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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Bracket Analysis: Snubs, Surprises, and Other Thoughts

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Running through the bracket with extreme prejudice.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 2015 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship bracket is out (play-in games are included in italics):

Quarterfinal: Denver, Colorado
(1) Notre Dame v. High Point/Towson -- South Bend, IN (Saturday, 5:00 ET (ESPNU))
(8) Cornell v. Albany -- Ithaca, NY (Saturday, 12:00 ET (ESPNU))

Quarterfinal: Denver, Colorado
(4) Denver v. Brown -- Denver, CO (Sunday, 3:00 ET (ESPNU))
(5) Duke v. Ohio State -- Durham, NC (Saturday, 7:30 ET (ESPNU))

__________________________

Quarterfinal: Annapolis, Maryland
(3) North Carolina v. Colgate -- Chapel Hill, NC (Sunday, 5:15 ET (ESPNU))
(6) Maryland v. Yale -- College Park, MD (Saturday, 2:30 ET (ESPNU))

Quarterfinal: Annapolis, Maryland
(2) Syracuse v. Bryant/Marist -- Syracuse, NY (Sunday, 7:30 ET (ESPNU))
(7) Virginia v. Johns Hopkins -- Charlottesville, VA (Sunday, 1:00 ET (ESPNU))

For the play-in games on Wednesday, High Point will travel to Towson for a 7:30 ET meeting and Bryant will travel to Marist for a 7:00 ET date. A downloadable bracket can be found here.

The tournament should hold a high volume of volatility and intrigue. From 10,000 feet, here are some thoughts about this year's bracket.

Snubs

There's wasn't a dramatic "Burn down the NCAA!" snub this season. The eight at-large selections to the field are pretty fair and the arguments around the last teams within and without the field likely turn on the particular perspective of the individual considering the various resumes. The two exclusions of note:

  • Georgetown: The Hoyas' profile was perfectly vanilla: No RPI top 10 victories, wins against everyone Georgetown should have beaten and losses against everyone the Hoyas should have lost to, and a solid RPI ranking and pristine RPI strength of schedule ranking. Georgetown was Georgetown: Very good, but with nothing that stood out as exceptional (save for the team's RPI strength of schedule position) or detrimental. That's a tough way to end a season -- doing everything expected, but nothing insane -- and the team's exclusion is difficult in such circumstances. The high end wins that Ohio State and Brown had must have stood out in contrast to the Hoyas' profile.
  • Princeton: The Tigers were 4-4 against RPI top 20 competition, held an RPI ranking behind Georgetown, Brown, and Ohio State, and were ninth in the final RPI strength of schedule rankings. The team also had two wins against RPI top 10 opponents -- Cornell and Yale -- and had an average RPI loss value that was stronger than Ohio State and Brown. Yet, the Tigers were excluded from the field on a 9-6 record, a head-to-head loss to Brown, and a lagging RPI ranking. The Tigers were probably as close as you could get to the field without actually getting in, but that fact doesn't accelerate Princeton's 2015 season.

Surprises

There were only two real surprises associated with the bracket outside of the decision-making process around including Ohio State and Brown and excluding Georgetown and Princeton:

  • Rematches: The selection committee did not see much of an issue pairing teams that met previously this year in a first round rematch. Albany-Cornell, Maryland-Yale, and Johns Hopkins-Virginia will receive an encore at the sunrise of the NCAA Tournament, those games constituting 37.50 percent of the first round.
  • Notre Dame's Top Seed: Syracuse seemed to have an advantage over the Irish in a host of metrics, except one: Head-to-head result. The selection committee chair indicated that the regular season outcome between Notre Dame and the Orange ultimately pushed the Irish into the top position on the bracket. The paths that Syracuse and the Irish will need to traverse to get to Philadelphia are comparably difficult, but the nod that Notre Dame received is interesting given that a head-to-head result dictated the committee's decision.

Other Thoughts

Et cetera:

  • If Maryland can slip past Yale the Terps could have a virtual home game against the winner of Colgate-North Carolina at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Preakness will not conflict with the games in Annapolis, potentially building a huge crowd in one of the most beautiful settings in college lacrosse. And considering that Syracuse and Virginia or Johns Hopkins could create a surge at the gates given the proximity or followings of those programs, there's major potential on the banks of the Chesapeake.
  • Brown-Denver is going to be a massive contrast in styles. The Bears will want to speed up the Pioneers but if Bruno can't overcome Denver's hyper-efficient offense, Brown may struggle to get the kind of end-to-end action it desires. Trevor Baptiste factors into this situation significantly as he could operate as a pace stopper.
  • A dream scenario -- at least from an attendance standpoint -- out at Mile High Stadium for the quarterfinal round may be Albany-Notre Dame and Duke-Denver. The former sets up a rematch of last year's bonkers quarterfinal game between the Great Danes and Irish, putting Lyle Thompson on a huge stage in a gigantic stadium against an exceptional opponent. The latter provides the virtual home team with a name opponent that will capture the imagination of the casual fan. Denver is an important market in this tournament cycle, and a foursome of that constitution could cement the round as a victory for the west.
  • There really aren't any pure stinkers in the first round. The play-in game opponents that Syracuse and Notre Dame will receive aren't patsies, and even though both the Irish and Orange will be heavily favored against whatever they draw, those games aren't sleepwalks. Albany-Cornell is hot freaking fire, Yale-Maryland is going to be a war, Colgate-North Carolina features the Raiders playing their best ball of the season at the right time of the year, figuring out Ohio State-Duke is difficult given the Buckeyes' duplicitous personality, and Johns Hopkins-Virginia is a huge spot for both teams. This is going to be a ton of fun.

We'll obviously have a much more stuff on the games as the week unfolds.