face the Bison, potentially creating anarchy in the quest for the last bye to the semifinal round. There are eight scenarios where Navy earns the top seed, six where Loyola can stand atop the table, and two where Colgate can serve as apex predator. Bucknell cannot stand atop the mountain.
- A Boston University win over Holy Cross this coming weekend will push the Terriers into the field.
- Holy Cross will make the field as the final seed if the Crusaders beat Boston University and Lehigh loses to Lafayette.
- Lehigh will make the field as the final seed if the Mountain Hawks beat Lafayette and if Holy Cross beats Boston University.
(This is from the Patriot League Twitter account.)
The beauty in this is that the Patriot League's last week of the season matters in layered ways: the Colgate-Army and Loyola-Bucknell dynamic is pressing; Holy Cross-Boston University has direct access and indirect access on the line; and Lafayette-Lehigh (a presumed cakewalk for the Mountain Hawks) now has all kinds of intangible reasons for the rivalry to maintain an elevated level of heat. This is exactly why the Patriot League has lost its damn mind.
Half of the ACC Tournament is now set with Duke's triumph over the Cavaliers: The Devils will occupy the fourth position at PPL Park while Syracuse will slide into the third seed, each waiting for North Carolina-Notre Dame this coming weekend to determine the semifinal matchups. There isn't necessarily a preferred opponent in the ACC Tournament's semifinal round -- all of these teams have shades of a national title contender -- as merely making the field is more important than the drawn opponent. This is due to the fact that the RPI -- the primary tool that influences selection committee decisions -- cares more about who you play than whether you win. The ACC Tournament -- pitting four of the top six teams in the RPI against each other -- is much more desirable than facing Pennsylvania -- currently ranked 21st in the RPI -- in the event's showcase game.
And that's the important takeaway from Duke's continued domination of Virginia on Sunday: The Cavaliers are now in a potentially no-win situation (assuming that Pennsylvania doesn't stand as a top 20 RPI team at the end of the season). If the 'Hoos fall to the Quakers the team's NCAA Tournament profile takes a hit while a win may not improve the Cavs' situation in the overall. Duke, contrastingly, will earn a profile benefit simply by playing in the ACC Tournament, regardless of whether the Blue Devils earn a win.
Some brief notes on these games:
- Syracuse scored the last four goals of regulation to make the final margin respectable -- the Orange had a decent shot in the last two minutes to pull the scoreboard even closer but were unable to finish the drill -- but North Carolina put together a performance that clearly illustrates the Tar Heels as a title threat in 2015. Leading 14-9 after 45 minutes and holding a 17-11 advantage with just over nine minutes to play, North Carolina pushed the rampage button at Fetzer Field and frequently assaulted a Syracuse team that is capable of making a Championship Weekend push. Carolina has been close to snapping its Final Four drought in recent seasons, but this year feels a little different for the Heels. Assuming North Carolina can continue its inspired play -- the team has only lost to Maryland this season -- the Tar Heels could draw a desirable top four seed in the NCAA Tournament and finally surge toward a place that has eluded the program for two decades.
- Towson now has the inside track to the top seed in the THUNDERDOME! Tournament with its victory over Fairfield in Connecticut. The THUNDERDOME! standings are still taking shape -- all of the league's members still have two more games to play against conference opponents -- but the Tigers' unblemished 3-0 mark with dates remaining against Hofstra and Drexel allows Towson some margin of error down the stretch. Interesting fact: In the last 10 THUNDERDOME! Tournaments, the top seed has made the final eight times but has won the championship only twice.
- The Penn-Harvard and Brown-Yale results are highly important. The Quakers are now 2-3 in Ivy competition with Dartmouth left to face, the team earning potentially valuable head-to-head victories over Brown and Harvard in consecutive games. Pennsylvania needs a third win in order to put itself in contention for an Ivy League Tournament bid, especially if Brown is unable to beat both of its remaining Ivy League opponents (Cornell and Dartmouth). Yale, meanwhile, needs only to beat Harvard on April 25th to assure an Ivy League Tournament appearance, but a loss to the Crimson may not sink the Elis' hopes. Harvard is all but toast unless the Crimson can pull upsets against Princeton and Yale in consecutive weeks given the team's woeful 1-3 mark in the Ivy League. As for Brown: There are no guarantees for Bruno if the Bears fall to Cornell this weekend, especially if the Quakers beat Dartmouth. The issue for Brown is this: Failure to make the Ivy League Tournament could cement an "Out" position in the NCAA Tournament, regardless of what the team's metrics look like to the selection committee. The Ivy League is fun again, you guys.